Cornish Creations – Me, myself and I

Cornish Creations – Me, myself and I

For years I’ve wanted to go away on a multi-day solo adventure but for some reason I’ve never plucked up the courage. I don’t know why as I’ve travelled around the world to hundreds of amazing destinations with friends and joined several group cycling holidays to many a mountain range, yet a proper ‘solo, on my own’ trip has eluded me.

Why? I don’t know as I’m very happy in my own company. In the back of my mind perhaps I’ve always wondered what if I get bored or lonely, and “Will people think I’m strange?” so that’s stopped me from putting any ideas into action. However, in September 2020 (the crazy year when it all went a bit bonkers), I brought a VW campervan who I’ve named ‘Vinnie’. 12 months ago, I made a promise to myself that by the close of September 2021 I’d have gone on a solo multi-day trip with me, myself and I in Vinnie.

Initially I had planned to drive down to the South of France for my friend Adeline’s 40th birthday celebrations, followed by a few days in the Southern Alps enjoying the mountain air before I drove back to home. But all the travel restrictions put me off, so my van adventure across France will have to happen sometime in 2022. Having been gifted a rather fabulous book authored by Martin Dorey titled ‘TAKE THE SLOW ROAD’ which talks about inspirational journeys round France by Camper Van and Motorhome, the world is my shrimp (as my mother would say).

For now, the Cornish coast was calling! And I discovered a place called Mylor Harbour… not only was it stunning, the campsite was wonderful and the village had one of the most incredible seafood restaurants right on the harbour where I met a friend for a drink and watched the sunset. It was here I decided to treat myself so some local seafood delights and I wasn’t disappointed.

On a pedal adventure – taken just outside Mevagissey

Sculpture and art beckon

The inspiration for me taking a trip to Cornwall stems from 25 years ago when I was at Uni in Nottingham studying Textile Design. In my third and final year I discovered and felt rather spell bound by the work of Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, so much so my drawing and painting were driven by their genius.

For those that don’t know, the Barbara Hepworth Museum is located in St. Ives, way down the peninsula in Cornwall where the mining industry thrived many moons ago. Upon the arrival of Hepworth in St. Ives the town really began to transform into an artist mecca. Over the years she was heavily involved in championing the creative industries which attracted huge talent to the area. Now in St. Ives there’s a thriving community of artists, potters, painters, jewellers and other creatives who get their inspiration from nature – just as Hepworth herself did.

Barbara Hepworth Museum, St. Ives, Cornwall

Traditionally when I think of a museum a big, grand, and cavernous building is conjured up in my head, however the museum in Cornwall was quite the opposite. On arrival I discovered a small building, a tiny house in fact, with a fantastic studio space and perfectly formed garden where many of her sculptures are now homed. It felt quite special to be in the space where she spent many years creating some of her most well-known, world-famous sculptures. In the garden the pieces are preserved loving by a team of specialists who honour the material the pieces are created from, with the aim of maintaining them for art lovers to enjoy and admire for decades to come.

Nature is the inspiration

I’ve always been inspired by nature. The contours of the land, edges of lakes, curves of pebbles on the beach, the sculptural nature of flowers and petals, rugged spikes in the mountains, and the vast majesty of the Stawamus Chief which is located along highway 101 British Columbia, Canada between Vancouver and Whistler Village, at 700m in height it overlooks the nearby waters of Howe Sound. A little fact – second to Ayres Rock, the Stawamus Chief is second biggest monolith in the world.

In the garden of the museum there are many sculptures and what I love about them most is how they change in the light. The day I was there it was a feast between grey skies, showers and a sneaky peak of sunshine. But when the sun comes out it creates some wonderful contrasting light and the sculptures kind of frame each other as you walk around them and see them from a different perspective.

Barbara Hepworth Musem, St. Ives, Cornwall

When I first discovered Hepworth some 20 years ago, I didn’t appreciate just how big an impact she had made on me, and so many people before me. She really was quite a formidable woman – leading the charge, striking forward and carving new ground, no pun intended, yet years on her sculptures are still utterly mesmerising. Her creations are timeless, sensuous, and beautifully modern.

Discovering Cornish Ports – Making it up as I go along

Whilst down in Cornwall I look the opportunity to explore some coastal paths on foot which was stunning, but ended up covering more ground by bike. One thing I remember from my childhood from visiting St. Agnes, Perranporth, and many other beaches is how pretty the coast is and how typically Cornish the coves and tiny ports are. After a long night of rain, I’d decided to check into an AirBnB in Portscatho where a met a lovely couple and their family. And once again I fell in love with the Cornish coastline. When bathed in sunshine it shines even brighter. Whilst keeping the sea on my right I made up a route as I went along… turning left, turning right, going down wonky narrow lanes to be greeted by curvaceous cove after cove, beautiful village after beautiful village, the rugged landscape just rolled on and on.

Cycling down into Mevagissey

My ride took me from Portscatho across the Roseland Heritage coast to Portloe, Portholland, Penare, Gorran Haven, Portmellon, Mevigissey (where I had the most amazing piece of cod for lunch and chatted to some lovely ladies on their holiday), through Tregiskey, Pentewan and up to St. Austell before I meandered through some more 17% and 1:5 hills en route back to Portscatho. Next time I’m down there I’ll have to make up some more routes and see where I end up.

The cycle ride I discovered when heading out of Mylor was pretty stunning too and it was definitely a novel thing to do to have to catch a ferry from Flushing to Falmouth only 3km in. I do like the sense of surprise when doing something unplanned and new, and also chatting to the people I meet en route, always lots of interesting characters with often funny and entertaining stories to share.

One of the many ports… Portloe I think!

New adventures on the horizon

My next opportunity to embrace a solo adventure is in mid-November. As much as I’d love some winter sun, I’m also feeling myself drawn to staying nearer to home – perhaps the Lake District or the Brecon Beacons… time will tell but the ideas are flowing. Wherever I choose to go I know mountains will be a feature, and hopefully some blue skies and sunshine.

Portscatho Beach just before sunset

All of you is welcome – Retreat, discover, refuel, party!

All of you is welcome – Retreat, discover, refuel, party!

There’s nothing like spending time with amazing people – especially whilst in Provence!

This August I did something I’ve not done in a very long time… I went on holiday with a group of friends and left my bike at home and it was bloody lovely! After the antics of cycling to Wales and back for the Glaudax on the Snowdonia Tour in early June and doing the Pennine Rally in mid-June my mind and body were longing for a proper break, to switch off, and to relax. And what better way to do it than in Provence in France – fabulous rose, champagne, food, beaches not too far away and a huge amount of laughter and fun.

Thoughts become things…

It was in late June I was thinking I’d like to go on a retreat, to do some yoga, eat healthy food, chill under the rays of the sun, and generally take a proper break, ideally taking in and exploring a new part of the world.

It must have been a week later that my friend Adeline chose to celebrate her 40th birthday in France and invite some of her closest friends – from all corners of the world – along from the adventure. Little did I know at the time that I’d be effectively going on a retreat and discovering some truly beautiful places in and around Provence.

Retreat…

It’s a fabulous feeling to be able to go abroad, to mix with old and new friends, and take a break from my daily routine. Let’s face it, the last year or so has been plain weird, so after much juggling with paper work, booking of tests, checking of travel guidelines, and sourcing flights, I managed to pack my trolly dolly and get to Gatwick. I’m not going to lie, I did find the last few days leading up to going way a bit stressful – “Did I have the right paperwork?”, “Had I understood everything correctly?”, and “Was I going to actually get on the plane and land in Nice?” Thankfully the reality was a big resounding ‘yes’.

