Made By Mrs M

More Wallpaper at Fairfield Halls

Kate Marsden

Back in September I shared the exciting news that my Croydon pattern design had been turned into wallpaper for the newly redeveloped Fairfield Halls Arts Centre in Croydon. That was pretty good news, but it was only backstage… but now it’s front of house too! Here I am just over a week ago looking very smug.

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This is in a public area, so you can go and see it for yourself. It’s upstairs in the Arnhem Foyer - when you get to the seating area turn around and look up. Head up the stairs to get up close and personal with it (and maybe get your own photo taken!).

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They will also shortly be selling cards featuring my drawings of the venue, and you’ll be able to dine out in the bistro using napkins featuring this pattern too. All very exciting, I’m sure you’ll agree!

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Please Don't Forget Small Businesses This Christmas!!!

Kate Marsden

I’d been planning to write a post early this month to spread the word about the upcoming Just A Card Indie Week. We’ve been doing this for a few years now - it’s a really fun week, which is an opportunity to promote our work (and that of other artists, designer/makers and small shops and galleries), to remind the general pubic (in a positive way) how important it is to support small businesses at this time of year, and the importance of every small sale, AND it makes a very welcome change from the rampant spend fest that is Black Friday.

So I am, it’s from 25-29 November - please join us!

However, in the last few weeks it’s become painfully clear to me that this has the potential to be one of the worst Christmas’ ever for small businesses. General Elections are bad news if you’re small and don’t have a £1 million + marketing budget. I tweeted about this a couple of weeks ago and was met with a mixture of resignation and disbelief.

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I’ve been running my business as my job for nearly six years now and this will be the third General Election in that time. During the last two campaigns I have seen my work vanish. Not a single online order, no new enquiries or opportunities - it just stops completely. Now when this is in May it’s bad but you just deal with it - May tends to be a pretty quiet month for me anyway. December on the other hand is another matter altogether.

Since this election was called my online traffic is down significantly. I haven’t had a single order or sale from anywhere. It’s the run up to Christmas… commissions have dried up in the last few weeks when I was expecting to get busier. When I speak to people online it’s (mostly) the same story.

One theory I have is that those of us without marketing budgets rely so heavily on social media to promote our work. During election campaigns and times of political turmoil these places are flooded with it… this has the effect of either making you anxious (and therefore you switch off from it completely) or it results in the small businesses shouting into a void… The other day I scrolled through my Twitter feed and 80% of the tweets related to the General Election. If the public don’t hear our message, they’ll just buy everything from Amazon.

Personally, I have made a very welcome change, which is muting a number of election related words in my Twitter feed (thus returning it to the friendly, inspiring place it used to be) but I know others haven’t and won’t - although I really would recommend this if you are feeling anxious - it’s life changing. I’ve vowed to keep on promoting my work, but if I’m honest it’s starting to feel like a waste of time.

I’m sure in many respects I’m preaching to the converted here, but in case you’ve stumbled upon this and it’s news to you, please please please support small businesses now. I hear tales of shops and galleries closing, in November! The timing of this election couldn’t be worse for small businesses and the only way to save them is to shop with them, and shout about it from the rooftops (oh and do join in with Indie Week too!).

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How to Commission a House Portrait

Art, Architecture, ProductsKate Marsden

It seems, from my inbox at least, that people have started thinking about that event in December! Now is a really good time to start planning if you’re keen to commisson an artist or designer to produce a bespoke or personalised gift - they’re generally not as busy as they will be come November, and you can be sure you’ll definitely receive it in plenty of time!

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It was only when I was putting together my updated portfolio ahead of our open studios back in June, that I realised just how many house portraits I’d produced during the previous 12 months! They make a great gift, and are often bought for that tricky person you struggle to choose something for (husbands, dads…). I love working with people on commissions as it means that I get to find out a little more background - about them, the occassion or even the significance of a particular building if it’s not their home.

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I often get asked about the commission process, so I’ve put this post together to explain! Customers either come to me directly by email, via Instagram or Twitter or by placing an order in my Etsy shop. The vast majority of commissions fit within my pricing structure which is set out on Etsy, however VERY occassonally if something is really complex it may be necessary to provide a quote before I start work.

Once the order is placed, the first step is to send me a photograph of the building…

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At this stage I also ask people if they have any colours in mind, or are after a particular style based on the examples I’ve shown, and then I set to work.

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I create an initial line drawing on layout paper - the final image is often a combination of several sheets of layout paper worked on using a lightbox - this enables me to make changes to the drawing without starting all over again every time! Once I’m happy, I’ll scan the image (or images) and open the file in photoshop.

