Saturday, 8 December 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Gosh. It's been a while.

Right. Straight into it.

I purchased a lovely butcher's trolley...or block...whichever you prefer, from Seymour Interiors in Wirksworth a few weeks back.  I'd been looking for a while but not found one quite big enough or solid enough. As if by magic, this one popped up on their website and the rest is history! I convinced myself that I needed more work surface. I possibly didn't, but have to say that I am really pleased with it and it is really useful as I can move it around, obviously! It's a great, chunky piece of furniture that matches really well with my existing kitchen.

When bought, it was unpainted and as soon as I got it home I set about giving it a make-over. It is currently painted Farrow's Cream which matches the rest of the kitchen, however, having lived with it for a week or two, I am now seriously tempted to spice it up a bit by painting it in Pelt, a rich, aubergine colour by Farrow and Ball.

With only one child in the house today...and that one being male....I decided to begin 'Christmassing' the house. I figured that decorating the tree would interest my little boy for about one minute once he had got over the excitement of watching the man saw the end off the tree and use his special machine to shrink wrap it for us! Unfortunately, his designer juices started flowing once it was in the house and he took great delight in tangling the lights and breaking the odd bauble before hanging most of the others on one side of the tree! Never mind. We got there in the end!

I've also, for the past couple of years, got a bit (only a bit..) creative and cut a branch down from my parents orchard, sprayed it silver and dangled a small selection of old fashioned, jewel coloured baubles from it and a sprinkling of lights. It's anchored to a block of wood, covered in Christmas wrapping paper. Really simple, yet I might actually prefer it to the proper tree. Where space might be an issue, or if you fancy something a little different, it's worth having a go. I looked at similar things on sale in the likes of John Lewis and they cost an absolute fortune! Baubles and lights aside, this one cost the price of a can of spray paint from Homebase.

I love Christmas. I'm so excited! My husband is dreading the moment I reach for the free CD of Christmas songs sung by Frank Sinatra that we got in the weekend paper! Me? I can't get to it soon enough!

Friday, 12 October 2012

Farrow and Ball at Seymour Interiors, Wirksworth

Last week I had the delight of attending a Farrow and Ball colour talk at Seymour Interiors in Wirksworth.

I took my Mum (rivals me in the trigger-happy with a paint brush stakes!) along as a guest and we had a really enjoyable and informative evening. Seymour Interiors were the perfect hosts, offering a nice cuppa and a delicious slice of cake on arrival!

Donations generated at the event were collected on behalf of a Neuroblastoma in infant and child charity.

The representative from Farrow and Ball talked to a full house covering the history of Farrow and Ball paints, the paint and paper producing process and then took us through some key looks as well as some handy tips. No matter what paint you choose to use in your home, I would urge you to go onto the F&B website where you will find plenty of inspiration and interior ideas and tips. Here are just a few.

  • If using wallpaper with a pattern and colour, pick out a colour in the pattern and paint any woodwork in this colour rather than white.
  • A common belief is that if you have a small room, painting it white will make it appear larger. In many cases (depending on light etc) what you will end up with is just a small white room! Be brave and choose a darker colour.
  • In the same way that white doesn't necessarily make a room look larger, a paper with a small pattern is not necessarily the way to go in a smaller room. The eye is not so easily fooled. Go for a bold pattern. Don't be apologetic for your small room!
  • Feature walls are still popular. Choose the smallest wall in the room as the feature wall so the overall effect is not too domineering.
  • Low ceilings - pick out a complimentary white (a toned white) to the walls or something other than white. If you use brilliant/bright white your eye will immediately be drawn upwards and that may not be what you want. The same applies to high ceilings.
  • Use an off cut of wallpaper to create a headboard as in the picture above.
  • Line drawers, cupboards, wardrobes with pretty wallpaper.
  • If you have wallpaper in your kitchen, apply a clear varnish to any areas of high traffic, where you keep your kitchen bin for example,  so that any stains,splashes etc can be easily wiped clean.
Seymour Interiors is a great little interiors find. For any Midland readers, it's well worth a visit. As well as soft furnishings and furniture they stock wallpapers and paints and are on hand to advise on all things interior decor wise, offering insightful tips and a wealth of experience. Take a look at the Facebook page and pay them a visit in Wirksworth.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Beautiful Barcelona!

