Last year, the Oxford-based academic Sarah Lidwell-Durnin gave up a PhD in 15th-century poetry to pursue her passion for combining the whimsical with the practical, and launched the online mail-order shop Natural History.
Inspired by countless visits to the Natural History Museum in Dublin during her childhood, Sarah's home accessories collection conveys her fascination for all things peculiar and macabre. "Hurrah for Victorian taxidermy!" she declares on the website, which she has bravely subtitled "The Origin of Style".
Shopping here is the online equivalent of browsing dusty display cases; you never know what you'll find next. I love the ocean-themed cushions, covered in creeping orange and teal tentacles, with fabulously specific and scientific names such as Strange and Scintillating Seaweed (Gelidum), or Curious and Uncommon Coral (Red).
This is a personal, hand-picked selection. Sarah stocks fine linen tablecloths, cushions and bed sheets from Belgium, soft cashmere blankets from Scotland and porcelain drawer knobs from France. Her latest addition is a range of Ice Milk aprons from the US. Made of luxurious silk and linen and tied with pretty bows, they look more like cocktail dresses than kitchen clobber. The designs have cutie-pie names such as Morning Bun Moments and Bowls of Batter. Even if you're more domestic disaster than domestic goddess, it's enough to make you want to embrace your inner Stepford wife and bake some cupcakes.
For stationery fiends, there are beautiful notebooks decorated with deep-sea squid and dainty hummingbirds. Don't miss the latest tea towel design with an enormous black beetle on it - the kind you'd expect to find pinned in a case and labelled in Latin. It's striking enough to frame as wall art or back with black fabric and sew into a cushion cover.
For unusual gifts, check out the Artefacts department, where you'll find plaster busts, glass laboratory flask vases, scented candles and rustic French soaps. As if that wasn't enough, there's gorgeous tissue paper covered in scrawled handwriting for quirky wrapping. It's all strangely irresistible.