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Once in photoshop, I’ll tidy up any lines that need it (and combine the various drawings if necessary) before adding in basic shading. some images have more shading than others - generally I take my cue for this from the photograph - some buildings lend themselves to lots of shading to create shape and structure, others don’t.

I’ll then move to the final dimensions for the print and plan the layout…

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Before adding the colour. This one is very simple - some pieces contain multiple colours, or are coloured to match the original photograph.

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I then print the image out onto normal printer paper and stick it up on my studio wall - if I have time I like to leave it there for at least 24 hours. This enables me to look at it every time I walk in or out of the studio and I often spot errors or things I don’t like, which I can remedy before sending to the client. I send them a low resolution version for approval. Artwork is usually approved first time, but occassionally I’m asked to tone down (or up!) the colour, or make more of a particular feature (so need to bring the layout paper out again) before it’s agreed.

The final image is then sent to my printers who produce a high quality giclee print which is usually ready for me to collect and dispatch within a few days.

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The whole process usually takes 2-3 weeks, depending on how many edits are required (and how busy I am!). At this time of year it can take a little longer, but I always let clients know what my estimated dispatch date is at the outset. Last orders for Christmas are at the end of November, but this date can change depending on how much I have on…

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I hope I’ve helped to explain the process. I work from photographs as this enables me to produce work for anyone, anywhere in the world - I’ve drawn houses from all across the UK, the USA and Europe without leaving the studio!

You can order your own house portrait here, or drop me a line for a chat.


Wallpaper for Fairfield Halls

Kate Marsden

In case you missed my news on social media, I was very excited last week to have the opportunity to have a little look at the newly refurbushed Fairfield Halls (reopening today folks). I visited to take a look at the wallpaper they’ve produced featuring my latest Croydon fabric design! Here it is in a dressing room…

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And in the director’s office…

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Fairfield Halls was the first Croydon building I drew back in 2016 and seeing my work there was such a treat! I’ll be back there (but front of house this time) at the So Last Century Fair on 28/29 September, where I’ll have the fabric version of the design above, alongside lots of other items featuring Fairfield and other Croydon buildings, including cards and prints…

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The Summer in Colour!

Kate Marsden

And just like that, the kids are back to school and the summer is over… this one seemed to go very quickly for me, but it’s been nice to go through my photos of the 6 week school holidays to see all the things we got up to! Here are some of my most colourful highlights of summer 2019…

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Holiday Sketchbook

SketchbookKate Marsden

As I write this I’m REALLY missing my holiday (and feeling completely knackered again!). Last month we had a much needed 10 days in Tenerife and, as if to prove how much I needed a break, I didn’t get the sketchbook out at all for several days. When I did it was to doodle by the pool and paint on the beach. I didn’t fill many pages (unlike last year) but here are some of those I did work on. I enjoyed the opportunity to produce something completelty different for a change, before returning to my usual style of work…

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Summer Exhibition 2019

Art, ExhibitionKate Marsden

Yes, I know… the Royal Acadamy Summer Exhibition ended WEEKS ago… But my first opportunity to go was only a few days before it closed, and I couldn’t resist sharing some images from our visit.

As in previous years, the exhibition is a feast for the eyes (and the “Acadamy hang” style of hanging the work is perhaps a little overwhelming, but also inspiring for home - more on this when we finally start work on our hallway). If I had a favourite gallery it was number 8 for it’s riot of colour (of course!).

Anyway, here are just a few of my highlights to inspire you to visit (or maybe even apply!) next year…

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The 2020 Summer Exhibition will run from June-August - tickets are usually available in the Spring.

Wandering in Geneva

TravelKate Marsden

A few weeks ago I had the rare opportunity to spend a couple of days in Geneva - mostly on my own (Mr M was working and the not so small boy was staying with his grandparents). I obviously spend a fair bit of time ambling around London by myself, but its almost unheard of for me to do this anywhere else. Geneva was an easy one though, as not only had I visited before (with a toddler in tow and with rather less welcoming weather) but it’s a pretty compact, safe and friendly place, so ideal.

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I spent Monday ambling around and taking photos. As is common with many places, the majority of the galleries and museums are closed on Mondays, and in Geneva going shopping really isn’t an affordable option (circa £16 for a salad and coffee in Starbucks anyone?), but as you can see the weather was on my side, so it was a good opportunity to get my steps in! I spent a fair bit of time exploring the old town, walking by the lake and sitting people watching in the Jardin Anglais. I was also temped by the Bains des Paquis (swimming in Lake Geneva anyone?) as it was pretty hot, but it seemed that everyone else had the same idea, and I returned to the solitude of my hotel room balcony and a book instead!