Last week my hubby and I spent a glorious few days in Barcelona. It was a rare treat. The children had a great few days being spoilt rotten by Grandma and Granddad. Probably chocolate biscuits for breakfast, lunch and tea and not much in the way of teeth cleaning, such is the fun of being looked after by Grandparents!

For anyone who hasn't visited Barcelona, it is a great city. We took in all the tourist treats on offer....the numerous examples of the 'Modernista' architecture, Gaudi's weird yet wonderful creations - the Sagrada Familia being the most famous example, La Boqueria (indoor market - a feast for the eyes as well as the waistline!), the museums celebrating the works of Joan Miro (a particular favourite of my hubby..who yo-yo's between thinking Miro was a genius and thinking our 3 year old could paint better pictures than the man himself!) and my favourite, Picasso. We easily filled 4 days with things to do and see, yet it was very relaxing at the same time.

I didn't get the opportunity to suss out Barcelona interiors, but I loved many of the elegant apartments from the outside.

For those of you who may consider visiting, we stayed on the edge of the Bari Gotic (Gothic quarter) and the Ribera. The location was perfect, being right in the hustle and bustle of the city centre yet only a 5 or 10 minute stretch to the harbour and the nearest beaches. I would also recommend hopping on the open top tourist bus on day one. This gives you a great over view of where and what there is to see and gives you a good idea of walking distances etc.

Here are a few of my holiday snaps, including my purchases.....3 prints....a Miro, a Barcelona tourist board poster and a Picasso.

Barcelona skyline

Elegant Barca living

La Boqueria

The harbour

Beautiful quilts in an interiors shop

Lovely momentos of a wonderful few days

Monday, 10 September 2012

If in a new scarf!

I had the day to myself today so I ventured into town to have another look at bedding for my little boy's room.

Here's what I spied. I'm still very undecided. I like them all!

Little White Company 'Howdy Partner' from £55

Laura Ashley 'Treasure Island' from £55

Laura Ashley 'On the Sea' from £55

Laura Ashley 'Treasure Island' wallpaper

White Stuff 'Flights of Fancy' scarf £19.95

As I couldn't make my mind up, and as I was walking past, I had a little look in White Stuff and spotted this lovely scarf instead! Apologies for the photo. Being in the house alone meant that I had to get creative with the photography! I've been after a scarf in a corally pink (more pink) for ages and I found one! On returning home, I also went online and ordered a jumper from White Stuff and was pleasantly surprised to find that if you ring the store and say that you want to avoid delivery charges, that they will give you a free delivery and returns code! I expect this is old news to most of you!

Don't look too closely at the state of the playroom....or the slightly scary papier mache Bog Baby on the edge of the mirror....a hangover from Year 1 homework!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Clint Eastwood and a funky dining chair.

Aaaahhhh. Both children back at school. Sebastian went back yesterday and by this morning was walking with a very unusual gait due to new school shoes! Rather like Clint Eastwood in A Fistful of Dollars.....if he were acting the part now, as an 82 year old! My daughter was dressed and ready for school by one minute to seven this morning. Unheard of! It can't last.

Before I mop the kitchen floor (ooh....the glamour!), I have to answer a request from a friend. She is undergoing a kitchen re-vamp and wanted some advice on dining chairs. Her remit was that she wanted something modern and funky but inexpensive and durable.

Her kitchen is quite traditional. Shaker units, light oak dining table. It is quite a large, open plan space with plenty of natural light. Why, might you be asking, is this relevant? Well. Had the room been smaller or the dining area have been separate, I would have probably suggested that she look at something in a more similar style to the dining table rather than something more modern and distinctive. Your eye would be less drawn to the size of the room because of the uniformity between table and chairs. Statement pieces tend to work better where there is more light and space, in my view.

Right. Onto the chairs. I had a good look around and ended up back at my old faithful, John Lewis.

I posted some while back about these chairs, but since, JL have introduced a couple more options.

Now, I have to admit, there is nothing too new or original about these chairs. Having said that, I for one, never tire of seeing schemes using these designs. I love the shape and the colours. I have sat on the more expensive versions and they are very comfortable. I have yet to road test all of these cheaper versions and suspect that there may be a little variation...but then, they are a fraction of the price.

