harry potter studio tour
I didn’t realise quite how much I loved Harry Potter until I completed the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter. Magic nerd alert.

I was seven years old when I was first sucked into the world of chocolate frogs, Death Eaters, and house elves. Now, almost two decades later (OH MY GOD I’M OLD), that innocent literary find has transformed into a brand worth over $15 billion; thanks, in large part, to the eight-part Harry Potter film empire.

Shortly after arriving at our allocated time for the un-guided walking tour we watched a quick introduction to the day in a small theatre and were then welcomed through the iconic Great Hall (quite literally a gasp-triggering moment).

Though I will attempt to keep my geek out to a minimum (imagine the pain I went through cutting down 100s of photos to 74), the attention to detail of the Harry Potter Studio Tour is awe-inspiring from the second it begins. From the rings scattered around bunsen burners in the potions classroom to the grafitti doodles on the axe-aged oak tables in the Great Hall, each set brings quintessential ‘movie magic’ to life.

Alongside costumes, animatronics, special effects and props, many of the sets have been left in tact to wander around and photograph at your own pace; 4 Privet Drive, the Weasley kitchen, the Gryffindor Common Room (which houses the infamous Invisibility Cloak), The Magic is Might statue (sculpted with foam and hand-painted), the Potter cottage in Godric’s Hollow, and more.

Two of my favourite spots were Dumbledore’s office and Diagon Alley. In Dumbledore’s astronomy-packed office we stumbled upon the Sorting Hat, Sword of Gryffindor, and discovered that his hundreds of books are actually phone books covered in leather. In Diagon Alley, hot spots like Ollivanders Wand Shop simply called for a thousand photos. As a large set, some parts of Diagon Alley were actually tweaked to create Hogsmeade village in The Prisoner of Azkaban (obviously not including the three-story orange explosion that is the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes shop).

Unintentionally, our little group of Potterheads were pleased to find out that we had chosen to visit the Studio Tour on ‘Animal Actors‘ week (running through this Sunday, the 2nd of June). In addition to a brush with Hermione’s flat-faced kitty companion, Crookshanks, we were also able to hang out in the common room with Ron Weasley’s owl, Pigwidgeon, and walk down Privet Drive with everyone’s favourite snowy owl, Hedwig. Though all fifty of the kittens were adopted from the porcelain kitten plates in Dolores Umbridge’s office at The Ministry of Magic (the gaudy pink heaven, with much of the furniture coming from a Middle Eastern furniture shop only a stone’s throw from my own office), the Studio Tour also explained the secrets of how – using blue screens – the kittens were brought to life in the film.

From a make-up standpoint, it was a dream come true to see the special cosmetic effects of characters like Greyback, who wore a seven-piece silicone prosthetic mask made of hand-sewn goat hair, and Griphook the goblin.

Wrapping up with the long-awaited tour of Hogwarts castle and grounds (you will see tourists crying at this point), The Harry Potter Studio Tour definitely felt like the best three hours I have spent in a very long time.

Get your tickets here, muggles. You won’t regret it.

harry potter studio tour
harry potter studio tour 15
harry potter studio tour
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tom aikens wild at heart
Before last week, if anyone had suggested that I would ever find myself taking a floral masterclass I would have painted them crazy.

I didn’t ‘get’ flowers before taking a ‘Lunch in Bloom‘ at Tom Aikens. (Trust Tom Aikens to change my mind about anything…)

Having teemed up with London florist Nikki Tibbles (of the incredibly successful Wild at Heart – you’ll know ’em from their Liberty concession), Tom Aikens Restaurant have introduced a RHS Chelsea Flower Show-themed masterclass and lunch menu that could/did titillate the most florally unappreciative around London.

Though the RHS Chelsea Flower Show doesn’t take place until the 21st-25th May, Tom Aikens will dedicate the entire month of May to expert-led bouquet building classes and a mind-blowing Michelin starred floral menu which incorporates edible seasonal flowers.

After fuelling up on Tom’s moreish pastries, the two hour masterclass of tips and tricks flew by in a haze of colour, smell, and a big realisation that my talents do not lie in bouquet building. Nonetheless, I was enamoured by Miss Tibbles and her floral expertise; thanks to her tips, I even ended up with a bouquet I was proud enough to give to a friend later in the day.

That was, of course, after inhaling a sensational three course menu. To start; confit of Loch Duart salmon with viola, violet flowers and pickled endive. To continue your high; poached chicken with marigolds, lemon puree and vanilla oil. To tease you into thinking it might be worth quitting your job and finding a way to get a Tom Aikens staff discount; a dessert of rose poached strawberries, aerated sorbet and mint syrup.

