Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Bedroom Update

This is a funny time of year….Spring has officially arrived, but it’s still cold…yesterday we had a sudden and unexpected hail storm lasting about 10 minutes, leaving everywhere covered with ice, the size of peas.  This morning the skies were clear and blue….looking like a summer’s day except for the temperature which was 11C, and now we hear that our icy temps might be with us well into July….but anyway enough obsessing about our weather which won't change no matter how much we talk about it!

A while ago I shared a little bedroom tweaking...not to be confused with twerking….this is a little far more sophisticated, a little less brash and in your face….if you want to check out the before pics read here  We've only made subtle changes, but even those small changes have drastically changed the look and atmosphere of the room.  One thing I love about working with a small budget is that it forces you to be more creative and come up with ideas to improve the overall look while still keeping the finances in check.  It’s doubly hard when the client lives in a city where vintage stores are rare and the merchandise unappealing and more appropriate for the dump than a makeover.

She was sending me pics via whatsapp, when eventually we decided it was probably better for me to try and source something over here as I had a good idea what I was looking for.  I scoured the internet for cushion covers without inners because sending cushions and feather inners over to SA didn't make sense and I didn't want to waste funds on something that could be bought in SA. I couldn't find anything I liked here in the UK, so I went to, one of my favourite places to buy art and they have fabulous cushion designs.   I narrowed it down colour wise to about 20 cushions, made a folder for client and asked her to choose a few she really liked. Ultimately the client decides what she likes.  Sometimes you need to guide them in the right direction and this is what I did here.  She was happy.     We finally decided on this cushion which is kind of plain and simple, but it’s got a nice pattern without being too busy. I'm in two minds about teaming it up with a darker teal/blue velvet, or just throwing in a rectangular cushion in a different colour because my client is not into tons of cushions on the bed.

We also bought this stunning print.  We could have gone for the original, but again shipping the original all the way from Ireland to South Africa wasn't going to be cheap, so we went for the print option and it arrived today, nicely packed in a tube.  Super excited to get it out and see how it looks.  It will be framed just like in the picture below.  We ordered a large print which when framed is going to look great above the bed. My client isn't into wall full of paintings, but I convinced her that a large painting above the bed would work.   Abstract paintings need to speak to the viewer and if they can keep you looking, guessing or evoke a certain feeling, then it’s a great painting.  Sometimes abstract paintings can look a little like something you know, and when I saw this one, it reminded me of the seaside. It’s soft and tranquil and suits my client perfectly.  That it’s blue like the cushions is quite unintentional and the soft pink/ nude colours remind me of the sand.  It won’t feel out of place as my client lives about 10 minutes from the nearest beach and besides, I like, she likes it! We are going for a pared down but cohesive space.   The more I look at the rattan headboard, the more I like it.    It has two matching bedside tables, and they are staying as is.  I didn't want to go the route of painting everything white, I wanted to retain the integrity of the original pieces even though they aren't vintage, they kind of look vintage.

The cushion covers are from Motifpillows on Etsy

And the painting is from Lola Donaghue also on Etsy

More updates in a few weeks and I promise I won't mention the weather again!

Until next time

PS: a while ago I told you about a friend of mine who has left England to spend six months on the tiny Island of St Helena...if you'd like to follow her journey read more about it here

Monday, 16 March 2015

Weekend Roaming in Hastings

What happened to Spring? Despite the cold, my bulbs are tentatively starting to surface and reach for the sunshine. 

Early Saturday morning we found ourselves driving to Hastings, a mere 2 hour drive from where we live.   Hastings Old Town has long been an attraction to anyone remotely interested in history, the battle of Hastings, 1066 and the Norman Invasion and for me, the history of our family started which all began when we came over with William the Conqueror from France and settled in Horsham, West Sussex.  One of my uncles has researched our family genealogy which dates right back to 1617 until today. Hastings was first mentioned in the 8th century and used to be an important fishing port and today still has the largest beach based fishing fleet in England.  I’m not going to rattle off a history lesson, but if you’re interested in reading more about Hastings read here 

Although cold and windy and without camera as this drive was quite unintentional, I managed to snap a few photos with my iPhone.  The Old Town high street is full of beautiful and quirky home store shops, antiques and vintage finds and some lovely quaint places to eat.