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In the evening I met up with Mr M and we had dinner at Le Relais de l’Entrecote - no good if you’re a vegetarian, but amazing if you like a steak - no menu (other than desserts) - you get a lovely salad as a starter and then steak frites with a magical (and secret!) green sauce. They also have a branch in London if you fancy it…

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The following morning I had ice cream for a (very late) breakfast, as you can when you’re travelling without children! There are some nice riverside bars along the Quai Bezanson-Hugues, and also a branch of Movenpick…

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As it was Tuesday, the galleries were open! I walked back through the old town, across the very nice (and shady) Parc des Bastions, over the scorching hot Plaine des Plainpalais to MAMCO Geneve. I didn’t have too much trouble finding the place as I’d been there before when I went with the small boy, however 6+ years ago when we visited it was closed for refurbishment. Not so this time though. MAMCO is a really nice modern art gallery in a wonderful industrial setting. And entry is free - which, when you’ve already sold a kidney to visit Geneva, is very welcome! The only downside was the lack of aircon (which I really needed after that walk!).

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And then I was off again to seek cold drinks and shade before the train to the airport. Wishing that maybe I had braved the crowds for that swim in the lake…

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Taking a Proper Break...

Kate Marsden

A few weeks ago I had the luxury of spending two nights away with my best friend at a wonderful health spa. The food was fantastic (and healthy), amazing treatments, brilliant exercise classes, and time to lounge by the outdoor pool in the sunshine. There was one thing I was secretly concerned about though - no mobile phones outside of your room…

Not a photo of the spa… This is from Bristol last October - I didn’t take any photos at all for three days!

Not a photo of the spa… This is from Bristol last October - I didn’t take any photos at all for three days!

I’ve spoken before about my addiction to my phone. Last year I had battery issues with my old one on and off for months, and it made me really stressed. What if my phone just died and school needed to get hold of me? How could I function without taking multiple photos every day? So you can see how I was a little apprehensive.

I have however been struggling a bit with social media since my Dad passed away. At times it’s a comfort having all those people there to talk to whenever I need them, but at the same time I’ve been feeling impossibly overwhelmed by life in general, and it’s only taking one misconstrued comment or one poorly received Instagram post to tip me over the edge. So I knew that on balance a forced break would be a good thing. Oh and I also knew that my husband would be around in case that call came from school, and the only people who’d really need to get hold of me in a hurry knew where I was…

I made the decision before leaving home that I’d check emails and texts only (when in my room of course) and not touch any social media until I got back. This turned out to be a very good decision. By checking emails and texts periodically nothing REALLY urgent would be missed - emails do make me anxious (especially when I’m waiting for news about a job or hoping for orders) but nowhere near as much as social media does. When I came home I didn’t feel an immediate urge to scroll through Twitter for an hour, and according to my phone, my screen time has actually reduced. I made a new pledge too. By putting my phone away earlier at the spa I’d slept better, so I’m now making sure I take my phone upstairs, plug it in and switch it to “do not disturb” by 9.30pm each night at the latest. And guess what? I’m getting to sleep quicker and sitting there ruminating less. Turns out that what “they” all say is true after all!

Alongside this I made the decision to start eating better (not less, but better) as, balanced evening meals aside, my diet was rubbish. This is a work in progress and I suspect it will take a while to see if this makes me feel better or not.

And now I’m toying with a complete break from social media when I go on my summer holiday too. May be pushing it a bit far, but let’s see! Small steps…


Frank Lloyd Wright and Oak Park - Part 2

Travel, ArchitectureKate Marsden

As promised in last week’s post, here are some photos of just a few of the other houses we loved in Oak Park. While we were there we also popped out to Lake Street to look for something to eat and spotted a fantastic Art Deco cinema (see the image at the bottom of this post) and a wonderful book shop - The Book Table. We had a really nice lunch at Hecho En Oak Park (where the boy discovered a new love for guacamole!).

The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust host lots of different tours of the area (such as this one which we didn’t go on but it sounds good) and have lots more information about his work on their website.