The ‘Lunch in Bloom’ package cost £120 per person and includes:
• The two-hour masterclass with Wild at Heart
• A bouquet to take home
• Morning coffee and pastries
• Welcome cocktail or a glass of champagne
• 3 course set lunch menu (matching wines are available on request)
• Mineral water and a choice of coffee or tea as a digestif

To book a place at one of scheduled masterclasses or to make a reservation at the restaurant, please contact the reservations department at Tom Aikens Restaurant on 020-7584 2003. You won’t be sorry.

tom aikens wild at heart
tom aikens wild at heart
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interior inspiration
Ding, dong! The moving hell (…that has been my life) is due to be over come Monday morning! This, of course, means I have finally allowed myself to log on to sites like Savills and Pinterest to let the interior design inspiration flow.

Though the space I have to work with is nowhere near as impressive as those listed in Savill’s plethora of properties, I actually find looking at their property brochures much more inspirational than individual Pinterest photographs. If there is anything I have taken away from the combination of photography and descriptive information, it is the impressive effect of ‘clean’ spaces and design in small rooms. Expect my future room tour to be blindingly white, homies…

interior inspiration
interior inspiration
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For that omnipresent ‘Christmas Spirit’ we keep hearing about, high energy bills act as a rather shady kryptonite. We search for warmth in our mulled wine, our onesies, and even with each other…but that energy bill still has the power to leave us chilled. When British Gas recently contacted me about their smart meters and the major effect they have on our relationship with energy, I could almost feel my house warming up with appreciation. If you have yet to hear of the life-changing British Gas smart meters, you will be interested in finding out that British Gas have essentially created a device which aims to put each of their customers in control of their very own energy consumption.

The meters feature a super-smart energy monitor that shows exactly the amount of energy that is being used at any given time. Gas and electricity consumption is shown in pounds and pence and kWh/CO2 can be tracked overtime. For those of us that barely take a peek at our meters – come on, they’re hidden under the stairs (next to Harry Potter)! – this creates an entirely new experience.

The smart meters look fairly similar to our traditional devices, but British Gas’ clever tech update communicates to an in-home display unit (a Smart Energy Monitor) and therefore offers you an instant view of your energy consumption for both gas and electricity. As part of its ongoing commitment to a Smart Energy Future, British Gas commissioned Oxford Economics to investigate the value of smart metering to Britain. The results were rather impressive and reported that British homes and businesses could be almost £14 billion better off with folks using smart meters. The report also analyzes the costs and benefits of smart meters from 2012 to 2030 and finds that whilst the national roll-out will cost £11.5 billion, the benefits of smart meter usage could total £25.3 billion. Under this research, British Gas have committed to providing smart meters in all homes by 2019. We’re looking at: – £11.2 billion in energy savings for households and businesses.

The report finds that smart meters, by helping households and businesses see the energy they use and by providing personalised energy advice, will help save the average household 5% (around £60) on their yearly bill. – £10.7 billion in efficiency savings for energy suppliers. With the British energy market being one the most competitive in the world, the report expects much of these savings will be passed onto consumers giving them additional reductions on their energy bills. – £3.2 billion in generation related savings. Lower energy demand from smart metering reduces the amount of energy generated and used for consumption in Britain. The savings will be made from reduced costs around the trading of carbon. Saving money and energy is obviously a great help to both the individual and environment, so I am super excited to see what kind of impact this has when it starts to spread in the mainstream.

Click here to take a further look at the smart meters and pre-register for one of your own. (When your home is ready for an upgrade, British Gas will contact you!)

If you want to find out more about British Gas: Facebook and Twitter sites.

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marlene dietrich
Pure Evil has described his artistic style as “a 5 year old kid on a sugar rush with a fistful of crayons scribbling on the white walls of contemporary art”. Who wouldn’t want a piece of that hanging in their home? (No-one. That is the answer.)

Thankfully, we have teamed up with the guys at artrepublic art prints (the kings of modern art prints) to bring you your own slice of Evil in the form of a Limited Edition Marlene Dietrich Signed Silkscreen (one of only 100, value of £150)!

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Can you describe your creative process?
Pure Evil: I get my goggles on and then my mask on and then I go down into the studio and look for the right 3 stencils…then check to see how my levels of paint are… then swear because I’m missing one of them. Then find a different colour that’ll do. Then I spray the first layer, go for a beer to let the paint fumes settle and the paint dry..Then I spray the second layer, go for a beer to let the paint fumes settle and the paint dry..then spray the final layer and then the masterpiece is ready. Then I photograph it, send the photograph to my dealer and then he wires me the money. It’s a tough life being an artist, it is HELL.

When did you decide you wanted to be a professional artist?
Pure Evil: When I sold a painting to Ron Weasley from Harry Potter for £20,000

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Giveaway ends 9 October, 2012 and is open only to the UK. (Terms and conditions are included in the widget).