Our first stop was a deli serving the most delicious lemon drizzle cake I have ever tasted and a good cup of leaf tea. If you are ever in Hastings Old Town, it’s at the top end of the High street, away from the beach front, and it appears to be the only deli in this area, sorry I didn’t take down the name!

Wanting to investigate we walked up several steps and found ourselves atop the hill overlooking Hastings Old Town. The walk reminded me that I need to get out more and definitely climb a few more stairs to get my heart beat racing!  The Old town is situated in the valley between two hills giving it plenty of shelter from sea winds.  You can tell it was cold because there was hardly anyone about on the hill...

We visited a few really interesting and beautiful shops, one of them Warp and Weft, where I briefly chatted to one of the tailors who makes these exquisite but slight eccentric English country gentlemen clothing, once again no pics because quite honesty I didn't think my iPhone pics would do the old world interior any justice, but I should probably just confess it was so cold I didn't want to take my gloves off!

The high street boasts a few antique and vintage stores. I fell in love with a pair of 1950s European chairs with polished wooden arms reupholstered in fine Scottish wool.  Once my hubby sat himself down on one of these chairs, he didn't want to get up.  Unfortunately having driven with a small car, we couldn’t take them with us, and the price tag of £750 for one chair was a little too steep for my pocket!  But they were beautiful. Christine at specialises in modernist chairs and a few other elegant mid-century pieces.  

Another little treasure is Vintage Bird run by Claire, a tiny store packed to the ceiling with fabric and unusual and beautiful wallpaper.  I left with a sample of Sanderson wallpaper and thinking of a room in which to hang it.

One of the most beautifully styled stores was A.G Hendy & Co Homes Store, stocking home ware pieces, all lovingly crafted and made and amongst other things, a collection of glass cloches.  The shop itself is a museum piece and worth popping in even if only to buy a pastry brush or an old fashioned feather duster!

If you like visiting churches, then you’ll love St Clements. Tracing its origins back to 1080, it is an historical landmark in Hastings Old Town. Dante Rossetti married Elizabeth Siddell here in 1860.  The stained glass windows are beautiful, two of which were replaced by Richard Cole after they were bombed out in WWII.  He apparently depicted himself in the window wearing yellow.  They have recently renovated and modernised part of the church, and if you’re lucky to visit on a Saturday morning you can enjoy cake and tea for a few pennies.

Usually I'm straining under the weight of my many purchases, but surprisingly I came home with only a few beautiful cards and two succulents, which I am kind of in love with…

I’d love to go back to Hastings when it’s a bit warmer and take a few photos with a decent camera but I hope you've enjoyed the brief excursion and a little peek into this coastal town.

Until next time!

Sunday, 1 March 2015

And so to bed

Just to let you know Peter Rabbit is alive and doing well.  I was making a cup of tea when I spied him outside munching my fake lawn, which didn’t go down too well.  He soon hopped over to my daffodils and started nibbling the heads off.   After my initial  shock of finding a rabbit in my garden, I raided the fridge for a few wilted carrots and went outside to have a one to one with Peter…who seemed very friendly and came right up to me nose a twitching and took the carrot right out of my hand!  I asked him how he managed to get over the fence, but he didn’t reply…rabbits are funny like that.

Today I'm talking fabric for headboards… if headboards weren't so expensive, I’d have a few stashed away in the spare room which I could swap when the seasons changed…but as it stands headboards are quite costly, so making the right decision is crucial.

