Go minimalist!

Poles Direct - Go minimalist

If you believe it is time to de-clutter and go back to basics with your decor, chances are you probably need to. Minimalism is a timeless style, which has never gone out of fashion in the world of interior design. If you are serious about going minimalist, it means getting rid of all the junk you don’t need – or at the very least putting it out of sight – and replacing your essentials with simplistic styles and designs.  In the world of minimalism, less really is more, which is why we have compiled this little infographic above, to show you exactly what we mean.

At Poles Direct, we stock a vast range of chrome curtain poles, any of which would be ideal for a modernistic/minimalist look.

We have included a white curtain from our sister website, Custom Curtains, as there are no better colour for minimalism than whites and creams. However, don’t feel limited to just this colour; feel free to experiment – just keep things to a minimum!

What is a Ming Vase?


Along with rugs from Persia and watches from Switzerland, porcelain has a long established connection with China. So much so, porcelain is often simply referred to as China. And when we think of Chinese porcelain, we think of Ming vases. But what exactly is a Ming vase? Poles Direct take a look into this cultural icon.

Ming Vase

China has a long history with porcelain, well, to put it more accurately, they have the longest history with porcelain. Pieces of porcelain have been found that have been carbon dated to be around 20,000 years old. Though these were coarse, rough ware used for practical purposes, they started the ball rolling.

Things started to get interesting around the time of the Han dynasty*.

*Side note – dynasties in China are odd things. They signify a certain climate of politics and culture, as opposed to a specific set of rulers. Typically they rise to a peak, before crumbling due to corruption and other such things. Dynasties can range anywhere from a couple of decades to hundreds of years, and can be set over different areas of China. We won’t go too deep into it in his post, but it’s worth a read.

Though the distinction between proto-porcelain ware and true porcelain is a tough one to make, some experts put the emergence of true porcelain in the Han dynasty (202-220 AD). This is when the temperatures of the kilns started to get hotter than previously, thus producing finer porcelain.

Han Dynasty Vase

Han Vase









But, we are here to learn about Ming Vases! So we’ll jump forward a thousand years or so, to 1368, the start of the Ming dynasty.

In the Ming dynasty new techniques, designs and shapes were experimented with. These new designs used more colour than before, and due to a period of exploration, were subject to a lot of foreign influence. There was also great technical advancements. During the Xuande period (142-1435) it was discovered that adding manganese to the cobalt colouring used, while slightly dulling its brilliance, dramatically decreased how much the colour ran. Thus giving much finer detail. Xuande period porcelain is now considered amongst some of the finest Ming porcelain available.

Ming Vase 1

Not only this, but enamelled decoration was perfected under the Chenghua Emporar, and led to highly ornamental pieces. These pieces, probably due to fashion, ended up being considered as valuable as pieces from the Song dynasty, which preceded these Ming pieces by around 300 to 600 years.

But why do we have this connotation with Ming China and particularly, Ming Vases.

Well, the answer is slightly less romantic than we first hoped, and comes from a few sources. Simply put, the Ming dynasty was the first to mass produce, and export its wares. Which meant that it was largely during the Ming dynasty that the western world learned of Chinese porcelain. It quickly became hugely fashionable and desirable and swept through most of Europe, and so the association began.

Ming BowlMing Bowl 2

Another reason is: there was essentially two types of porcelain made during the Ming Dynasty – Min Yao and Guan Yao. Min Yao roughly translates as, people’s ware, and was normal porcelain made by, and for the use of, the general population. As such, it was typically small, plain objects such as bowls and cups, and was not crafted to a very high standard. Guan Yao, on the other hand, translates as imperial ware. These are items that were specifically made for, or commissioned by, the Chinese Emperor and imperial family. As such it was crafted to an extremely high standard, and the pieces were often larger and more ornamental, such as vases. These are the pieces we typically picture in our heads, with the pure white bodies and crisp blue paint. And it’s these pieces that are so rare, and valuable.