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Frank Lloyd Wright and Oak Park - Part 1

Travel, ArchitectureKate Marsden

I’ve finally got around to sharing more of my photos from Chicago! We had a wonderful day exploring Oak Park and the first home and studio built by the great Frank Lloyd Wright. We had a tour of the house (and the small-ish boy did a wonderful job of trying to look interested - it’s not recommended for younger children, I believe the minimum age is 8) but I was in seventh heaven.

Here are a lot of my photos... You can find out more about the house and studio and book your own tour here. Pop back next week for a further post containing images of other amazing houses in Oak Park, many of which were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

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Mary Quant

Exhibition, FashionKate Marsden

Back at the beginning of May the small-ish boy and I took a trip into town to visit the Mary Quant exhibition at the V&A (although I think he was rather more excited by the subsequent visit to Whole Foods but each to their own…). The exhibition documents the designer’s career and while it was rather busy, it was colourful and insping. If I hadn’t been with a slightly bored 9 year old boy I would have stayed a lot longer!

If you’re going to visit the Dior exhibition I would definitely get tickets for this one too (or go and see it if you haven’t managed to snag tickets - it will go a little way towards making up for your dissapointment!).

Here are just a few photos I took on the day…

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Mary Quant is at the V&A until 16 February 2020.


Charity Print in aid of RHS Campaign for School Gardening

Kate Marsden

As many of you will know, my Dad passed away back in May. He was a very keen gardener who’d even planned to open his garden for the National Garden Scheme. His garden was due to open only three days after he died, but he’d insisted we must go ahead and so we did - I’ve shared some images of his garden from that weekend below.

When considering charities to raise money for in his name, we were keen to support a cause which would bring Dad’s passion for gardening to the next generation (after all some of my son’s happiest memories of his Grandad were during the times he spent with him in the garden) so we chose the Royal Horticultural Society’s Campaign for School Gardening.

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The campaign supports schools and groups – inspiring young people through the power of plants, offering free resources, projects and guidance to get them growing. The campaign’s work has shown that the direct benefits of gardening for young people are wide ranging:

• Improves physical and mental wellbeing
• Builds life skills such as confidence, resilience, teamwork and communication
• Enhances literacy, numeracy and oracy skills
• Enriches the entire curriculum from science, maths and geography – to art, design and languages
• Teaches about the environment and the importance of biodiversity and sustainability
• Helps young people engage with their surroundings better and develop a sense of responsibility.

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I’ve produced the print shown here and all profits will go directly to the campaign in my Dad’s name. The prints are signed, measure approximately 135mm x 210mm and are digitally printed onto 220 g/m cartridge paper. This digital print represents urban gardens, enriching and improving the environment and bringing gardening to those who otherwise may not have the opportunity to enjoy it as a pastime.

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Now for some photos of his beautiful garden…

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Colourful Fun in Margate!

TravelKate Marsden

Several weeks ago we headed off to Margate for a couple of days to see what everyone’s been talking about! We weren’t really sure what to expect, but we were rather excited about our accommodation. We stayed at Big Bit (you can find it on Air B&B here - can’t recommend the place enough) and it was VERY colourful…

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As well as spending lots of time photographing our apartment (!!) we also spent a few hours at Dreamland where I could happily have ridden on the Scenic Railway all day. Next time we’re going to go roller skating…

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Then there was the beach and the wonderful Turner Contemporary Gallery (the current exhibition of seaside photography is brilliant). Plus the mods were in town on the Saturday and the bikers on the Sunday so lots of differet things to see which really amused the small-ish boy.

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We enjoyed exploring all the vintage shops in the Old Town (giant neon signage anyone?!) and did come away with a couple of (smaller) bits and bobs. Also had a fantastic dinner at Buoy and Oyster with views out to sea.

A bit of a longer drive than to our usual seaside spots but we’ll definitely be back!

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Carshalton Artists Open Studios 2019

Kate Marsden

A little late promoting this year’s event (my Dad passed away last month hence the radio silence on here), but last weekend saw the start of the third Carshalton Artists Open Studios. We’re back this coming Saturday and Sunday 29/30 June so here’s the plug at last!

This year we have an amazing 59 artists in 23 locations and there really is something for everyone. There’s also a fun pig trail (which proved really popular this week - my son is determined to find all the pigs - see his stamp card below) - those who manage to find all of them will be entered into a draw to win £100 to spend with any of the exhibiting artists. You can also buy a raffle ticket and win the pigs themselves (and you have a very good chance of winning mine as I haven’d sold many yet!).

Here are some photos from the first weekend. Do come along and see me at 133a Stanley Park Road, SM5 3JJ (stop 17 on the trail) I’m sharing Claire Chandler’s space and you can also find work from Marie Ratnam and Phil Evans. Open from 11-5 both days - see you there.

