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  • Toxin-free furniture that’s safe for your home

    Recently I’ve been reading a lot about indoor air pollution and am alarmed to discover that the air in our home can be five times more polluted than outside air. It’s down to VOCs – Volatile Organic Compounds – which can be found in everything from air fresheners to new furniture. These VOCs are toxic pollutants that evaporate into the air and they’ve been associated with health problems such as allergies, asthma and respiratory disease.

    I have personal experience of VOCs. Not long after setting up Tidy Books I noticed a strong toxic smell coming from a new consignment of bookcases. I made enquiries and found out that the smell was caused by VOCs in the acrylic lacquer we used on our furniture. I was horrified. I was told that the bookcases should have been aired for longer in the factory before being sent out, but to me that wasn’t a solution. I didn’t want my workforce being exposed to VOCs and to be breathing in toxins.

    Once I’d heard about VOCs, I did more research and realised they could be harmful to my customers as well. There was absolutely no way I wanted anything to do with VOCs so I looked around for a safer alternative. That’s when I stopped using acrylic lacquer and replaced it with eco-friendly water lacquer, which emits hardly any VOCs.

    Now, reading about pollution in the home, I’m so glad Tidy Books furniture isn’t bringing in harmful pollutants and contributing to the problem.

    It’s funny how things work out, too, because switching to water lacquer had an unexpected bonus. The acrylic lacquer we used to use was so thick it completely covered the wood, leaving the furniture with an unnatural high-gloss finish that I always thought spoilt the look. With water lacquer, you can see the grain and all the lovely natural markings, allowing the wood to be the star it should be.

    I have to say I’m pretty pleased with the way things turned out. I couldn’t have continued my business using VOCs – now I design and manufacture furniture that doesn’t just look good in the home it’s also safe for you, our workers and the planet.

    * Interested in how we do things at Tidy Books? Find out more about our eco-friendly manufacturing

  • WIN a designer kid's bookcase and help reading charity Beanstalk

    Beanstalk came to us with a book storage challenge: how could we help their reading volunteers find the just right book to encourage a reluctant child to read? We knew it was perfect opportunity to design a practical book storage solution for their tiny office with the help of you, our Tidy Books followers. That’s why we’re offering you the chance to win a Tidy Books’ designer kid's bookcase and help Beanstalk at the same time.

    Beanstalk is a national reading charity who train, vet and place volunteers in schools to read one to one with children who have fallen behind with their reading. We’ve been in partnership with Beanstalk since 2014, and with every product we sell online, we donate a portion of that sale to help Beanstalk ensure that every child becomes a reader.

    The Beanstalk team wanted to create a reading corner in their offices for the reading volunteers. The reading volunteers come to browse the large collection of books, when they’re looking for the ideal book to interest a child who’s finding books daunting.  

    Getting the right book builds a rapport with the child. That’s why it's so important to make Beanstalk’s book collection easy to browse. We know that our followers and customers value the opportunities to help others, and that they love a competition! More details on how to enter the competition at the end of the post.

    When we visited the Beanstalk office, we realised the scale of the challenge they’d set us! Books are stacked to the ceiling, there are books on the floor, and shelves of games stacked precariously behind the door. Space has to be maximised in their small office. 

    Beanstalk’s  reading helpers meet with a child once a week, away from the classroom to read, play a game and build rapport. For many children this is often the only time during the week when they are given options, asked their opinions, and able to enjoy quality one-to-one time with a consistent adult role model.

    Beanstalk aims to reach 18,000 children by 2018 and the volunteers are crucial to opening the door of reading to children.  

    “It's all about the quality of the volunteers ... they sprinkle our children with their magical reading fairy dust and open up the wonderful world of books to them.” (Beanstalk Schools’ Survey, Christmas 2015)

    To help the volunteers connect their children with reading, the Beanstalk team have big ambitious: in a very small space, they want to add a couple of comfy chairs; all the better to browse books in, and to have a space to display themed books e.g. bereavement or holidays or non fiction to help volunteers find just the right book for a particular child.

    We created a storage design wishlist for Beanstalk’s office space to create a welcoming library for the reading volunteers.  We included:

    1. A Tidy Designer Kid's Books Bookcase to display themed picture book, which are often hard to store and see.  
    2. A Tidy Books Box to be used next to a coffee table for returning books to.
    3. Two Tidy Books Sorting Boxes to store Beanstalk’s range of educational games that reading helpers play with children to build rapport.  

    Sounds good? This is where you come in.   

    Help Beanstalk create a new reading corner when you enter our exciting competition to win a new Tidy Books designer kid's bookcase. Created with the help of an interior designer, the new colour range is designed to fit perfectly with modern decor. 

    For every 100 competition entries, we'll donate a Tidy Books kid's bookcase or storage product to kit it out.

    You can win one of Tidy Books designer kid's bookcases, created by an interior designer, when you enter the competition on our Facebook page.

    Hop on to Tidy Books Facebook page. Follow the 3 simple steps to win yourself a super Tidy Books designer bookcase!

    Remember, the more people who enter, the more we can donate to Beanstalk!
    Will you help Beanstalk volunteers find just the right book for every child they read with?