Ming Vase Colourful

A Look at Tiles, with Laura Manners

Tiles have been used in and out of the home for quite some time. The earliest form of brick glazing, therefore tiling, known is at the Elamite Temple at Chogha Zanbil, which was built in the 13th century BC. So, suffice it to say, we’ve been tiling for a while.

Tiles are actually quite versatile, and can be used in many different areas of the home, both internally and externally. There are beautiful examples of tiles used on the exteriors of buildings, which are a testament to the love of the craftsman who built it.

tiled roof

Typically when we imagine tiles inside the home we think of two places: the bathroom and the kitchen, with the former being most prevalent. The reason for this is simple: not only are glazed tiles aesthetically beautiful, but they are non-porous. This has obvious advantages in bathrooms and kitchens.

Tiled Stairs 2

One trend that’s emerging is a more haphazard approach to tile choice. Good quality, handmade tiles are very expensive. Complete sets of vintage tiles are also very rare, due to the fragility of porcelain or ceramic. Therefore one way to get around both these issues is to break up a plain wall, made from cheaper tiles with a patchwork of random vintage tiles. When done properly, it can look wonderful.

When choosing tiles, some of the terminology can be a bit confusing; so we reached out to up and coming potter, Laura Manners to answer a few questions.

Poles Direct Could you, as simply as possible, tell us the difference between ceramic and porcelain, and glazed and unglazed tiles?

Laura Manners – Porcelain is just one of three classes of clay:

Porcelain (Kaolin) – non porous when high fired

Stoneware – non porous when high fired

Earthenware – porous, even when high fired

We get these categories of clay by determining the level of decay (age), and earth conditions of the area that the clay is sourced from.

Vitrification is a term to describe a stage of chemical structure change. When stonewear and porcelain increase in temperature they vitrify and become non-porous.

LM Vase

PD – Is it right that when creating a glaze on a tile, or on any piece of pottery, that it is a bit of a lottery how it will turn out?

LM – Designing a glaze for any ceramic product is actually a very precise science. Once a correct firing program (correct temperature, ‘soak length’ and ‘ramp speed’) for the relevant object form, size and clay has been developed then the glaze should be consistent. However, even a tiny malfunction or inconsistency will produce variations in the outcome, which is why studio ceramics are usually more ‘imperfect’ than mass produced ceramics. But rather than detracting from the beauty, I think that this adds to it.

LM Mug

PD – Do you have any advice when choosing tiles for the home? Both inside and out?

LM – Aesthetic qualities are usually at the top of the list for selecting tiles, however the way a space is to be used could influence a decision.

Like carpets, black or white flooring shows up debris and dirt more than patterned surfaces. So if it is a high traffic area like a family kitchen, or where there is a high chance of dust and dirt such as in a conservatory or utility room, this is something which one might want to consider.

With regards to wear resistance, although earthenware is lower fired and more porous than stoneware or porcelain, most people are familiar with a terracotta ‘quarry tile’ which are found in many period homes and have withstood traffic well for years. Also surface area would play a part. If you are having to cover floors with uneven surfaces or accommodate short inclines you could potentially have areas of unsupported tile, increasing the chance of cracks and breakages.

It would make sense to buy something more aesthetically driven for a wall tile, as there is much less wear and tear in this area. In the bathroom a glazed tile will ensure the room hordes less atmospheric moisture and will be more sanitary, an unglazed tile will culture bacteria in the exposed pores and will be almost impossible to clean.

LM Bowl

PD – What was the hardest thing to learn when you started working with pottery?

LM – Ceramics theory has many elements, and you can spend a lifetime studying one single area, so becoming knowledgeable about pottery as a whole takes more study than people first imagine. It’s just as difficult as mastering the motor skills required to make the objects.