So to show you what the headboard might look like, I’ve teamed up the samples with my existing wallpaper.  The wallpaper is Laura Ashley’s Summer Palace which is based on an 18th century design.  Mine is in the pink colour way which I just love, when I spotted those pink birds, it was love at first sight and a few years down the road, I still love my wallpaper, so it is staying.

The first sample is this British velvet in Ivory.  Initially I put this colour aside as being slightly too bland and beige and old fashioned,  but the more I look at it the more I am warming to it. It’s rich and creamy looking and the texture of the velvet is thick and lovely to the touch. Much like the inspiration picture I found on Pinterest. Plus it picks up the small pops of beige that feature in the wallpaper.

I’ve used navy velvet before in a chair makeover a few years ago, so I know how dark velvet shows up the slightest bit of fluff but I love this Peacock blue velvet for my headboard too. What's not to like about Emily Henderson's gorgeous peacock blue headboard? I think it will give the room a little more substance, because it is quite feminine.  Fortunately my hubby isn’t in the slightest bit intimidated by pink birds!  It also means that if I swap out the wallpaper for painted walls in plain white or grey in a few years’ time the blue headboard will still look good.

The white was my absolute favourite.  I had already decided that the headboard was going to be white. I’d seen enough inspiration pics online to know I would love this look and it would blend so well with what I already have in my bedroom. This one is White Naples.  It’s soft, it’s really feminine looking, but my main concern is keeping it lovely and white.  I don’t have any toddlers in my home, so it’s not likely to get smeared with chocolate, but dust in the city is a problem.

My other sample is faux leather in white.  This is one is a beautiful faux.  But it’s still faux and I’m not sure how it will wear.  When I searched Pinterest for faux leather headboards, loads came up, this one included which I love from a distance, but not being able to see one already made up is making me more than hesitant that it might look a bit 1980s, but this pic shows how contemporary faux leather can look.

So you see my dilemma….I think I know which one I’ll go with….but which one do you prefer?

Oh and if you are wondering what happened to Peter Rabbit…seems my neighbours children lost their bunny.  We caught him eventually, after he had ravaged my bulbs and nibbled the new green shoots of my daffodils! Naughty Peter Rabbit!


Saturday, 21 February 2015

How tastes change

Hope you're having a good weekend.   We took a lovely long walk along the beach front.  Did I say it was  a long walk? I've got blisters because I walked in boots instead of my Nike's and I don't really do trainers unless I'm doing exercise.  It was cold.  My cheeks felt like sheets of ice, but oh was it good to get out in the sunshine!

When I was in my late teens I was introduced to antiques by my then boyfriend’s mother Mrs C. They had lived in Singapore for many years and her house was a veritable haven of eastern antiquities. She often attended auctions and would come back with lovely items, mostly small but I was fascinated with what she turned up with.   As a shy 18 year old, when she noticed my interest in her furniture pieces, she would try and engage me in conversation and I soon caught the antiques bug.  She started buying me small pieces for my birthday and Christmases and I still have these beautiful items she bought me  and I use them all the time.   I will forever be grateful for her interest and  for taking time to share her passion with me. I started collecting the odd piece, mostly silver spoons and cutlery, and the later crockery, and then when I started earning money, larger pieces of furniture.  Back in the early 80s I was absolutely and completely in love with antiques or any piece of furniture that looked like it had lived a hundred years before me, not for me the bright colours and disco balls of the time!  

Victorian Armoire - Worthy of one's finest personal accoutrements, this exquisitely crafted cabinet is inspired by the massive freestanding closets that our grandparents knew. 81x24x81".

FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT   An Oak Reclining Armchair, designed for the William E. Martin House, Oak Park, Illinois, circa 1902
Throughout the years, my love affair with antiques hasn’t waned, I’d mix antique pieces with Turkish rugs and more modern pieces and although my taste changed ever so slightly, sometimes taking a few steps sideways, I never really deviated from my first love. I’ve being doing the eclectic look for more than 20 years now.  An odd collection of different eras which all seem to work rather well together.  When I talk antiques, I am not talking pieces worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, more in the three and four digit category.  Moving on 20 years or so and 3 grown up children later I found some of the heavy darker pieces too cumbersome too old worldly, so I sold a few pieces.  Once we moved to England, I couldn't fit some pieces into my home here, they were too big and bulky and I couldn't get them up the narrow stairs.  So they were eBayed much to my children’s disapproval.   I felt I wanted to go lighter, brighter and more French Provençal. (Being in a dark drizzly country does that to one).   Lighter in weight and in colour, more suitable for small rooms and narrow staircases.  I went all shabby for about five minutes and I started buying painted pieces that had been slightly distressed, whether naturally aged or intentional.  Fortunately I didn't buy too much in this French phase, it was more like a school girl crush on an older good looking French boy  who I soon found didn't have much of a personality, so I lost interest. 

Going for table setting for Christmas 2014 up on the blog
(The Victorian hors d'oeuvre cutlery is part of a set of 8 which I received as a gift from Mrs C in the early 80s)

New-York : Prospect Park sur / Photos : Andrea Chu.

I'm still in love with good craftsmanship. It’s in the genes.  Love a piece of wood.  Have been known to caress a piece until I get the odd look from the store owner as I run my hands down the legs or over the table top.  And there are some décor trends  I will never like and some pieces and accessories that will stay with me until I die and I'm not particularly bothered whether they are trendy or not, they are mine and I love them.    But  lately I'm liking more mid-century pieces, pieces with simpler lines, and less fuss,  especially the sideboards and armchairs… might be something to do with my age….so what do you think?  Has your style changed over the years or do you still have the same pieces your bought 20 years ago…I’d love to know, please do share!

Sharing a lovely pic of flowers from last year.

Until next time!

Monday, 16 February 2015

When you rent - part two

We had a very non-valentines weekend …instead our weekend was spent moving furniture from one room to the other.  Our Honeybee left in December so we did a big clean out of her bedroom and at the same time moved our son’s room around.  He’s now got a double divan and he’s loving the transformation from a cluttered bedroom with too many pieces of furniture he didn't really need, to a more streamlined ‘sophisticated’ look – his words not mine! I won’t be posting pics because we've taken down shelving and poly filling holes and still need to paint, but perhaps in a few months I might share a photo or two.

So my previous post was all about what you’re stuck with when you rent a property which might have sounded a little depressing, but on the upside this post is about things that you can change and take with you when you eventually move out onto the property ladder.  Not everything is bad news though.  Some landlords might even let you paint your walls white or any other colour as long as you paint them back again before you move out.  It’s worth asking.   Magnolia walls you can live with, cream carpets you can live with, dark brown carpets…well you need to get clever... (it's a long post as I wanted to eloborate on certain elements so hope you stay with me for the journey!)

Front door

The first thing you see as you approach your new home is the front door.  This is the easiest thing to change from drab to fab. When we did the little house renovation last year, one of the first things we did was to paint the front door a beautiful pale ocean blue and add new shiny hardware.  If you feel like taking a peek it’s here: front door and the dining room here.  It instantly made the façade more appealing and it says a lot about what the interior might look like.  I liken the front door to the saying ‘the eyes are the window to our soul’… a dark worn out front door with broken hardware and peeling paint gives you a depressed feeling even before you’ve opened the front door…whereas a lovely front door speaks volumes about what lies beyond and gives you a feeling of anticipation and joy at what you might encounter once inside.  At least that’s how I feel!  And it’s probably one of those things that your landlord won’t mind you doing as long as you improve the look.  New chrome or brass hardware can be purchased on eBay or in hardware stores.  If you can’t change the door colour or hardware, add a few hanging baskets with some colourful flowers instead!