    Competition to win your own designer kid's bookcase ends 11th June 2017, midnight.

    ENTER NOW

  • Adventures in Bunk Bed Land

    Last week I was talking about bunk beds – as you do – with one of my friends. She grew up sharing a bunk bed with her sister and had such sweet memories of her experience. They used to pretend their bed was a ship and loved taking it in turns to climb up the wooden steps to be the lookout. And of course their ship needed lots of sailors – ably played by their teddies!

    It made me smile to hear her stories. Instead of being cross that they had to share a bunk bed, her and her sister loved being together and really embraced their bunk bed as an adventure. It was a comforting experience, too. At night, they often played ‘Tickly Two’ – my friend would stretch her arm down from the top bunk to meet her sister’s outstretched arm and they would gently tickle each other until they felt sleepy.

    I couldn’t imagine my daughter and son having quite such a lovely time together. When Adele and Emile were young they had separate rooms, each with their own bunk bed so they could have a friend staying with them for a sleepover. We were lucky that our house was big enough for the kids to have their own bedrooms, but I don’t know how they would have got along if they’d had to share.

    My friend reckons they might have got on better than I imagined. She heard about one woman and her brother who’d shared a bunk bed when they were young, and the brother had helped his sister to read. Apparently he got fed up with her pestering him to read her a bedtime story so he helped teach her to read by herself.

    I love that that little girl learnt how to read independently. It’s exactly why I make all the products I do, so that kids can create their own personal environment and become independent as they learn. I made the Bunk Bed Buddy so kids who sleep on the top bunk can still be close to their books. It also gives them a safe place to put their bedtime drink and allows them to have their own personal area for storing bits and bobs that they want close to them when they’re sleeping.

    My friend wishes she’d had a Bunk Bed Buddy when she was a kid. Much as she enjoyed sharing a bunk bed, she says she would have loved to have had her books and personal things next to her. And she really wishes she’d had somewhere to keep her teddies safe so she didn’t wake up to find her special sailors had fallen overboard in the night!

    * Do your kids have bunk beds? I’d love to hear how they get on – drop me a line.

  • From the violin workshop to the Homeland set

    Have you been watching Homeland? Whether you just drop in from time to time, or you’re a devoted fan, you may well have spotted a Tidy Books bookcase in Carrie’s New York apartment.

    Set designers for TV series like Homeland leave no detail to chance. So I was just a little bit gobsmacked to see one of my bookcases in Carrie Mathison’s daughter’s bedroom. How did the kid’s bookcase that I made in my violin workshop make its way to the set of an iconic show? I tracked down the team on the Homeland set to find out.

    In a surreal, but uplifting phone conversation with the Homeland production assistant, she told me how rigorously they pin down every detail on the film set.  She gave me a fascinating insight into the process of choosing each item for the show, including the bookcase, telling me; “You would not believe how many people it goes through before it gets agreed.”

    Franny’s bedroom, where much of the action takes place, has been painstakingly put together. The set production team begin with a brainstorm, and then the shopper researches and gathers potential items; think furniture, curtains, toys. The shopper takes hundreds of photographs to test how they will work on screen. Next, each product is scrutinised by the concept designer and the set designer until they have created exactly the right look to frame the story, right down to a vase on the windowsill or a picture on the wall. 

    I couldn’t help but be impressed; Carrie’s apartment in New York is seriously smart and Franny’s room, where Quinn and Saul talk to Franny and Carrie is a child’s dream; cute, stylish and cosy. And the bookcase fits perfectly!

    The conversation I had with the Homeland production assistant was a magical moment; the bookcase that I’d created for my daughter in my violin workshop in East London, because I couldn’t find a good kid’s bookcase, has travelled to the set of an iconic TV series which has fans all over the world. The production assistant was delighted that we’d got in touch - I think the magic resonated her too.

    It takes me back to how Tidy Books started, when I was watching my daughter Adele, then aged 3, getting frustrated with trying to find the book she wanted on a traditional book shelf. In that moment, I knew what sort of bookcase she needed. And when I couldn’t find what I needed in the shops, I set about making my own design in my violin workshop once Adele had been tucked in for the night.

    As the drama unfolds, key scenes take place in Franny’s room, with Quinn and Saul sitting on the bed to talk to Franny, and Carrie; there are plenty of opportunities to spot the Tidy Books bookcase! My favourite scene so far is where Quinn and Carrie are gathering items for Franny in her foster home, and Carrie picks out a book from the bookcase. I’ve got a little glimmer of hope that Franny’s love of books will be a comfort while she’s away from home.

    When I set up Tidy Books with a £500 investment; I couldn’t have envisaged that one real-life mother-daughter would be connected with a fictional mother-daughter in Homeland by my bookcase!

    So, next Sunday evening, if you tune into Homeland, it’s highly likely you’ll spot Franny’s Tidy Books bookcase. It’s been part of the action in most episodes so far, and as Carrie fights to bring her daughter home, it’s sure to feature again.

    You can see how the plot will unfold in this trailer. Will you be watching on Sunday?

    To celebrate its icon status, we're giving you 15% OFF the Tidy Books Bookcase in natural with letters. 

    Use code HOMELAND15 at the checkout 

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