The areas of real, in-depth study are the various making techniques such as thrown, hand-building and sculpting & casting. As well as glaze design (which is very much chemistry & geology based), history of clay production in art & industry, the nature of clay bodies, firing techniques and creative design.

Each of these have many, many subcategories and to specialise in them all is nearly impossible.

LM Industry

PD – Do you have anything in particular you like to make?

LM – I am a thrower, which translates to making vessels predominantly on a pottery wheel. I use various traditional & non-traditional decorating techniques, mainly involving slip techniques which is liquidised clay applied to the surface of a pot.

LM Throwing

Thank you for that! for more information about Laura and her work, just visit www.lauramanners.com 



Our Autumn Collection



We are currently working on our Autumn Collection, set to launch on 16/10/15.

While we were creating this collection we had a specific image in our head. We pictured a cosy room, warmed by a fire. No TV, just a few sofas and chairs, piled high with warm blankets. Soulful music is background to laughter as a group of friends share drinks and talk about good times passed. This room is warm and safe and full of laughter, the blinds are closed, keeping the cold world outside at bay.

Blackout Blinds – Saviour of the Universe


Blackout Blinds are one of today’s unsung heroes. Anyone who has suffered the glare from a street light, usefully located directly outside of the bedroom window, or a night shift worker who has a vampire’s attitude toward the sun can testify to the absolute necessity of a blackout blind.


Blackout Blinds are made with a special layer of fabric between the face and backing of the blind, which light cannot penetrate. This makes them nearly 100% blackout (light can sometimes get down the edges of the blind).

Blackout blinds are incredibly useful for many circumstances. If you are a light sleeper for example, blackout blinds will help you get better quality sleep. The value of a good night’s sleep cannot be overstated. Poor sleep can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes and even increase the risk of a stroke. See our blog post about the risk of sleep deprivation here.

However, not only will blackout blinds save your life, but they are also very useful from a technical standpoint. Due to the extra layer of fabric in the blind they are excellent heat insulators. This means that you can shut your heating off a little earlier, and run it on a slightly lower temperature, thus saving you money. Now we are getting to the winter months this is more important than ever. As the temperature drops you will want your home to be as efficient as possible.

A look at Children’s blinds

Imagination is key to a child’s development. From the tooth fairy, to Santa, to superheroes. Pretending and play time is essential to a child growing up.

This doesn’t have to be reserved for outside and play time though, this can extend all the way to the bedroom. And not just the toys they play with, but the decorations and design of the room.

Luckily, we’ve got you covered. Over on our sister site www.roman-blinds-direct.com we have a specialist range of children’s blinds. These wonderful fabrics not only have some fantastic playful designs, but also some of your favourite superheroes!

For the young artists we have the wonderful Prestigious Destination Graphite. This black and white blind is as stylish as it is playful, and will give the junior Van Gogh’s plenty of inspiration.


If your child is a budding naturalist then the Prestigious Nature Trail Paintbox is perfect! Not only is it fun, and a pleasure to look at, but with the names of all the animals next to them then it is a fantastic way to learn!

Forest Friends 1

The nautical themed Prestigious Regatta Marine will send your child off to sleep with dreams of adventures on the ocean.


Prestigious Heart Fuchsia keeps it simple and classic with a repeating heart pattern. This definitely more of a girly design, but it also comes in a charming powder blue for any young men who want a softer touch.


Superheroes! We’ve got Spiderman, Batman and Superman blinds! And not necessarily superheroes, but we’ve got more Disney princesses than you can shake a stick at. Perfect for your own little princess and hero!



Of course, all our blinds come with the necessary equipment to make them child safe.

Child Safety


At Poles Direct child safety is at the forefront of everything we do. Strangulation from blind chains and cords is a very real thing, and can be a real danger if you have active and energetic children. Therefore we work hard to ensure our blinds have the best level of child safety protection available.