One thing you can change in a rented home are the light fittings.  Everything looks better in ambient lighting.  Middle of the ceiling pendant lights are fine if you need to see everything in bright daylight colours, but table lamps give off a softer glow and create cosiness and intimacy that pendant lights just don’t do.   They are easy to remove and new light fittings which suit your style can be purchased and you can take them with you when you move.  Keep the original light fittings in a box in the garage or up in the loft.  The effect of a great table lamp in a space is hugely underrated.  I’m not talking some little 30cm lamp with some shady shade plopped on top, I’m talking about great table lamps, make sure they are big tall and sculptural with an interesting texture.  And of course candles…they offer a special kind of softness, a romantic feel as well as making your home smell rather nice.


So you’ve got cream or dark brown carpet throughout the downstairs, except the kitchen. Even the dining room has been carpeted.  I can never understand a property owner laying down carpet in the dining room... has he thought this over carefully?  Probably not, instead of investing a little extra into wood laminate or real wood or ceramic tile flooring, he’s put down carpet. Carpets get dirty, very quickly.  We sit, we eat, we drink, we spill, and before long the new carpet in the dining room is full of nasty splodges.   So now you need to get the carpet cleaners in to do the entire house….I could go on as carpets are my pet hate.  Read my post here on flooring:  floored…so if your dining room has a carpet you don’t like you could lay a rug underneath your dining table and chairs.  It’s also got the added bonus of zoning off the area, which is great when you have one big open plan space.  A patterned rug will camouflage splodges and spills and can be wiped off more readily than having an entire carpet cleaned.   The rug needs to be larger all the way around your dining room table and all four chair legs need to sit on the carpet with plenty spare on the sides…again at least 60cm all round.

If your lounge floor is dark and your sofa is dark, and it’s all feeling like the sofa has organically grown out of the brown carpet, then you need a large colourful or patterned rug to differentiate between the floor and the sofa to make it feel less like Hobbit Land.   You can have several rugs layered on top or next to each other.  Turkish rugs look particularly good layered over or next to each other if you go for a similar colour.

Accessorising with mirrors and artwork:

You collect art, have a few great canvasses or framed pieces but you can’t hang them up.  If you have a chest of drawers or a sideboard then you can use this piece of furniture to prop up some art so you still get to see your great pieces.  Prop art onto chests of drawers with a lamp and some accessories. Displaying your art, framed and unframed along the floor is a great way to increase the interest factor in your room although if you don’t have much floor space, it might make it feel cluttered.    Large floor standing mirrors look really good and can make a space feel bigger.

Think about what you’d like your own home to look like and start to furnish your rented space with pieces of furniture that you actually love and want to keep for the long term.  This will stop you going on a shopping spree and just randomly buying pieces of furniture just because they are cheap or fit the space you currently have.  Dress up your existing sofa with great cushions and throws, again make sure you’re not just picking up any old cushion in any old colour and hoping it’s all going to magically come together… try and stick to your chosen colour scheme.  If you know you’ll change the sofa a few years down the line, throw on a couple of sheep skins for texture and a few cushions to hide the sofa.


Some people collect shells, others collect cameras and they want them displayed so that others can see how passionate they are about their passion!  This is where those Billy bookcases will come in handy, because you can go all American on them and start hanging pictures from the bookcases alongside those books and CDs together with your collection of WWII paraphernalia!    Paint the backs of the bookcases in a contrasting colour to create depth or wallpaper them.  I recommend you paint or wallpaper these before you assemble them.


Painting old pieces of furniture is the easiest way to upcycle existing pieces of furniture.  Sometimes they just need to be painted in a different colour to give them life again.  Paint the side tables and the coffee table if they are too similar in shade to the carpet. Or invest in some glass and chrome or marble and wood coffee tables or whatever style take your fancy. You might need to save for these, but if you make a list of what you really want to purchase for the long term, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can tick them off your wish list.