To be a little more daring, choose one of the assortment of bright colours. The Jasper chair comes in 10 shades. Plenty of choice. This chair reviews pretty well on JL website. The Walnut Grable chair is a classic design. Probably better with a glass top table or a white table as contrast to the wood.

I love the shape of the Marilyn chair at £49. The reviews are a little mixed. Probably one that requires a really good road test, inspection and prod! Some reviewers comment that it scratched easily. As for the value chair at £19...well....great value for money! I'm going to go in and have a good look at it, but on the face of it, it looks like a really good buy. Great shape and in white, would look fab against a light oak table. The reviews are all positive for this chair. If you really are on a tight budget but want something modern, then this is the one.

For budget busters, my favourites are still the Panton S chair available in a variety of colours. This chair is so comfortable and such a design classic. My other choice is the ever popular Philippe Starck for Kartell Ghost chair. Again, you will see this on every other page of every interiors magazine, but I still love it. The Verner Panton chair retails at £200 plus and the Ghost chair from £165.

 The good news is, if you are not bothered about an original, then check out Cult Here you will find classic designs reproduced and available for a fraction of the price. The Panton style chair is available for £49 plus delivery for example! A reproduction Ghost chair is £79. Only a trained eye could probably tell the difference. The quality may be questionable, but I might order something and see.


Grable chair Walnut £49

Marilyn chair £49 in 4 colours

Value curve white chair £19
Philippe Starck for Kartell Ghost chair £165

Panton S chair £200

Monday, 3 September 2012

Elegant styling courtesy of Reese Witherspoon...

Phew. A busy morning. By 10am I had fed and clothed the kids, done a supermarket dash and given the downstairs cloak a coat of paint!

The children have friends over today and are making the most of the last couple of days of school holiday. Whilst I enjoy the time the children are at home....the days we are free to get up, in theory, a little later than normal (but as we parents all know.....this strangely rarely happens until the children are well into their teens!), I am always quite relieved when school begins again and some semblance of routine returns to our lives.

The house is a tip. The floors need a proper clean as do the windows. Nothing life threatening....but jobs I am actually quite looking forward to attacking next week.

Yesterday, we spent a lovely day with friends at their home in Harborne. The weather was great so the kids played in the paddling pool. I always look forward to meeting up with this particular friend who happens to be my oldest (in terms of years we have known each other!) and dearest friend. She is also a successful fashion stylist and therefore our visit is always preceded with a certain amount of agonising on what I should wear! (My friend will laugh at this!) She, unlike me, is a snappy dresser, has an eye for what looks good and has fab hair just to top it all off!

Whilst I agonise about an outfit, Beth sends me texts apologising in advance for the state of her house! I find this comforting! It helps me to relax about my outfit!! We did laugh. At one point, Beth insisted that I go upstairs and witness the terrible state of her teenage daughter's bedroom. One not too chuffed daughter in tow, I took a quick look and, yes, it perhaps needed a little tidy! All of a sudden I didn't feel my legs looked quite so tree trunky in white jeans!

Anyway. I wonder if celebrities suffer the same anxieties as we mere mortals?! I doubt it because they employ celebrity stylists to decorate their homes and tell them what to wear and clear up their mess!

I took a sneaky peek into Reese Witherspoon's newly styled Californian home and I really like her style. There are elements in the design that could easily be employed on a 'normal' budget without the celebrity interior designer. I particularly like the mix of textures and fabrics....leather and wood...and the mix of modern alongside more traditional furnishings. Quite European infact...a touch of English, a touch of Scandinavian. 

Here are some pics.

son's room

daughter's room

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

New England? Vintage? Ultra modern? Country cottage? What do I want??

I've been quiet of late on the blogging front. It's been a busy time and so interiors have just had to take a back seat.

What I have been doing over this period, is logging onto Rightmove rather a lot! We are tentatively (and I mean 'tentatively') considering a move.

What started out as quite an enjoyable little foray into house/area searching, has actually become somewhat of a headache as well as a reality check! Whilst my husband's job is fortunate in that a relocation could in theory be north, south, east or west (UK!), the choice actually makes the whole prospect even more daunting and difficult, believe it or not.

He provided me with a list of locations. Great. Problem is, about many of the locations I had already formed my own pre-conceived opinions and dismissed them outright! The remaining locations include many of the most expensive areas in the country. Not great.

And that's before we even consider schools!

