Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Bargain hunting in Nottingham....without the kids!

Yesterday I spent the whole day wandering around Nottingham, mostly window shopping as there is still quite a lot of sale stuff around and I'm afraid I can't cope with shopping in the sales. Some people are expert at it and I envy their skill in grabbing a fantastic bargain. Not I. I get irritable and by the time I have found something, it is probably not enough of a saving to warrant the aggro and more than likely I've picked something that I don't actually need. Anyway. That's just me.

However, on occasion, bargain hunting is not such a bad thing. I was chatting to a friend at a birthday party over the weekend and she is in the process of 'doing up' her new house at the moment. We got on to one of my favourite subjects, if you haven't already spotted this.....chairs. Specifically, dining chairs. The lovely lady in question has two young children and so she is looking for something with the obvious practical advantages...wipe clean, durable etc. etc. but still stylish and comfortable. Therein lies part of the problem. Does such a chair exist?

I can completely see where she is coming from. Her initial thoughts were of the super stylish, very statement piece, Eames DSW chair (and the DAW). A fabulous looking, modern yet uber classic (in design terms) chair which would look great against a modern table or a wooden table for that modern/traditional mix and it comes in a range of great colours. The reservation was comfort factor. Would it be upright enough for small children and is it a chair on which you could sit for extended periods of time whilst entertaining for example? All valid points.

I will endeavour to have a look around and see if I can find a chair that satisfies someone with an obvious eye for design who also needs a chair that meets practical/comfort requirements. Could be a tough one! I think if I had had my eye on an Eames chair (which incidentally, are really quite comfortable.) then I would struggle to compromise by looking any further! I think what you may lack, slightly, in comfort, you massively make up for in the fact that it is a great looking chair! What I might be inclined to do is to road test a more affordable alternative. Buy one. Live with it for a day or two.  Cult Furniture,(www.cultfurniture.com) do 'Eames style'  chairs, as well as other design classics (Navy chair, Panton, Starck etc). Essentially exactly the same as the original but at a fraction of the price. An original Eames can set you back £217 at least. Cult do an Eames style chair for £49 plus delivery. I have to say I cannot comment on the quality as I have yet to order through them, but I am about to order an office chair for my husband's office and so will give them a test drive. You would have to pay for returns, but that's unlikely to be to the tune of £217!

For a slightly more affordable option to an Eames original, I had a good sit in a couple of dining chairs at John Lewis. My friend is not a big fan of stackable chairs, yet I have to say, the Gel chairs in John Lewis and the Swirl chair, both below, were very very comfortable and come is some lovely modern, zingy colours. Yes. They are stackable (I wouldn't stack them!), and perhaps not to everyone's taste, but if you do like the design, I think you'll like the comfort factor. The Swirl chair in particular was firm, yet  really quite comfortable.

Eames DSW chair £217

John Lewis Swirl chair £130

John Lewis Gel chair £99

I did make a bargain purchase today. My son loves the Mr Men and Little Miss characters and I'd spotted this bright, jolly picture in John Lewis for £120. I then spotted the wrapping paper in the card section for £2.00, so I bought a sheet of paper and a frame from Ikea and 'Bob's your Uncle'...job done for less than £20! The large picture below is my version!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Dining dilemmas...in more ways than one!

Cor. What a week! Isn't the snow great? Doesn't it whip a lot of folk into a frenzy?! Schools close and we all have conversations about how hardy we were as children and about how schools only closed when pipes burst and the heating failed, and the roads become a little dodgy in places so we have to slow down... unless of course, you happen to be a van driver, in which case (and it is probably only a minority of all the great van drivers out there...) the road conditions matter not. As I was tootling home on Friday night, along an A-road that had begun to get a covering of snow despite the traffic, I must have been overtaken by at least 8 vans all going along at 70mph at least despite the conditions! Does it not occur to them that they might be endangering other drivers? No. I guess it doesn't.

I've been trying this week to come up with some new meals for my children. At 3 and 8 they are at that quite fussy stage. Mushrooms and tomatoes are the food of the devil as far as they are concerned, as is anything green...or orange. It makes for either really predictable, boring meal times or very difficult mealtimes! I'm conscious that egg and soldiers or spaghetti and sausages is probably not the most balanced diet and that a little variation...and so far the only variation on these has been soldiers and egg instead of egg and soldiers...and sausages and spaghetti! (Does that count?) Last night I consulted Annabel Karmel and made them burgers using grated apple and peppers chopped so finely they almost disappeared. I thought they were lovely, and was sure the kids would fall for it. The result was it took them 2 hours to eat dinner and lots of bribery! Back to the drawing board.

On the subject of dining, I have had conversations with a couple of friends this week about dining tables. What style to choose? Where to buy? I thought I would do a quick post as a result. As with most things, prices vary considerably with such significant items of furniture. If your budget is a little more limited I do think good old Ikea has a selection of tables to suit most styles. Made.com are also very good for modern and vintage. M&S, John Lewis etc. are the mid range and then there are the others! If you haven't the budget, the expensive sites are worth visiting for ideas as you can normally re create the look for a lot less...

Below are a selection of tables and schemes, modern and traditional and a mix. (Made.com, Ikea, M&S, Habitat and Oka) I quite like the mix of modern and traditional...a wooden table with modern chairs for example.

A great site to log on to if you are considering re decorating or re-styling a room is www.housetohome.co.uk. This is a brilliant website where you can sit and browse 100's of pictures of different room ideas and you can even create your own moodboards! I thoroughly recommend taking a look!