Adeline had spent weeks preparing for her big celebration. What I hadn’t appreciated until I arrived is that she was hosting the week to create a template to build future retreats in her native home country – France. There’s a beauty in being part of someone’s creation, to see them shine, being immersed in the moment, and to truly share the experience as our time together unfolded.

Discover…

Over the last 20 years I’ve been to France many times. Paris initially as a proper tourist, and in more recent years heading to the mountains – both the Alps and the Pyrenees. The latter tips have included me arriving with a bike and doing a variety of multi day rides such as The Raid Alpine which goes across the Alps from Nice to Geneva, the Raid Pyrenean that goes from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, and cycling in Provence up Mont Ventoux and through the Verdon Gorge (or Gorge du Verdon as the locals say). Whilst I do love being in the mountains and the sense of adventure, it was brilliant to discover some new places in France and see a completely different perspective.

Pedalo fun at the Gorge du Verdon

Our first evening brought together Adeline’s friends from around the world – England, France, Sardinia, Mexico, South Africa, Italy, America… all to celebrate a beautiful souls milestone birthday. We ate (fabulous BBQ), we drank (rose – lots of it), played games (Uno – if you’ve not got it, get it, it’s hilarious but be warned it does bring out people’s competitive side), we laughed (about anything and everything), and talked until the early hours (no subject was off the table). I always find it fascinating how wherever I am geographically in the world, within a matter of hours it becomes ‘home’.

Throughout the week I discovered and experienced many new things…

Plage de Pampelonne – We visited Pampelonne beach near Ramatuelle and ended up on the nudist section – if you’ve not done it before I’d highly recommend a nude swim in the sea, it’s fun and really liberating.

Catching some rays… Plage de Pampelonne, France

Group Heart Meditation – Embracing the theme of water… at the gorgeous villa we jumped in the pool, formed a circle and did a ‘group heart meditation’ – this is something some of us experienced for the first time on Soul Safari in Africa a few years ago, but it was the first time we’d done this in water lead by the lovely Enrico.

Hugs and laughter after our Group Heart Meditation

Abbaye du Thoronet – We visited the Abbaye du Thoronet, a former Cistercian abbey built in the late twelth and early thirteenth century, now restored as a museum. Some-how we managed to get invited into a group sounding in the main chapel and the architectural acoustics were incredible. After you’ve finished making the sound it continues and echos around the chambers for quite a few seconds – it was really quite grounding and magical as you can feel the sound vibrating through your body.

Abbaye de Thoronet

Sillans de Cascade – Invited by the forest, we took the opportunity to walk to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in France, the Sillans de Cascade. Nestled in a magnificent vibrant green setting, the village of Sillans de Cascade is located on the edge of the Verdon National Park, 20 minutes south of Lake Sainte-Croix. On arrival we were greeted by another wonder of Mother nature… for anyone who’s into yoga, Chakras and making the appropriate sound for each chakra as they relate to an area in your body – the waterfall was an idylicc location to make the ’heart’ sound, amplified literally by the energy and vibe of our group, and the chamber created by nature.

Cascade de Sillans after our Heart and Root Chakra Sounding

There were so many other beautiful experiences I’ve not mentioned… watching Adeline as she landed from her paraglide, taking pedalos down the Gorge do Verdon, exploring St. Tropez and enjoying delicious food, singing Kareoke like we were centre stage at The O2 Arena (that was hilarious and will make me smile for years to come), and many meals together… I could go on.

Refuel…

I’m sure the word ‘refuel’ means many different things to different people. This summer, for me it was the opportunity to spend time with amazing friends and to make some new ones. It really, really was lovely to be in a group, to share conversations, food, laughter, games, and some downtime chilling poolside and on the sand.

Over the last 18 months I’ve had a strong, growing desire to spend more time in nature. It has the swift ability to light up all of my sense… smelling the fresh sea air, feeling the bouyant salty sea as it enables me to float and feeling the warmth of the sun, the taste of cold crisp dry Provence rose, seeing the tale end of the vast south alps mountain range in the distance as I drove into Nice, and touching the sand as it slips through my fingers on the beach. It felt like I’d been away for weeks – not days – and it felt great to return home ‘full’ in every sense of the word.

Birthday dinner after a day at the beach and walking around St. Tropez

It’s time to party!

Now a 40th birthday party is not complete without the obligatory fancy-dress request. However, in the lead up to our adventure I managed to miss the memo of ‘80s Miami Vice’ for the big party night! How? I don’t know… What matters is I managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat and make a pretty funky outfit from what we had available to me. Helped by Jayne for bringing a sensational eye shadow set – the order of the evening was ‘go big, or go home’. Needless to say, another memorable evening of giggles and fun followed.

And what happens on tour, stays on tour.

Until next time…

I don’t think it will be the last time this group of rather fabulous people get together – in fact we caught up virtually this weekend to have a chat and share what we’ve been up to since returning to our respective homes. In the months and years to come I’m sure Adeline will be hosting some more retreats… I’m keeping my fingers crossed I get to join a few more.

If you fancy connecting with Adeline and reading more about our trip do feel free to follow her on Instagram, I’m sure she’ll be posting more info about potential up and coming retreats in France during 2022 and beyond.

I can’t wait until we’re having breakfast once again at this table!

Header image – Source: Pexels, photo by David Bartus

The Pennine Rally – ‘Riding the rough with the smooth’

The Pennine Rally – ‘Riding the rough with the smooth’

‘Rough with the smooth’ means you have to accept the bad or unpleasant things in a situation as well as the good things.

Who knew that June would be such an epic adventure into the unknown: With a love for nature, mountains and the great outdoors… when I was asked by Alison Dex to take a last-minute place in the inaugural Pennine Rally organised by Rapha – a self-supported adventurous pedal that goes mostly off-road from Edinburgh to Manchester, 15th to 19th June 2021 – I naturally said “yes” then promptly thought about the logistics of making it happen! But happen it did…

Our adventure begins

Generally speaking, I’m more creative than a numbers or stats person, but when it comes to long distance cycling the numbers stack up. For all the stats lovers out there, this will give you an idea of what The Pennine Rally equates to when it comes to digits, from the start in the Gamma Transport Division café in Edinburgh, to the finish at the Rapha store in Manchester.

For me personally The Pennine Rally translates to:

• 523.84 kms ridden
• 9,566 metres climbed
• 39 hours, 17 minutes time in the saddle
• 41 hours, 41 minutes including commuting and registration rides
• View the full route from Edinburgh to Manchester on Ride with GPS here

An introduction to hike a bike

I was intrigued by the coincidence and repetition of the number 4141 so googled their meaning:
• Number 1 – Helps you discover yourself. It represents personal growth., personal strength, success, goals and ambitions. It also represents new opportunities, a fresh start, a new phase, and a positive attitude.

• Number 4 – Carries the vibrations that symbolise spirituality and balance in life. It helps you understand and appreciate the importance of inner peace. It emphasises that these two concepts, spirituality, and balance, are very significant in your life. Helps you turn goals into reality – through hard work and determination you have an opportunity to make your life better.

• Number 41 – Live a genuine and authentic life.

I was a bit blown away at how these numbers and their meanings resonated with my feelings and thoughts towards the challenge completed. I do strongly believe in balance in life and for me, spending time in nature creates that. Moreover, participating in these rides really does take me outside my comfort zone, they do require a positive attitude and a high degree of resilience – without these attributes I’d not make the finish line.

A sneaky peak inside each day

Me and my pedal partner in crime agreed that photo stops were an essential part of capturing our journey so throughout the ride we took lots of photos – I’ll do my best to share a couple from each day in the hope that they convey some of the experience we shared together.