My head is spinning. Trying to balance budget, area, proximity to family and schooling is almost, if not totally, impossible!

For some respite, I decided to forget all the major stuff for a moment and think about what I would like in terms of a house. The head spinning returned big style! I don't know what I want! I know what other people want....I know what I would like.....

I hope we will know what we want if and when we see it. We don't have the luxury of too much in the way of choice (budget!)...or we would have a cottage in the country, a beach house somewhere exotic, a French retreat in Provence, a Tuscan getaway and a swanky weekend pad in central London! (Oh....and the weekly family home handy for work and schools!)

In terms of interior styling, again, I'm hoping the house will dictate, as did the house we are in now. Out current home would have felt odd with anything other than typical (fairly safe)cottage-style interior decor.

As with any project, I will have to follow my own advice, which is to sit and pore over interiors magazines and pull out pages that I like and file them away and then wait and see what the house dictates.

I'm secretly hoping that we find some sort of project that allows us to choose the direction. I'd then like to employ George Clarke to come in, knock a few walls around, add an extension here and there and create the funky family home I'm after, having totally read my style likes and dislikes without me even having known it!

In the meantime, here are my favourite interior no particular order. You see my problem?


Sleek modern

New England


Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Hanging pictures

I've been faffing around today in between attending tea parties in the garden hosted by my 2 year old!

My faffing involved hanging a few pictures, re-hanging a few and ditching a few. I'm afraid, along with symmetry, it's a bit of an obsession with me. Now, I am by no means an expert at hanging pictures and arguably there is no right or wrong way to hang things on the wall..only the position or way that pleases you, the hanger!

On the subject of hung/hanged....this is another of my rather irritating pet hates (along with the frequent misuse/over use of apostrophes whenever a word ends with an 's' ! Menus and cafe signs being the biggest culprits!) A picture is hung....a person is hanged.

Anyway. I digress.

A general rule of thumb is that pictures, or any wall hangings of any kind, should be hung at eye level. The centre of the picture being around 5'7"....the average human eye height, apparently.

If you are hanging pictures above furniture, then you should leave around 5-7" between the bottom of the frame and the top edge of the furniture.

These are merely guidelines. I live in an old house with beams and sloping ceilings and relatively few straight walls. I don't ever measure when I hang pictures, much to my husbands annoyance. Everything is done by eye. Needless to say, a few pictures in our house hide a multitude of failed attempts! I do think though, that sticking to the eye level rule is a good start and does work in most cases.

I also think pictures look great, as do mirrors, leaning against walls on the floor.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Real or a deal.

A friend recently asked me to suggest anywhere she might look for kitchen accessories as she was giving her kitchen a little makeover. Living in a period property, she wanted to stick to the country theme....or, as she requested, maybe a little bit of unashamed chintz!

Cath Kidston £12 for 2

Cath Kidston £12 for 2

Dotty Brown £9.99 for 2

Dotty Brown £9.99 for 2

Tea towels was the starting point. The obvious choice would have been Cath Kidston. Nothing new there though really, so I suggested Dotty Brown. Same sort of thing. Slightly more choice, slightly cheaper. Or......

My choice. Sainsbury's....£5 for 3! Bargain! If a little bit of chintz takes your fancy then these hit the spot. A little too much in my kitchen (don't want a floral/spotty theme park!) as a trio but quite pretty all the same.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Apple Tree Gift Shop and Tea House.

I had to laugh this morning. My husband works for a (the) major Communications/Telcomms provider in the UK who shall remain nameless! He read a directive out to me this morning concerning, amongst other things, 'the unsuitability of flip flops as workplace footwear' and 'guidance on how to use your handbrake..'! It must be comforting to all you end users out there to know that, despite any issues you may have with your phones or computers, that these burning issues are being dealt with!!!

Anyway. On to the delights of my village!

Ockbrook. A picturesque ancient village situated some 5 miles to the East of Derby, steeped in history. Boasting lovely local walks, pretty architecture of historical interest and importance and one of only three remaining Moravian Settlements in the UK, Ockbrook is most definitely a place to circle on your map!

Another great reason to drive this way is to sample the delights of The Apple Tree Gift Shop and Tea House. Situated in the centre of the village, The Apple Tree is a veritable feast of goodies – beautiful, unique gifts, cards, refreshments and a choice of mouth-watering cakes in very welcoming surroundings.

