I recently spent an afternoon with my mother-in-law at the Burford Garden Company (www.burford.co.uk), a favourite haunt for both of us. She is a real garden lover, so we spent time feeling inspired by all the outdoor plants but, when the heavens opened, we dashed indoors and headed to the kitchenware section of the store which is, in fact, one of my favourite areas to browse.
We both stopped at the tables filled with brushes and cleaning materials: there were brushes for almost every household job imaginable – returning grubby radiators and skirting boards to former glory, ridding shoe racks of muck, even removing the build-up from inside grimy vases. It got me thinking about why these products are so appealing and I concluded that it’s perhaps down to their old-fashioned charm, harking back to a time when, in the absence of all the cleaning sprays that we rely upon today, people used a bit of elbow-grease to shift dirt, aided of course by a good brush. Often made from varying types of untreated wood, and sometimes incorporating materials such as horsehair, these products also look good and are usually far more appealing than the lurid-coloured plastic alternatives.
We talked about how you could put together a selection of brushes as a house-warming gift. If I were to do this, I might buy one of Uashmama’s washable paper bags to present the products in or even just some old-fashioned brown paper and stripy string. I might even add one of the Linen Works’ Italian linen tea towels, which are brilliant for polishing glassware and crockery – they are a little pricey but are well worth it!
Washable paper bag in grey, from £6, Uashmama at the future kept
Vintage grey linen tea towel, Italian Stripe collection, £32, The Linen Works
Whether you are looking to buy a gift for someone, or treating yourself to some housekeeping classics, here are a few more suggestions to get you started:
If you’re anywhere near Ross-on-Wye, do make a point of visiting baileys (www.baileyshome.com) for a great range of carefully sourced homewares in a really interesting converted barn. I like the look of their natural beechwood brushes, palm-fibre besoms and ostrich feather dusters. They also have a good selection for sale online.
Natural beechwood brushes, from £2.50, baileys
Palm-fibre besom, from £18, baileys
Labour and Wait (www.labourandwait.co.uk), located in the Shoreditch area of London, has a timeless quality about it. Their housekeeper’s bucket and sailor’s whisk brush (apparently good for brushing worktops and sweeping away crumbs) would be very useful.
Sailor’s whisk brush, £18, Labour and Wait
Housekeeper’s bucket in maroon, £28, Labour and Wait
With an inviting shop located in the East Dulwich area of south east London, Roullier White (www.roullierwhite.com) has developed their own range of cleaning products, named after the owner’s great grandmother: the products smell divine, are all free from toxic chemicals, and are made using traditional family recipes. In our experience, they are also effective.
Mrs White’s Steel Yourself chrome and stainless steel cleaner, £8, Roullier White
Mrs White’s The Bee’s Knees beeswax polish, £12, Roullier White