Day 1: Edinburgh to Selkirk

• 86.33 km and 1,706 metres climbed

Today in five words… excited, smiles, rocks, headwind, laughter.

I’m now beginning to understand the description given on the Rapha website when they said “Only the hardy need apply”…

The rough with the smooth… bike hike into a headwind

In five words the day has been incredible, adventurous, hilly, windy, brutal. The hills are relentless… everyone walking (I’m not the only one) and the headwind is something else.

The scenery is utterly breath-taking… endless rolling green hills that keep on giving, steadily rolling into the distance. The people are super friendly. The vibe set this morning in Edinburgh was one of friendly, informative, helpful and fun. All encouraging each other as we reach the top of the climbs and chatting along the way.

This evening we enjoyed a fish and chip supper – local Eyemouth catch – followed by homemade apple pie and custard. My tummy needed a feed!

@alisondex you are an excellent co pilot.

Still smiling…

Day 2: Selkirk to Bardon Mill

• 136.32 km and 2,449 metres climbed

Today in five words… forest, moss, remote, breath-taking, fun.

In just under 12 hours we’ve ridden from Selkirk to Hadrian’s Wall… it’s been a rather mental day on two wheels! A complete mix of terrain from logging trails, mud paths, cuttings through the trees, forests with millions of pine needles and beds of spongy moss, and lots and lots of hills.

Heading deep into the woods

One tumble for me coming through a 4-inch gully and thankfully a soft landing in the grassy peat where I met a few black squidgy slugs. No damage done.

This evening we stayed at YHA The Sill. A very welcome lasagne with garlic bread followed by sponge pudding and custard… delicious. Clothes washed and having a spin in the tumble dryer.

We’ve burned through so many calories it’s impossible to consume. A few cokes, one coffee, two Snickers, one bar, one gel, two sandwiches… porridge and a full English for breakie… so I’ve had a good go!

Painkillers and a big sleep, in preparation for tomorrow.

Discovering the thick of the forest

Day 3: Bardon Mill to Keld

• 107.72 km with 1,552 metres climbed

Today in five words… beautiful, scenic, pine needles, cuckoo, wild garlic.

It’s been another rather epic day in the saddle… more variety of terrain, country lanes, disused railways tracks, gravel, rocks, headwind, tailwind, hills and a few more hills.

Viaducts and valleys

Being able to see so many remote parts of our wonderful country is something quite special. The expanse of the views, epic viaducts, the sense of space, the smell of wild garlic, everything is so green, the birdsong is so varied too – cuckoo, warblers, I’m turning into a twitcher! Yesterday we enjoyed the smell of pine needles, the forest floor and fresh cut wood – every day is different.

This evening we dined and stay in a lovely place called the Bunkbarn – a very welcome sight it was too! We’ve been warmly welcomed and served a delicious dinner with a glass of red.

Big shout out to my co-pilot @alisondex – we’re still smiling and we’re rocking this!!

Two days to go until we celebrate in Manchester.

Kevin & Pixie rest while we are having our second breakfast

Day 4: Keld to Gisburn

• 109.98 km with 2,302 metres climbed

Today in five words… brutal, epic, fatigue, hills, wept.

Another monster day, lots of 25% climbs, lots of walking, epic views, feeling privileged to see so many beautiful remote spots and hidden gems.

This morning brings some bridge climbing too

Brilliant seeing the @rapha_uk van out on the road… great for coffee, coke, Tunnock cakes, pretzels and chat with other riders – helps to keep the spirits up and to exchange lots of lost and found flip flops en route.

Always fun seeing the Rapha guys in the van

Big thanks to my partner in crime @alisondex and to the wonderful group of @bella.velo.cc ladies riding @helebridg, @carolyngreensmith, @clare.liley, @helen.sharpie who helped get me functioning again after my crumble and face plant on the table on arrival at the pub this evening.

Quote from the waiter at dinner…

“Is she OK? We don’t want any dead people in here.”

Waiter

Arriving and having a warm welcome at the Foxhill Barn B&B was fabulous, just what we needed, now for sleep.

There was a sneaky flat route under the viaduct… we obviously opted for climbing the steps and whizzing down through a field!

Day 5: Gisburn to Manchester

• 83.49 km with 1,557 metres climbed

Today in five words… cobbles, smiles, hills, memories, happy.

I was slightly hesitant starting our fifth and final day, and also somewhat relieved as my body was feeling a little beaten up. However, once riding it didn’t too long to warm up as the 25% plus hills came thick and fast. To keep myself going I often focus on four pedal revolutions then have a little celebration to myself – then hit repeat. Four is an achievable number that’s totally replicable. Alison adopted my crazy method for keeping our legs going – it really does work!

As we climbed and pushed our bikes up the hills, clambered over rocks and navigated a gazillion gate ways, we slowly reached an old cobbled roman road along the ridge as we approached Manchester. It was magnificent seeing the city get closer and closer. Having completed all of the climbing for the day in the first 50 km, the final 30km rewarded us with the gentle, flat canal path as we meandered into town. A rather fitting end to complete the rally along the canal as it mirrored the start in Edinburgh.

The end has arrived… our epic off-road adventure from Edinburgh to Manchester is complete. The sun has shone, the sky is blue, the cheers on arrival at the Rapha store were just brilliant and to see so many smiling welcoming faces. The beer and arancini were delicious too – followed by rose and pizza to celebrate our pretty special achievement.

A quick bite and a beer were very welcome

@outdoorprovisions – you mapped out a truly fantastic route… twists and turns, full range of every terrain going – cobbles, canal paths, rocky ascents and descents, grass verges, and everything in between.

Thank you!

A few more rocks and gravel to navigate!

A team effort – “Thank you”

A massive thank you to Alice Fowles for letting me have your place. I know you’d much rather have ridden with Alison as planned, but your help in transferring your place to me and your continued support throughout the event was incredible and much needed to keep our morale high – you were with us in spirit for the entire journey and adventure.

Getting to the start line was took some serious plate spinning and help, particularly by my friend and super star mechanic Rohan Dubash – without you pulling out all the stops to service and practically rebuild my bike (a Pearson gravel bike called Rough with the Smooth) there’s no way I’d have made it from start to finish. The hills were punishing, the off-road was utterly mental, and throughout the entire ride I had no punctures or mechanicals!

To my pedal partner in crime Alison Dex, you are a total legend! And together we have achieved something quite extraordinary! Before we started you shared with me some priorities, passed to you by our friend and fellow rider Helen Sharp, they were…

  1. Have fun and remain friends
  2. Get to the finish
  3. Finish within the timeframe set

We scored 100% and with beaming smiles too!

We’re on the Roman cobbled road… exhausted, happy and smiling.

At the moment I’m struggling to find the words that convey what we’ve just achieved – perhaps it’ll sink in over the coming days. One thing I am sure of is how proud I am of you, of me, the Bella Velo riding crew, and everyone else we shared the experience and the adventure with along the way.

Right from the outset, the vibe set by organiser and UK activation manager Louis Van Kleeff, Rapha, for The Pennine Rally was chilled, friendly, collaborative and fun. It’s a tough balance to strike yet he struck it perfectly. Of the 80 rider places available it was fantastic to have parity with 40 places being allocated to women and 40 for men – it’s not often you see this in cycling events so a great example for rides to come, I hope.

There’s a whisper in the air

Usually, when I finish a multiday ride, I say to myself “never again”, yet thoughts and ideas for the new adventures are already beginning to form, particularly something of the off-road self-supported variety. I did have plans to ride the King Alfred Way this summer so perhaps that’ll be next to share with friends who share my love of nature, cycling and the great outdoors.