The Apple Tree (on moving to Ockbrook, Lucy says she had never seen so many apple trees in just about every garden as is found in this village…hence the name!) is owned and run by a local lady, Lucy Cassar. Lucy’s passion for all things creative, fashion and interiors as well as a background in Sales and Marketing were what inspired her to start her own business. With 2 young children and a hard working husband with his own business, Lucy felt strongly that she wanted to focus some of her energy into growing her own business and glad we are that she did!  

The ethos behind The Apple Tree is very much supporting local craftsmen and women wherever possible. Lucy works hard sourcing unique pieces whether that is locally sourced, handmade candles or beautiful pieces of (one off) handmade jewellery alongside the more well-known suppliers of home ware such as East of India. The attention to detail in sourcing stock is evident from the moment you walk through the door.

My eyes were drawn (and I may have to direct my husband’s eyes…) to the jewellery case.  Beautiful pieces, all hand made by Derbyshire jewellers – Anney Grace, Kate Rodgers, Kate Hamilton-Hunter and my choice (hubby!), exquisite silver jewellery by Sarah Stevens of Mickleover made from vintage silver tea spoons, coffee stirrers etc. I love the idea that each 
piece probably has a story behind it. Priced between £36 and £44 any of these pieces would make the most thoughtful, perfect gift, knowing that each one is unique.

Sarah Stevens jewellery

And I haven’t even started on the cakes yet!
I like the fact that the coffee and cake eating tables are in the heart of the shop. There isn’t that awkwardness you sometimes feel when entering an interiors/gift shop and there are only one or two other people in there, plus the assistant/owner watching you like a hawk to see if your browsing converts into an actual purchase! There is something very comforting and instantly relaxing about walking into a shop already bustling with people sitting drinking tea, eating cake and chatting. Another big tick in the box!

So, my urge to you is to make a beeline to the Apple Tree in Ockbrook. If you don’t live near enough, have a look at the website. Though there is no online purchasing facility at present (coming soon!) if you are on the hunt for something special or want to know if something is stocked or you would like something stocked or you need some gift ideas  then Lucy is more than happy to take your call. 

Contact details 
The Apple Tree Gift Shop and Tea House
6 Flood Street
DE72 3RF
Tel: 01332 987001

Monday, 9 July 2012

Sweets or chocolates...please!

The end of term is upon us. Sports days are out of the way...either completed or cancelled! Reports have been issued and it is that time of year when you decide whether or not to reward/thank the teacher with a small gift!

If it were down to the children, I expect most would lavish their teachers with the variety of 'decorative' hanging objects out there with 'best teacher' or 'no.1 teacher' or whatever etched across them. Lovely....but totally useless as gifts go!

Now, I speak from some experience in this department as the child of a former Teacher and a Head Teacher.

The end of term was always quite exciting for me as a small child. Almost like an extra Christmas as I used to help my parents open their end of term pressies. Whilst they were very much appreciated by my parents, quite a few of them ended up in my dolls house or at a bring and buy sale or similar. (Obviously with the latter..with enough of a time delay that no parent would recognise their gift on sale!) We would scoff the chocs and we kids would hoard the trinkets.

Now I am the parent buying for the teachers with my two children. Whilst I very much appreciate the support and hard work of my children's teachers, I am not willing to spend more than a couple of pounds on end of term gifts. The children are moving up a's not like it will have any positive influence on their marks or report!! Too late by then! 

Retailers don't half make the most of this time of year though.

I thought I would post a couple of ideas for under £5 and over....but not much over!

I have bought these napkins above for my son's teachers. The cost between £2 and £3. I don't know about you, but I'd be happy receiving them...particularly with summer holidays round the corner (??). The butterfly notebook for a retiring teacher is another choice. Under £6 and again, pretty and the sort of thing that has some practical use.

I had a little look online and picked out the following:

The above gifts are from the East of India company. The 'Thank you' candle is £6.99, the shopping list pad £4.99 and the book mark, which I quite liked is £2.50. All 3 are pretty but practical. The mug is £4.75. All of these are available on Amazon.

Here's a good insider tip for you. If your children's teachers have children of their own......just buy them a box of chocolates...or biscuits....or sweets! Rest assured.....they will be very much appreciated!!!