We spoke to Sara (O’Dacre) Lauer of Health Canada, who advises the following:

  • “The safest window coverings are ones that have no cords that you can see or touch.”
  • “If there are corded window coverings in the home, make sure the cords are up high and out of reach of children.”
  • “Never put a crib, bed, highchair, playpen or any piece of furniture that a child may climb near a window or patio where there is a blind or curtain cord.”
  • “Follow manufacturer’s installation guide and use instructions when installing window blinds. For example, if a tension device is provided with the product, the tension device should always be installed to make the cord taut as per the installation instruction”

Sara (O’Dacre) Lauer- Health Canada states that: “Children can be entangled in pull cords or inner cords while sleeping or playing in cribs or beds under the window covering; they can also climb on furniture to reach cords.”

This is something which is becoming more common among small children and especially toddlers who are finding their feet, who can climb and walk comfortably.

In an effort to make all our window furnishings as safe as possible, we include child safety devices with all our window furnishings. This device is easy to install and keep all cords and strings tucked safely out of the way.

We also offer as many window furnishings as we can with wands, as opposed to cords, as they are far safer and are very difficult for a child to hurt themselves on.

Additional reading and references










Spotlight on – Suede Blinds

Working with leather is one of man’s oldest skills. We have used leather since we walked on two legs to keep us warm, make tools and give us shelter. Along with a few other items leather has been intrinsic to our development as humans.

As we have evolved and grown more skilled our dependency on leather has lessened. We can now mass manufacture essential items and survival is no longer a struggle. This means that we can dedicate more time to being artisans.

We now work with leather to create things that are not only functional, but beautiful. The development of complex tools and machinery has further enhanced our ability to manipulate this wonderful material.

Our sister website www.vertical-blinds-direct.com carry Suede Blinds. These blinds are sumptuous and have a wonderful texture and add a depth to any room they are fitted.

To celebrate the craftsmanship and decadence of suede blinds we found some of our favourite videos of leather craftsman, for your viewing pleasure.

How Versatile are Wooden Plantation Shutters?


Due to their permanent nature, people are often hesitant when it comes to Wooden Plantation Shutters. But Shutters are actually one of the most versatile window coverings available.


It’s not that they come in lots of options, though they do come in various colours and styles. It’s simply the shutters themselves. They just seem to have a magic touch and can work with most interior design styles. They can work in both modern and traditional rooms, and just as easily they also work with industrial and shabby chic design.


So we can see, even though they are permanently fixed into place on your window. They are one of the safest bets for window furnishings. They also make a lot of sense technically. From a monetary standpoint they are fantastic. They are brilliant for energy saving purposes, holding heat wonderfully in winter, yet opening up to allow cooling breezes during the summer. They are also truly blackout. A lot of blackout blinds can let in small slithers of light down either side of them. But as shutters are fitted exactly to the window there is no room for light to come through.

styles-shaped home-04 styles-gliding

Wooden Shutters are available at www.shutters-direct.co.uk

Life is Too Short to Have Ugly Cushions.

The average life expectancy in the UK is 81.1 years. That, all things considered, isn’t that long. That’s 972 months, or 505,544 weeks or 849,139,2 hours. Not long at all.

Life’s too short, and as the saying goes, ‘it’s the little things’. Like piling into clean bedding after a shower. Getting a hill start just right. When your toast is just the right amount of toastiness. When two chocolate bars fall out of the vending machine.  And, of course, the cool side of the pillow.

Life’s too short not to appreciate these little things. And life is definitely, definitely too short for ugly cushions.










Thankfully, our sister company Custom Curtains have got you covered. Almost any fabric we stock for curtains can be made into cushions. We have a team seamstresses who are responsible for making nearly every curtain and roman blind that we sell. They have honed their skill over a lifetime of practice and refinement. So making cushions for you is no problem at all.



















This means that you can have a perfectly matched interior, coordinating your cushions to your window furnishings.













Or you can simply have some wonderful cushions, custom made for you by our skilled seamstresses.