Let’s see where the next chapter takes me. Who fancies coming along for the ride?

Manchester awaits..

Precious Days – words arrive in my sleep

Precious Days – words arrive in my sleep

Tears of sadness fill my heart,
For when does one decide it’s time to depart,
Not making a call to have a conversation and chat,
To talk about what’s worrying you under your hat.

This evening my heart feels heavy and sad,
For young lives that end before they start,
What sorrow, pain and sadness must mist their view,
If only they knew how much they were loved – if only they knew.

I don’t even know this young man,
But I know he’s left a hole,
Friends and family will unimaginably miss,
Such a beautiful young soul.

May he sleep now in peace,
No more troubles to bare,
No worry and doubts to carry,
That he feels unable to share.

It’s at time like this I realise how precious life is,
To wake in the morning with a smile and a kiss,
To breathe in and out with zest for the day,
Even when frustrating and AAAAGHHHH,
I know to breathe in and breathe out – and let go to clear the way.

I offer you my heart to know that I care,
In the hope it will bring comfort to ease your despair,
A hole has been left in many lives,
But you have good memories and when the time is right – to cherish and share.

With love, Emma x

Image from Unsplash by Simon Wilkes
@simonfromengland

A colourful return to nature creates a sense of wellbeing

A colourful return to nature creates a sense of wellbeing

The pandemic has created a seismic shift in human behaviour. We have adapted well to new ways of working and new ways of communicating with our friends and family, but how will the hospitality industry use colour to connect with the new type of customer that is emerging?

Reassuring the post-corona consumer

Colour is a powerful tool and it has ability to control the emotional noise that surrounds us. I think it’s fair to say that the last year has been a rollercoaster of emotions from worry and anxiety with the announcement of the first lockdown in March 2020 to frustration and confusion with the ongoing uncertainty as we enter a new year.

Like many other sectors, the hospitality industry has been hit exceptionally hard all over the world but I’m sure the appetite that many humans have to travel, see and experience other parts of the world remains. Having been cooped up in our homes and restricted to our local areas (in some cases only a 5km radius from our front-door) – as human beings we are craving a change of scene, to get away from our daily routine, and to have shared experiences with loved ones that help us reset, recharge and refocus.

Beach - reflect, recharge, refocus
Image by Thomas Lipke

The new meaning of colour in hotel design

As we continue to move through 2021, I believe colour will play an increasingly significant part in hotel design. Whilst the world is undergoing one of the biggest global ‘resets’ in decades – with many people re-evaluating their lives, how they use their homes, where they want to live, their choice of career, right down to the way they wish to show-up and be present in the world – this is also a tremendous opportunity for hotels to ‘reset’, refresh and reinvent themselves ready for the new customer that will emerge post pandemic.

In some instances that may be a guest that’s looking for a high-end, luxury and high-tech experience that gives them the power to control and operate everything in their room or suite from an electronic device, to the more environmentally values based guest who’s seeking to immerse themselves in nature and to find a destination that has focused on bring the outdoors in and adopted a more ‘biophilic’ style to their architecture and design that enables humans to reconnect with nature. Moreover, perhaps where a hotelier has sourced all their products locally and from sustainable sources – the two types of customer are very different and demand a different colour scheme and design style. Given the fact we’ve had so much screen time in the past 12 months post pandemic it’s likely we will see a surge of the environmentally values based consumer.

In addition, just as colour has the ability to create an effective and productive workplace, it also has the ability to evoke an emotion and a positive memorable experience at a hotel. Remember your guest’s make decisions based on their emotions and colour has the ability to influence our emotions and change our behaviour – so it’s imperative for a hotel to get their colour scheme right to establish true, meaningful connections with their guests.

Common pitfalls to avoid when choosing colour

Choosing a colour scheme for a hotel is hugely complex and an expensive decision to get wrong. It’s important to think about what the hotel brand stands for, who their ideal guest is (who do they want to appeal to), what do they want their hotel to offer that others don’t, what behaviours do they want to elicit, what feeling’s do they want to evoke, what memories do they want their guests to take away with them – all of these elements and more need a huge amount of consideration.

“Choosing a colour scheme because it’s ‘on trend’ means you’re following someone else’s version of ‘good’ or ‘great’.”

Emma Potter

So, when choosing a colour scheme, consider this:

Brilliant white

I would recommend that you avoid choosing brilliant white to paint a space, whether it’s big or small. From a psychological stand-point white may be perceived as perfection to bring a sense of calm and quite; yet on the flip side it makes a space feel sterile, cold and lifeless. It reminds me of stark, clinical hospitals which is not a vibe or experience a hotelier wishes their guests to experience whilst on vacation. However, I do appreciate that some architects may be a fan of using white as it shows off the lines in the design and construction of a space, or the sculptural fluid curves that may be been employed as part of the design – but it does nothing to invigorate and comfort the human spirit in post-Covid times.

- Over satiation

Just as it’s important not to saturate a space with brilliant white, it’s equally not advisable to saturate a space with any ‘one’ colour. All colours, with the exception of pure greys, have positive and negative psychological aspects. Of course, grey may make us feel safe because it has the capacity to help us blend in with the background but for me it’s quite nondescript and when surrounded by it for too long depletes my energy levels, resulting in me feeling drained and lethargic. Equally if I was immersed in a red space initially, I may feel energised and excited but if I remain in a red room for a long period of time, I’m likely to become agitated and annoyed because I’ve been over stimulated by the colour.

Think about the space as a whole

When designing for a space it’s easy to get carried away with the colour scheme on the walls, but it’s important to think about the space as a whole. There are many elements to consider, from the walls, carpets, and cabinetry, to soft furnishings (including fabric type and textures as well as the construction of and / or print pattern), to lighting, glassware and the many accessories that adorn and embellish an environment. Think about the design journey and space as ‘one’ and the experience you with so take your guests on will flow.

Tonal harmony

A colour scheme will always come together and be a success when the colours chosen relate and come from the same tonal group. When colours don’t harmonise it generally creates a sense of confusion or disharmony which guests will pick up on innately, but what they won’t always be able to identify or articulate is ‘why’ they feel this sense of discomfort. In essence it all comes down to selecting a colour palette that has tonal harmony.

Choosing a colour because it’s on trend

I imagine opting for a colour scheme because it’s ‘on trend’ is more common than we realise. Yet to help us choose the right colour scheme it would be good to understand how, as humans, we relate to colour – be that psychologically, personally and symbolically. Additionally, it makes senses to understand the influence of both the positive and negative traits, plus the application and proportion of colour used to create the desired results. Choosing a colour scheme because it’s ‘on trend’ means you’re following someone else’s version of ‘good’ or ‘great’, and not tuning into your intuition to discover your own. There are many well-respected paint-manufactures who make trend predictions at the beginning of every year like Pantone, Dulux, Farrow and Ball or Benjamin Moore – these are great places to go for inspiration, but in the end, make sure you select a colour palette and design style that’s right for your brand and the experience you wish to create – in the end it’s all about creating an immersive and memorable customer journey.

Clever ways of injecting colour to enhance your wellbeing

The idea of connecting hotel design and hospitality with nature is not new, yet in response to the pandemic there has been some discussion of the re-emergence and rise of biophilic design – which builds on the idea that as humans we have an innate attraction to, and love of, the nature world. This would possibly explain why people will happily pay more for a room with a view of never-ending mountain ranges or the expansive horizon of the sea – as these vistas will most likely deliver an incredible glowing sunrise to start your day whilst sipping on a delicious cup of freshly brewed coffee or tea, or to end your day with a mesmerising sunset whilst enjoying a chilled glass of rose or perhaps a gin and tonic as a sundowner.