Plant power:

Add plants, big ones, a palm tree, a Ficus Benjamina, or a Fiddle leaf fig tree…they create oxygen as well as giving us that calming peaceful feeling that we get around nature and they are green, which complements all colour schemes.  If you only have blinds and can’t hang your own curtains, plants can soften the sharp lines of the window, but make sure you have tall ones, as well as medium sized and small plants.   Love a plant. Prop them on window sills, bathrooms, bedrooms and anywhere you like.  If you’re not good with plants, go faux.  Faux plants are good, they don’t need watering either.

You have a bed and you've got bedside tables or not.  If not, you can improvise.  Bedside tables do not need to be tables.  They can be an antique chair or a few vintage crates or even a low chest of drawers. Or you can just go traditional, that’s fine too, just pump up the visual volume by adding lamps and accessories. You can’t hang wallpaper but you can get a sheet of MDF cut to the size of your bed and cover it in your favourite wallpaper, propped behind your bed, or drape it with a stunning fabric and it can be as tall as you want it to be. Instant headboard, instant visual interest for little cost.

Beds look great dressed in white bedlinen, but if you’re into colour I’m not going to try and convince you otherwise.  Some people like cushions, others hate them and wonder why we have to dress the bed in six different sized cushions only to have to pack them away every night when they go to sleep…but cushions do make a bed look gorgeous and well dressed, without them it’s like wearing a little black dress without the heels…you’ve got the jewellery, the hair, the earrings, the clutch, but you’re still wearing the flats that you fetched the kids in from school…so cushions do it for me…and a chunky textured throw draped over the bed adds to the cosy factor when you’re reading your favourite book on a drizzly Sunday afternoon...

Cream carpets in the bedroom give you a neutral background which will complement any colour scheme, but dark brown, now that needs taming….so rugs are a must here.  You’ll need a fairly large rug that sits mostly outside of the bedframe so it covers the carpet you don’t like, at least 60cm – 1 metre wider on each side.   Sheepskins are perfect for throwing down next to the bed and adding a bit of texture and you can pick these up at Ikea for a bargain.  An oversized mirror would look great on the floor, bouncing light from the window across the room.  The whole idea is to create a lot of visual interest so that you don’t notice the flooring, but by visual interest I don’t mean clutter.  And plants, add few large ferns or palms in front of a window immediately soften the hard lines.


One thing that most rentals lack is built in storage.  If you’re lucky enough to rent a newer type home then you will probably have built ins.  If not well, you might want to look at Antique armoire or modern glass fronted cabinets.  Ikea do a few I like, or hunt for a vintage wardrobe which can be painted and look stunning or mid century sideboards offer quite a bit of storage and display space.  Look for glass fronted vintage bookcases which you can use to store shoes and handbags.  There is plenty of variety out there. 

Storing clothing is always a problem.  Most of us seem to have more clothing than a high street clothing store but far less space to store it all.  Try keeping only seasonal clothes in your wardrobe and storing the rest away in vacuum storage bags or large suitcases which can be packed away at the top of the built in cupboard or in the loft (remember to add a block of cedar wood to stop the moths chewing your favourite jumper!)  Large woven baskets are ideal for storing fresh towels or any number of things you don’t have a home for and if they have lids, for shoes you don’t have space for in the wardrobe (tip: pop an air freshener thingy in the bottom so your shoes always smell like lily of the valley and less football changing room!)

All pics from my Pinterest board which will take you to the original pinner.

So to wrap up:

  • ·         Change the light fittings
  • ·         Invest in pieces of furniture you want to have in your forever house
  • ·         Rugs
  • ·         Accessorise with large table lamps and personal items
  • ·         Large floor mirrors and art
  • ·         Colourful and interesting fabrics, cushions and throws
  • ·         Upcycle furniture with paint.
  • ·         DIY headboard with wallpaper/fabric
  • ·         Large woven baskets
  • ·         Storage for your out of season clothing and shoes
  • ·         Large and small plants
  • ·         And did I say rugs….you can never have enough rugs!

Until next time!