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My new book is  now available to order here .
Photo (c) Claire Chandler

Photo (c) Claire Chandler

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Studio Tour

Kate Marsden

As this year’s open studios are just around the corner (read more about CAOS in my earlier post here) and my current creative block only seems to be worsening, I spent some time last week clearing out my studio space. As with previous years, I won’t be opening up this little room to the public - partly due to it’s very small size but mostly due to it’s location, upstairs in my house. However, I will be taking lots of work and other bits and bobs which don’t usually make it out to fairs and markets, to stop 17 on the trail, 133a Stanley Park Road.

In the meantime though here’s a look at my newly tidied studio - please note this is my version of tidy - if mess makes your skin creep, look away now!!

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Come and visit Carshalton Artists Open Studios on 22/23 and 29/30 June - more details here.

Wes Anderson Inspired Wallpaper

Kate Marsden

Now you’ll probably already know that I’m a big fan of Wes Anderson. My holidays now seem to consist of searching for suitable colour combinations and anything symmetrical (so not annoying for my companions at all)…

When the folks at Murals Wallpaper contacted me with images of their new Wes Anderson inspired range I set about mentally redecorating my whole house again. My favourite in the range is this pink stunner called Agatha (of course!).

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Image (c) Murals Wallpaper

Image (c) Murals Wallpaper

So I got my hands on a sample and had fun playing around with it! I’m completely in love with the colour and It would look amazing with all my yellow stuff as well.

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The quality of the paper is great - so good in fact that I see myself keeping it to use as a photo backdrop for as long as it lasts (probably best not to stick prints to wallpaper with washi tape though in reality…). The only downside for me here though is the fact that the rooms I have left to decorate have wooden dado rails, and I don’t think this panelled look would work.

Image (c) Murals Wallpaper

Image (c) Murals Wallpaper

Image (c) Murals Wallpaper

Image (c) Murals Wallpaper

This thought took me back to the rest of the range, and I’m rather taken with this Suzy design above. I think it would look fantastic in my hallway.

Anyway I’m off to pull more poses in front of my little bit of pink paper…! You can find the whole range here. This is not a sponsored post, however they did send me a nice large sample to share with you.

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Carshalton Artists' Open Studios Returns!

Kate Marsden

It’s been a bit of a crazy few months and somehow the third annual CAOS event is only a few weeks’ away. I’m currently woefully underprepared (but hoping to pull it out of the bag at the 11th hour!), however here’s a little taster of what you can expect to see this year, and it’s definitiely not just studios (although I’m always happy to “just” nose around studios…). We also have galleries, historic buildings, free workshops, demonstrations AND a pig trail (more on this later, but you can see my pig here).

CAOS now includes 60 selected artists across 25 locations and two weekends (23/24 and 29/30 June) and we’ll be collaborating with Sutton Museums and Heritage and local schools to celebrate the work of local arts and crafts artist Frank Dickinson, who built Little Holland House in Carshalton Beeches. FInd out more about the event on our website and please follow us on Instagram and Twitter. I’ll be posting more about it nearer the time!

Claire Chandler - Winter Skies

Claire Chandler - Winter Skies

Sean Bright - Kate Bush Decorations

Sean Bright - Kate Bush Decorations

Caroline Warwick at CAOS 2017

Caroline Warwick at CAOS 2017

John Stillman - Evening at the Lavender Fields

John Stillman - Evening at the Lavender Fields

Jill Iliffe - Morpho oil detail

Jill Iliffe - Morpho oil detail

Maggie Penton - Blue Skies

Maggie Penton - Blue Skies

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Chicago Architecture Boat Tour

Architecture, Photography, TravelKate Marsden

I’m writing this while trying to keep going through my jetlag! At the time of writing, we landed back home from our 10 day break in the States about 7 hours ago, and boy am I feeling it… Looking back to Tuesday though, and one of the highlights of our trip was a boat tour of Chicago which we booked through the Chicago Architecture Center. We had a gorgeous day for it (and considering that we had snow on the ground on Monday morning, we were VERY lucky - and should probably have been wearing suncream…) and learnt a lot about the city and it’s amazing buildings. Here are just a few of the photos I took…

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The Chicago Architecture Center itself was also well worth a visit, with architects’ models of many of the world’s tallest buildings, and a model of Chicago (plus some lego for the small-ish boy). Find out more about it here.

This is not a sponsored post.