Sunset
Image by Pixabay

In essence ‘Biophilia’ means ‘love of life’, however, when it comes to biophilic design this does not mean putting in a few plants as a token gesture. It means embracing all elements of biophilic design, a true engagement of all our senses – sight, taste, hearing, touch and smell – to help us understand and absorb what’s going on around us. This means using natural materials such as wood, maximising natural light, making organic shapes a priority, and using a range of plants to create a sense of the great outdoors – all of which helps to balance our emotions and support our emotional wellbeing whilst introducing a natural range of tones, shapes and colours. In this way, not only do we create a space where guests feel safe and secure, we enable them to better connect with themselves by creating a peaceful, tranquil environment, making it a memorable meaningful experience that they’ll want to come back for, time and time again, year in, year out.

Feature image by David Clode on Unsplash

Decoding colour – a catalyst for connection and business growth

Decoding colour – a catalyst for connection and business growth

Colour is one of the most important marketing tools. Did you know that humans connect with colour first and words second? That’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to understand the huge impact colour has on connecting with our target audience – the words and the emotive message are secondary (yet equally important to convey the desired message).  In essence, colour has the ability to influence how we, as humans, emotionally connect with a brand or a product in an authentic, meaningful and positive way. Think strategically – never overlook the part colour plays as a key marketing tool. 

Since my teens I’ve always been curious about colour and how we use it in our lives. From a marketing perspective, whether we’ve chosen to acknowledge it or not, when we look at a marketing campaign, for a restaurant or item of clothing, the first thing that impacts us is colour. Of course, storytelling and the words chosen to accompany the colour and design style are important too as they reinforce the message a campaign aims to convey and enable customer to better emotionally connect, but are brands truly aware of the subconscious messages they communicate through the use of colour?

A powerful marketing tool – not to be overlooked

From a marketing perspective, colour is the most overlooked marketing tool. In this day and age we’re quite rightly focused on delivering digital experiences and crafting content that sparks action, but the first thing that a consumer will notice and subconsciously react to when looking at an advertising or marketing campaign are the colours employed – and our intuitive reactions are inherent – sometimes we just know something is ‘off’ but we can’t quite put our finger on it. Subconsciously we’ve instantly had a positive or negative reaction – that will either draw us in and make us curious to know more, or repel us and physically encourage us to move on – which of course results in a missed opportunity for a brand to build trusted, authentic relationships with their target audience and from a commercial perspective, lost sales.

Let’s look at a brand that in my opinion, has really nailed it. Famous for its ‘swoosh’ logo and ‘Just Do It’ slogan, active lifestyle brand Nike is one of the most well-known and probably most well-respected brands in the world. Known originally for making athletic footwear, they enable their customers to customise key products so they’re able to create a pair of trainers using your favourite combinations of colours – to look at an example check out ‘Nike by you’. This is a marketing person and brand strategist that understands the power of colour to influence a purchase and to deliver a personalised, memorable experience that has the ‘talkability’ factor amongst friends and family. When it comes to marketing, personal referrals are the holy grail – a conversation created in this authentic way is most likely to bring new customers. 

Make an impact – use colour strategically

Entrepreneurs and founders who really understand the benefits of building a brand, and understand what their brand stands for, are most likely to buy into the fact that when they are clear on who they are as person – their business benefits. In addition, brands need to show up authentically, just as humans do, otherwise people see through them and move on (like a magpie) to the next shiny object that’s caught their eye.

To apply this thinking on a personal level, applied colour and design psychology expert Karen Haller asks this question – “Why is it that you’re drawn to wear blue one day and green the next?” How do you feel when you wear red, or black – do you feel powerful and strong – or have you chosen to wear those colours because that’s how you want others to perceive you on a given day? 

To resonate with our target audience, think strategically about how you build your brand playbook and guidelines right from the start. Everything you communicate stems from this critical but often overlooked piece of work. Your brand and all elements (visual, written, colour palette and more) must interplay and work cohesively together to establish and build your brand value over time. If a brand gets this wrong it can have a negative on their bottom-line and has the potential to push customers intio the arms of the competition.

On the subject of competitors – don’t copy what they’re doing. Understand who you are, what you want to stand for, who your customers are and don’t chase what someone else has got – remember to always be authentic to you.  Know your customers and be of service to them. 

Connect with colour

Never underestimate the power of colour to influence and be a catalyst for growth, it’s an incredible marketing tool so use it wisely. Fancy a chat? Then get in touch to talk more about consciously creating and connecting with colour. 

Featured image by Robert Katzki

Inspiration is all around us – where do you find yours?

Inspiration is all around us – where do you find yours?

There’s nothing like waking up in the morning and feeling inspired. Sometimes there’s clarity, and sometimes there are so many inspiring ideas buzzing around in my head I don’t know where to start – either way, I always welcome ideas and inspiration that influence my decisions and help me make better choices. 

Sources of inspiration are all around us – from reading news in the media, attending conferences and industry events where you’re presented with new technology and platforms that are pitched to automate and solve today’s marketing challenges, to listening to music and reading a good book… Personally I always find it beneficial to speak with my network, take a wider look at the challenge at hand and let inspiration arrive through participating in a mixture of activities.

For me being outside and connecting with nature, taking a walk in the woods or by the beach is particularly good for clearing my head and mulling over challenges faced in my working life; moreover I find exercising, mostly cycling, yoga or swimming, a great way to let ideas roll in and out. Being on the bike also provides a great networking opportunity as lots of people in my network have a passion for technology and all things digital, as well as a passion for this beautiful sport. 

That’s one of the most incredible things about working with entrepreneurs – they see the world differently, they’re passionate about what they do, they’re open to new ideas, they’re innovative and they’re always looking for creative ways to solve a problem.

Pearls of wisdom

Here are some of my favourite inspirational quotes that I refer to when I feel like I’ve hit a bit of a brick wall – they help to get me in the right mindset for creativity, curiosity and conscious creating.

Impossible is nothing…

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. 

Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion.

Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare.

Impossible is potential. 

Impossible is temporary.

Impossible is nothing.”

Muhammad Ali

Creativity…

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them for a while.” 

Steve Jobs

Follow your heart…

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Steve Jobs

Failure…

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

Henry Ford

Change…

“It’s not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change.”

Charles Darwin

“The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”`ins

Socrates

Knowledge…

“The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive.”

“It’s our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

K J Rowling

Respect…

“Brands that respect you as a person and make you feel like you are you, and that you, rather than they, have control over you, will be the ones who are successful.”

Martha Lane Fox

Take a risk…

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

Mark Zuckerberg

Imagination…

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”

Albert Einstein

Adventures by bike – Just how far can I go on my your first self-supported journey across France?

Adventures by bike – Just how far can I go on my your first self-supported journey across France?

If a friend of yours suggested a self-supported cycling trip across France what would your initial response be… “Are you nuts?” or “Yes, why not”. To be fair, I didn’t really think too much about why or what I’d said “Yes” to, other than I knew I’d made a choice to experience life expanding travels, so this invitation seemed a logical step (or revolution of my wheels) in the right direction. 

Packaging for 10 days on two wheels 

The word brevity or sparce comes massively into play here. Let’s face it, other than cycling kit what do you really need – my civvies consisted of a pair of shorts, a vest top, a jumper, long yoga pants and not much else. To carry said items for the duration I had two panniers and handlebar bag – and as the trip rolled out my packing skills got better and better, finding space that didn’t appear to exist the day before. 

To give you a little insight into our journey I’ve decided to break the trip down into three sections – Getting There, Across France, and The Journey Home – the main bulk of kilometres covered was ‘Across France’. In essence, the entire trip was one huge adventure, involving lots of navigation, several nights of random camping sourced on the fly, and we also stayed with wonderful family and friends on three very precious nights whilst away. 

