I've had a really busy couple of weeks preparing for and attending the Kitchens, Bedrooms and Bathrooms exhibition at the NEC, Birmingham, working on one of the exhibitor stands. It was a great show but tiring work. Our efforts were rewarded by a glimpse of Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen who was giving a seminar on 'Future pyschotrends for the three most emotional rooms in the home....' - the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. Now Laurence strikes me as a having the marmite effect on people. Opinion is very very divided. Love him or loathe him, he is certainly charismatic and as a speaker, I found, very inspirational. He talks of surrounding your home with things that you love. Sounds obvious. It is. I must say, I checked out his website when I arrived home to see if I could successfully dispel the image of 'Changing Rooms' from my mind......all faux this and that and far too much MDF in my mind! It worked. Beneath the typically flamboyant design of LLB's website there are some really useful practical tips on all things interiors, from choosing colour to hanging mirrors to working with different spaces. Definitely worth a look if you are embarking on any serious home make-over. www.llb.co.uk. He scrubbed up well in a suit too!
Anyway. Back to the day out. I have been meaning, for some time now, to check out a couple of interiors shops in Baslow, a pretty village on the northern edge of the glorious Chatsworth House Estate.
I first heard of Avant Garde through a friend a few years ago and then read an article about the shop in Country Homes and Interiors magazine. Why it has taken me this long to actually go still puzzles me, but today was the day I finally paid my visit. I thought it would be a nice day out for the family. My husband is a Surrey boy and loves the rugged Derbyshire countryside, so he didn't take much persuasion. I promised the children that we would have a large slab of cake in a pretty village cafe at the end of it....so they happily hopped into their seats. On the way I pointed out local landmarks......yawns from the back seats and the odd grunt from the driver! I recalled my childhood....much the same really.....sitting in the back seat with my two brothers, listening to my parents waffling on about the wildlife we were missing out of the window and this stately home and that stately home. Yes, yes, yes....another pheasant...but when can we get out of the car and have some sweets?
If you haven't been and it is within reaching distance, then it is well worth a visit, especially if you can possibly combine it with a tour of the breathtaking Derbyshire Peak District and lunch in one of the many beautiful villages dotted around. Chatsworth House looked majestic with the sun shining down on it's newly unveiled face-lifted self. Again, I attempted to enthuse the children by telling them that their Grandad had indeed met the previous Duke of Devonshire. More yawns. My daughter was more interested in discussing the odds on any of the sheep in the grounds being run over by visitors and my two and a half year old son merely stated that the house itself would be big enough for him to live in! Delusions of grandeur at such a young age!
Avant Garde is a lovely mix of furniture, soft furnishings, paints (Annie Sloan paint stocked here....see my earlier blog discussing these paints.) ceramics, glassware, candles with a bit of jewellery and other gifts thrown in. It is beautifully presented and spans two shops.
I am all for the 'surrounding yourself with things you love' and so I purchased a cake stand and glass dome, as seen below.
I could easily have carried on. It is all too easy to be seduced into buying things you don't need when in such inviting surroundings! My hubby was most impressed. I did, however, on the way back to the car, stumble across Vintage Living, a few doors down, and found myself strangely drawn through the door. Oh dear. Here we go again! When you visit Avant Garde, make sure you step a few yards further and pop into Vintage Living. Sarah Copley, the owner, started out dealing in Antiques and has trained with Ann Maurice, House Doctor! Another wonderful find. A small shop crammed with lovely fabrics, painted furniture and exquisite soft furnishings. I will definitely be re visiting Baslow around Christmas time, if not before. I managed to squeeze in a little purchase this time. A beautiful silver ring with a large pale green stone. Infact, I bought two. I also came out with a purple one which will make the perfect Mother's Day gift. Apologies, Sarah, that the ring is displayed on an Avant Garde bag! I was truly inspired by you both!
The rings cost £8.99 each from Vintage Living (www.vintagelivingltd.co.uk) and the cake stand and dome £32.99 from Avant Garde (www.avantgardebaslow.co.uk).
The carrot cake under the dome was from the Chatsworth Farm Shop. A reward to two tired parents after a day of negotiating two small children around Derbyshire! I fear I will have to run an extra mile tomorrow as a result!
It was not exactly the relaxing day I had envisaged. I didn't have nearly enough time in either shop. The journey home was fraught with tired grumblings from the children who had truly had their fill of nature and soft furnishings for one day! A good dose of Fireman Sam soon sorted that. Never mind. It was worth it! I just think I might go on my own next time and spend longer browsing in these two heavenly hidden gems!