Ikea dining table Glivarp £250

Ikea Ingatorp extendable table £250

Marks and Spencer do a similar chair to the ones above in a range of colours at great prices as do www.made.com.

Above - Aspen dining table Habitat £250 

Round Orb dining table Oka £890

Marks and Spencer (above) - Greenwich and Padstow extendable tables £439 - £639

Above and below - Joseph dining table £249 and Bourbon vintage table £299 www.made.com (really good for funky/retro dining chairs too.)

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

January blues.

I thought I would go and suss out the latest Marks and Spencer Home range yesterday for something to do.

I didn't actually need anything (which is a dangerous statement to make!) so I was purely window shopping. I did buy a woolly pom pom hat....but mostly because I have the world's largest head and tons of hair and this hat was, if anything, too big! A first for me, so I bought it on that basis.

I haven't been to Marks for home wares for a while. I thought it went slightly off the boil some while back in all respects. Anyway. I thought there were quite a few nice bits and bobs and as my brother and family are in the process of buying a new (brand new) house, I am in need of ideas and inspiration. My sister in law has asked for help with buying for the new pad. They won't mind me saying that they are upsizing in a fairly considerable way. I had a text from the sis in law, slightly in awe of the fact that she has a 5 ringed all singing all dancing gas hob at the new house but she has only ever cooked on 2! Time to dust down those cook books Mrs B! You will no doubt be hearing more of Mrs B and her progress over the forth coming months!

As if house moving isn't stressful enough, the thought that you then might have to start thinking about curtains, blinds, colours, sofas etc etc is fairly daunting stuff. Where do you start if you don't have fixed ideas in your head already? Well, grab as many magazines as you can possibly find the time or inclination to flick through, and tear out pages with room schemes you like/love and don't like at all, considering colour, style and light and take it from there. It's probably the best way to unscramble and translate what might be in your head if, like the majority of us, you can't employ someone to do it for you!

The M&S Home freebie magazine (this latest edition), I think, is quite a good source of ideas and inspiration and I will be sending a copy her way.

Here are one or two of the things I spotted on my travels. Classic blue and white....but it just works so well. If you are moving to a modern house or if you fancy adding something new in the kitchen without great expense, then mugs and other accessories are a great way of doing it. Mugs and shoes are two of my biggest downfalls! I can't resist adding a couple of new mugs to the collection and I rarely drink tea or coffee! These would look great in a modern or more traditional setting as would the clocks. The seersucker bedding comes in 4 colour choices and again, provides a great base for throws, quilts etc. I wouldn't normally go for  something like the Magnolia bedding, but I have to say, when I saw it I thought it looked fab and if I had a bright, more modern bedroom, I would definitely choose it.

cross stitch wave mug £5

hand painted fish mug £5

cross stitch fish mug

bunting wall clock £25

white metal wall clock with blue hands £25

Magnolia bedding from £39.50

Autograph seersucker
bed sets from £19.50

Sunday, 13 January 2013

An Ikea New Year!

Oh, how Christmas already seems a dim and distant memory.....apart from when I try to squeeze into my jeans that appear to still be full of mince pies and Quality Street! Either that, or my belts have shrunk!

Early into the New Year, the day after boxing day to be precise, I embarked on a mission to review the storage/playing surfaces in the room that we call the playroom. In all honesty, this is a little misleading. My husband lists it ('playroom') as one of his 'pretentious' descriptions. It is actually a redundant room, which became a general dumping ground for kids toys and a spare TV mainly because it is a walk-through room from the front door and small entrance hall and therefore can serve little other purpose. It is where the children play though, and therefore it's a playroom....sorry darling!

Just whilst we're on the subject of my husband and his 'pretentious' labels....he also pointed out to me that my Christmas post featured another such description. He commented that referring to my parents' 'orchard' sounded extremely pretentious and that he didn't approve!

With this in mind, to any readers who may feel the same, I apologise. As children, we always referred to the end of my parents' garden, which does happen to be a little larger than your average garden, as the 'orchard'. It has a variety of fruit trees (more than one!) and the grass is longer.  As far as we were concerned it was an orchard. I have, however, vowed that I will try harder not to use language that could be construed as 'pretentious'! I haven't yet told him about the room we referred to as the 'parlour'!

It kind of got me thinking about the whole blogging thing and why I did it. Some people raise an eyebrow when I tell them that I am an online blogger. I can hear them asking 'why?' and 'Who do you think you are imparting your advice on others?' to the more basic 'Get a life!'

Well, the reason I do this is because I enjoy the writing element as much as anything else. I find it quite relaxing. Also, people do ask me questions on a frequent basis about decorating, interiors etc and therefore it is of some use to some people. I'm not preaching, just sharing a few ideas of things that might work, or not and of places/shops that may be worth a visit.

Back to New Year. The children received a wonderful array of presents this Christmas.....construction sites, garages, cars and Lego friends. Before Christmas we had a secret cull of existing toys to make way for the new haul. What we needed was more storage and good playing surfaces. There was only one answer, given that Christmas had already been the usual costly event! Ikea! You should have seen my husband's face when I suggested an Ikea trip the day after Boxing Day!

The results are as follows, and actually, I am really pleased with our purchases. Inexpensive and slightly more expensive...but still cheaper options than alternatives.

Apologies for the quality of the photographs. Believe me when I say that they look much better in the flesh.

Expedit shelving units £20 each plus £2.50 for the canvas storage boxes.

Besta TV unit (in 2 sections) £120 for the whole.

I hope you all had a great Christmas and have a happy and healthy 2013.