Getting there – The journey unfolds

Having left London on Thursday night the last week of July, we eventually arrived in France two days later on Saturday lunchtime, just in time to commence our first proper ride of the trip. However, the journey to St. Malo in France was an adventure in itself as we had to get to Poole via train, then travel from Poole to Jersey via ferry, then another ferry from Jersey to France. Along the way various measures had been put in place to manage health and safety of passengers in regards to Covid-19, including a test on arrival in Jersey, to which I receive a daily SMS health check message that I was invited to respond ‘WELL’ to if well, and ‘COVID’ if myself of anyone in my group has symptoms. I’m happy to report that my response was always ‘WELL’ and may it remain that way. 

Covid-19 test in Jersey

Here’s the lowdown on stats:

  • 760 kms – Door-to-door from the UK, across France (St. Malo to Bergerac) and back to Blighty via plane from Bergerac into London City Airport
  • 5737 metres climbed 
  • 17 rides – 
    • Getting there (x4 rides) – London, Poole and Jersey
    • Across France (x7 rides) – Taking in several regions along the way including Bretagne, Paye de la Loire, and Poitou-Charentes 
    • The journey home (x6 rides) – Taking a series of trains to get us from Angouleme to Perigueux and nearer to Bergerac. We had lovely social engagements to fulfil, BBQs to enjoy and pools to swim in, and some little cycling trips to connect the destinations.

Across France – in a heat wave 

Day 1 – St. Malo to Mexant, 101.53km  

It is a strange but also very liberating feeling to roll off the ferry on your bike and just pedal down the road. We had our route planned for today so it was pretty straight forward navigation on our Garmin. Also, lots of leaves provided dappled sunshine through the trees so not too hot. Having reached our AirBNB we discovered our host was an eccentric cat lady – although ‘host’ is probably a generous overstatement – we got showered and settled for the night. Thankfully we had use of the kitchen facilities so we did make a delicious homemade meal with local ingredients washed down with a bottle of rose. I think staying there alone you’d want to sleep with one eye open!

Day 2 – Mexant to the Coast (Camping du Golfe) – 89.24km

We decided to make a fairly swift exit and thankfully we had some of the porridge oats we’d squirrelled from the UK with us. First stop once riding was a boulangerie – our daily ritual was to purchase a pastry, a baguette, and a filled baguette. This way we didn’t get caught out by the often ‘quirky’ opening times of mini supermarkets, charcuteries and other necessary refreshment shops. To continue our desire to be in fresh air, our destination was a campsite on the mudflats – and what a gem it was… so beautiful, quiet, amazing facilities, no WiFi, and a barn to cook another homecooked meal – plus we enjoyed some local beer. Heaven!

Day 3 – Coast to Crossac – 65.55km

This is a special day as today we see Claire – a super special woman, one of my favourite ladies in the world, and we get to celebrate her eldest boys 21st birthday! After a relatively short ride, it was wonderful to arrive in Crossac and have a cuddle with my godson Erwan who’s just adorable, funny, caring and an absolute gem. Claire is the hostess with the mostest so we enjoyed gin and tonics, nibbles, BBQ beef, salad, and other delights… and that night for me the first proper ‘sleep’ – it was great to wake up feeling refreshed.  Friends for life, Claire and I have the ability to click back seamlessly, laugh endlessly, have a bloody good time being silly and entertaining ourselves with daft antics – effortless and beautiful. 

Refreshing local beer at the end of a hot sunny day

Day 4 – Crossac to Montaigu – 120.73km

Having said our ‘Good-byes’, and for me with a few tears as the last time I spent some time with Claire was just before we went into ‘lockdown’ in Barcelona, so I was a little emotional – the visit was lovely but just too short. Packed and ready we set off down the lanes shortly after 9am with freshly laundered clothes in our bags (very grateful for that). On Claire’s recommendation we amended our route to cross the river on La Bac de Loire, a little ferry between Indre and La Montagne. It saved us traversing the massively high bridge at Nantes, a slightly scary thought as it’s pretty windy up there. Having made swift progress through endless fields of sunflowers, we stopped for a ‘Plat du Jour’… the starter I chose was terrine, the main veal with tagliatelle, followed by chocolate mousse. All I’m going to say is we did well to consume the main at all… I nicknamed it ‘Testicle Tagliatelle’… it turned out to be veal kidneys (I hate kidneys). The main thing is it fuelled us for the afternoon and to find a wonderful campsite where we watched a glorious sunset, dined on tomatoes, tuna, onion and baguette and drank some chilled local beer. I found the sound of the donkey ‘eeeeooooorrring’ at dusk and dawn strangely comforting and rather cute. 

My home for the night

Day 5 – Montaigu to Niort, Magne – 51.90km + 106.52km

Today brings another super ‘hot hot hot’ day… 44 degrees, endless sunflower and corn fields roll out in front of us with very few places to replenish our water bottles. Peach iced tea once again quenched our thirst and provided a shot of sugar quickly into our systems, and thankfully the cemetery water taps where we soaked our hair, soaked our clothes, refilled our bottles and drank a lot on the spot. Sometimes it’s only when you stop near a water source that you realise just how thirsty you are. Not realising the distance we would need to cover in the afternoon, for the second and last time, we stopped for a Plat du Jour in Ferriere. Our meal consisted of melon and palma ham, porc chop and salad, followed by pear tart and coffee – delicious (hooray for no kidneys), and it was much lighter without the pasta!! Again, a fabulous campsite found at dusk, so a super quick shower, eat and sleep.

Lunch stop in the sun

Day 6 – Niort, Magne to Angouleme – 124.86km

Early to rise for what was to be our last long hot day in the saddle. The heat in the afternoon was relentless, frying and baking our skin – no cool breeze to regulate our temperature so by the evening I think I had a bit of heatstroke, my bottom lip was also burnt and blistered which was uncomfortable. Thankfully a charcuterie was open at lunchtime so we purchased some rillette and some goodies for dinner. Rolling fields of sunflowers waved at us all day as we cycled through another region… madness probably in the heat. In the evening at dusk we found a fabulous campsite, managed to sneak in before the reception closed at 8.30pm, but sadly we missed the restaurant so we had warm quiche Lorraine, warm salmon and spinach slice, and delicious fresh fruit. You learn quickly to never throw any food away as you don’t really know where your next meal is coming from, so it pays to be prepared and always have some emergency supplies stashed away.

It was on this day as we neared Angouleme that we decided to get the train for the next leg to Perigueux. A welcome rest to our legs but a slightly anxious time to with Covid-19 and the restrictions with getting a bike on a train in France. I swear guardian angels had watched over us the whole week as the SNCF and tourist information staff were super helpful which made our journey easier. Not being allowed on the initial train we’d booked also allowed us to enjoy a galette before our new train left, and a carafe of rose and ice-cream for lunch in Courtras on a ‘transition stop’. 

Fields and fields of sunflowers

The journey home –trains, planes and bicycles 

Having started to use trains as a mode of transport for me this marked the start of our journey home. We stay with Bill, Denise’s cousin who lives in a picturesque farmhouse on Friday night, then her friends Nicola and Darren on Saturday who live 20 mins from Bergerac – these two days were a welcome slowing of pace for some stolen and much needed relaxing social time. It was also a time to pack our bags away in cardboard boxes to get them on the plane from Bergerac to London City. It was quite entertaining if a little stressful having to re-pack my bike at the airport, but the BA crew were fantastically helpful and kind.

Flying from Bergerac, France to London City Airport, UK

The plane had maximum 30 people on so plenty of space to socially distance. In line with health and safety rules, the plane was spotlessly clean, everyone was wearing masks, and the flight was fluid and quick. On arrival in London it was time to put our bikes back together and pedal home – it seemed only fitting to stop en route at the pub in Putney for a beer to celebrate our adventure and reflect a little on what we’d achieved.

Nights under the stars 

It would be true to say that I’m not someone who would look to camp, so this was the No.1 hurdle for me to overcome. Thankfully I have some fairly adventurous friends (I seem to have a few) and fellow cyclist Sally lent me her two-man tent. Although how you’d fit two normal sized people in it is beyond me, but for the time I was away, and for a subsequent ‘Bivvy Weekend’ in the UK organised by Jasmijn Muller, it was a home and safe sanctuary as I tried to sleep through some super-hot nights. 

A few ‘Thank you’ to make… 

Friends and some fellow cycling nuts 

  • Denise – If it wasn’t for your determination to find a route across the channel and your sense of adventure this trip would not have happened 
  • Claire – I’ve known you for over 40 years and you’re my rock, always wonderful memories made and fabulous to celebrate Oliver’s 21st birthday 
  • Bill – For your amazing hospitality, amazing food, engaging storytelling, home cooked food and a safe place to camp for the night 
  • Nicola and Darren – For the warm welcoming, great conversation, delicious BBQ, relaxing and rejuvenating pool, and safe haven for the night 
  • Sally – If we’d not got together at yours for a BBQ the weekend before I’d have missed out on borrowing your portable home 
  • Jasmijn Muller – I may (coughs – definitely have) put on a few Covid kilos, but thanks to your training I’m fitter and stronger than I was this time last year
  • Rohan – AKA Dr D, my friend and mechanic who looks after all my bikes, keeps them safe and make them ‘sparkly a new’ every time he works on them
  • Clubs Bella Velo and Kingston Wheelers for having me and for enabling so many great adventures and friendships.
Our final destination – time for a swim in the pool!

Adventure Kit and Active Travel brands 

  • Apidura – Jonathan was a superstar for getting my new products to me in time for departure (9L Expedition Handlebar Pack, 9L Expedition Saddle Pack, 1.2L Backcountry Food Pouch and 1L Backcountry Top Tube Pack) – I feel this was the first of many bike packing adventures, many more to come. 
  • LifeVenture – Endless kit here including sleeping bag silk liner, 22L waterproof lightweight rucksack (packs down really small) which was perfect for food shops at the end of a day, and my washbag (used on multiple trips and adventures).
  • Eagle Creek – Packing cubes… I’ve had these for over 25 years and they’re still going strong. For camping they double up well as a pillow. 
  • Ortlieb – I’ve had my panniers for over 6 years as I purchased them for commuting into London (wearing a backpack was uncomfortable and irritated my skin).
  • Wolrus – My home under the stars, a one-woman (two man) tent for life expanding travels in Covid times.
  • Genesis –  AKA “Brownie’ my steel steed for carrying me and all my kit safely on the road (and some off road as it happens thanks to Komoot)
  • Garmin 830 Edge – For navigating and orientating us in 44+ degree heat whilst in France, and for helping us locate ferry ports and other transport hubs along the way.

Life is one big adventure – let’s inspire each other 

As we travel quite literally through our years, I’m discovering more and more the importance to make every day count. Whatever is thrown down in front on me, it’s important for me to assume that people are inherently good and when asked, will be helpful, kind and inspire me to go further. On that subject, I recently received a message on Strava from Dave Compston, a friend who in July this year Everested the Col de Boyer in France, securing his place in the www.everesting.cc hall of fame. As coincidence would have it, I supported my boss and friend Roger Barr as he Everested Box Hill 73 times – the same summer (2014) I was with Dave in France training for the Raid Pyrenean. The message from Dave read:

“I thought of you Emma whilst doing the everesting, when you were here you wanted to do lots of climbing every day to reach your goal of 2,000 metres a day for 6 days.”

Dave Compson

You said…

“I’m happy to ride up and down the same hill to reach my target.”

Emma Potter

I thought how driven you were (mad), look what you’ve done. 

On that note – I’m going to sign off by saying as ordinary people, we’re all capable of doing extraordinary things. Let’s keep inspiring each other to step outside our comfort zones, try something new and have an adventure. 

SNCF – Bridging the gap

On Purpose – Consciously Creating with Colour

On Purpose – Consciously Creating with Colour

For as long as I can remember I’ve been drawn to colour, perhaps as a means to express my individuality and personality, perhaps it also reflects how I’m feeling as I do believe colour has an energy, a flow, and the power to change how we’re feeling: Just as listening to music has the ability to influence our state of mind, because of the rhythm, beat and lyrics, colour has the ability to change our mood and influence how we feel in an environment – both natural and man-made.

Texture also has the ability to alter our state of mind – from rugged, rough, and spikey to smooth and soft – when our fingertips and flesh come into contact with different textures it will react in a mixture of ways. For example, from a pleasurable sensation if the texture is soft and sensual, which would make me want to lean in and get cosy – to painful if the texture is hard and angular, which would make me want to lean out and move away. It really all depends on what you’re aiming to create. 

We all have the ability to consciously create with colour – to make us feel confident, comfortable and charismatic when the need arises, and marvellously mellow when we’re at the end of a long week and we’re looking to relax, re-cooperate and refresh our senses. 

Colour yourself – brand me 

The way we dress and present ourselves also has in instant visual impact on the people we meet – this doesn’t mean that their interpretation is right or wrong, it just means a bigger picture of who they think we are (or may be) has been instantly formed in their minds, quite literally in a matter of milliseconds. One stereotype being the freshly pressed suit and tie wearer representing a serious corporate city type; another being the Diesel jean, fitted shirt and brogue wearer being a London Westend Agency type. Whatever you choose to wear, you’re reflecting ‘brand me’. 

As for my choice of attire, be it smart or casual, for some reason I just don’t feel like me when I wear black. I have a couple of select items that are black, for example a leather jacket, a knitted roll neck, and several pairs of lycra cycling shorts (it’s the most flattering colour when you have curves). However, I’m more drawn to colours that are warm, are evocative of an emotion, stir memories of times gone by, or locations and environments visited – usually the colours I choose reflect how I feel or how I want to feel on any given day. 

Moreover, I like individuality and items that have a history, like silk scarves from second hand shops – their distinctive colours are rarely seen in more modern, mass-produced clothing lines. My niece Issy thinks I have a somewhat eclectic taste – her saying being “That’s very you Em” – I take her comment as a compliment that I choose and select items that are unique, both to wear and to have in my home. 

I also enjoy wearing colours that are opposites on the colour wheel – such as orange and blue, and pink and green – they fuel me with good energy, yet other opposite pairings like yellow and purple don’t feel good on me at all, so I avoid them. Our skin tone has an influence on the colours we choose to wear – yellow makes me looked washed out and I associate purple with Cadbury (I don’t wish to walk around looking like a chocolate bar). What colours are you drawn to? How do they make you feel?

Colour your environment – home and office

As an adult, the two places we spend the majority of our time is either at home with our families and friends, therefore an environment where we want to create comfort, stability, nurturing, and warmth – and our office space – where hopefully our employers wish to create something similar, only with a commercial, collaborative brand lead influence. 

For me my home is my sanctuary and it’s very much a reflection of myself. I have objects that are IOU (Interesting, Old and Unusual) that I’ve lovingly sourced from my travels, brocantes and car boots sales (I love finding a hidden gem). Each room has a different purpose – my lounge is painted a dark grey neutral green called Treron, houses a pair of mid-century modern 1950s Italian chairs, and has a hint of pink and silver in the soft furnishing and accessories; my bedroom is painted an exotic and adventurous pink called Rangwali and houses a gorgeous 1930s haberdashery unit purchased from the Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair held in Battersea twice yearly; and my kitchen / dining room is painted a calm and serene protective olive green called Bancha, which connects the inside with the outside (an extension of my garden), and also lets the orange accessories stand out and sing. Yes, in my kitchen I have an orange fridge, a beautifully ornate orange glass vase from a brocante in France, chunky orange candles on the fireplace, an orange and green glass light fitting on a lamp featuring a semi-naked reclining lady found in a car boot sale about 15 years ago, and the curtains that dress the French doors into the garden have a bold orange, pink and silver leaf print – combined together, the choice of colours and objects in my home radiate my unique taste and personality.

In addition, each room has two walls painted a colour, and two walls painted white – I do this because I want the colour to be reflected by the natural light on the white walls, and because I want each room to give me, and those that visit, a welcoming hug.  

With regards to our work life, the office environment and space we spend up to 40+ hours a week at is vitally important to supporting a thriving company culture and mindset. I recently talked about the importance of brand power, and the values that are driving your company and your competitor advantage. Your brand extends to all areas where there’s human and virtual interaction with employees, partners, agencies, sponsors, investors, and each touchpoint is an opportunity to deliver a memorable, engaging brand experience. How do you reflect your brand in your environment?

Colour your business – brand DNA 

Some business ideas evolve over time, some out of passion, some out of necessity, some from a light bulb moment experienced in the shower, some from a need to use a product that’s not yet been created, therefore the desire to create this product or service becomes your focus, and as such, a new market with a new audience is created. Who knew we all needed a smartphone – yet where would we, and many businesses be, without it now?? We use it communicate with friends and family, collaborate with colleagues, connect with industry leaders and influencers on social networks, purchase products on the move using the plethora of apps that are readily available at our fingertips – the list is endless. 

Speaking of smartphones, there’s still a battle between Apple and Android for market share – I’m not sure who’s winning that currently. But the brand that stands out as a brand that’s recognised globally is Apple, I view it as head and shoulders above Android on various levels. For me, the Apple brand represents sleek and beautiful design, forward thinking technology, secure products, excellent customer service, seamless simplicity, and an iconic, inspirational, detail orientated, fastidious founder in Steve Jobs. When thinking of my own or someone else’s transformational change, I regularly reflect on one of his many quotes…

“Follow your heart and intuition. Somehow they already know what you truly want to become.”

Steve Jobs

At any stage of your journey, you have the opportunity to set new goals, launch new services and target new markets to build revenue, become a unicorn even – all of these businesses have a few things in common – a core brand DNA and huge brand value – they incorporate their brand experience into every marketing and communications touchpoint, both on and off line. 

The business of applied colour psychology – let’s explore

The business of applied colour psychology – let’s explore

All my life I’ve been consciously creating with colour – as a student and artist studying textile design 25+ years ago, and latterly as a marketing and brand strategist. The colours we choose to wear, to dress our environment such as our home and office space, and those we choose to brand our business with, have a huge impact on human behaviour, and how we are perceived by others. It’s a subject I’m really passionate about. 

So last September I was hugely flattered and honoured to be invited by Debbie Pinder, the Programme Leader and Senior Teaching Fellow for the MA Luxury Brand Management course at Winchester School of Art, to be a guest speaker, to present to her international students. Debbie had read an article I had published in Hotel Designs Magazine titled ‘The psychology between colour in interior design and wellbeing’, so the remit for my talk was to expand on the piece, share my industry experience and real case studies on brand development, and guide the students on the key stages to develop a brand strategy.  

Arriving on the campus was pretty daunting but also exciting. Having not stepped inside a university building for many years, I found the smell of turps and paint oozing from the print rooms strangely comforting, and the sight of all the sculptures and pieces of clothing being made utterly beautiful. It definitely stirred many wonderful memories of being a student and appealed to my creative spirit. 

Luxury hotel design

When drafting an article titled ‘The psychology between colour in interior design and wellbeing’ for Hotel Designs magazine, I was asked by the editor Hamish Kilburn to checkout and review three luxury hotels from around the world, namely Plaza 18 in Andalucia, Spain; the Riveria Hotel and Spa in Mykonos, Greece and Nhow in London, UK. For now, I’m going to further explore the luxury elements of Plaza 18.

In many ways, luxury is in the eye of the beholder but for me there are some key ingredients that make something stand out as ‘luxury’. When I think about hotels, it’s a combination of the richness, depth and tone of the colours chosen, and the textures of the fabrics applied to the soft furnishings, to the reception and welcome experience, the dining lounge and bar, to the hotel rooms and suites. It’s also about the art, sculptures and artefacts that have been added to spaces to embellish the atmosphere and create a sense of mystery and intrigue. 

When I look at the design and colour applied to Plaza 18, this hotel showcases discreet, understated luxury with a hint of history and heritage. The choice of monochrome design and classic style, demonstrated in the chequered black and white floor tiles is bold and classic, and creates wonderful geometric lines. There’s also a splash of vibrant red that pops out in the artwork featured on the wall, in contrast to the soft green foliage that brings a hint of nature, softness and balance to the space. 

Black as a colour portrays glamour, elegance and sophistication and for many gives a sense of allure and mystery. In this room it adds gravitas and presence. However, if used excessively it will create an experience of heaviness and oppression. 

White as a colour suggests clean and quiet, and helps us keep our emotions in check. In other environments white can feel stark and cold, therefore it’s important to use colour with context and purpose. Here the white creates contrast next to the black, and the ­sharp lines draw a guest into the space.  

It’s worth remembering that all colours have psychological duality in how they can change and influence our behaviour, both positively ­and negatively (with the exception of grey – it has no positive traits). Also, we never see colour in isolation so it’s always a combination of colours that evokes an experience, feeling or behaviour.

Developing a brand – Workshop framework 

Whilst the students at Winchester University learn the theoretical knowledge and practical skills required to succeed in the management of complex luxury brands, they were keen to hear about some case studies of how a brand is created and developed outside the luxury space, and to identify where there are synergies. So, it was fantastic to share my experience of 20+ years of building brands in the agency and technology space, and to give them guidance on a workshop framework to kick-start conversations when building a brand from the bottom up. 

The business of applied colour psychology 

To expand my knowledge and to better understand the behavioural science of colour and its impact on us as human beings, I’m studying a course aimed at professionals in applied colour psychology. It’s funny going from guest speaker to student, but I’m a firm believer in paying it forward, giving back when I’m able, and in continuing to grow ­– personally and professionally – to better serve myself and those around me. 

In this course I’ve been recapping on colour terminology, debunking colour myths that exist in the colour industry, understanding more about the psychological properties of the 11 main colours and much, much more. As the months progress I’ll be learning about colour physics with colour psychology and how, when brought together, they can evoke predictable psychological responses, to how to apply specific colour combinations to create positive behavioural effects in any given situation and space – from building a brand, to creating a home, an office, and every other environment or building space you can think of. 

It’s time to get creative and consciously create with colour 

So, this is where you come in… If you’re curious about colour and how you can better apply it in your life, your home and your business, I’d love to hear from you. I’m keen to put what I’m learning into practice so I’m inviting friends and family to experience a little of this journey with me – we will grow together. 

Initially this will take the form of us meeting (most likely virtually for 30 minutes) and us exploring your thoughts around colour. Over the duration of the course, the end result for me will be me embedding my learning and knowledge, and hopefully you will have a better understanding of your relationship with colour and how to apply it in various areas of your life.