Sunday, 18 January 2015

Sundays - The fantasy versus the reality!

Sundays, in my head, are all about lazing around in comfy clothes, reading the Sunday papers and then lighting a fire and curling up on the sofa watching a good film.....possibly Great Expectations ( John Mills version) or something like that. The children will be playing together harmoniously or sitting doing their homework, unaided.

The reality is not quite this. We did watch a film. Postman Pat the Movie. Quite good....but not my choice. Scruffs? Not quite. Half way house with that one. I'm not dolled up to the nines, but with the possibility of a visit from friends, I thought I'd better make half an effort, at least.

In this respect, I have not learned from my mum. I once turned up at my parents' house, unexpectedly, to find mum in the garden wearing what I can only describe as the outfit of a mad woman. This consisted of short wellies, knee socks, cut off trousers and my dad's jumper. The piece de resistance was a scarf tied round her head with her hair poking up above like an erupting volcano. Not exactly The Good Life's Barbara! I was accompanied by a friend  (male) who had not met my parents before....Goodness knows what he thought.

The homework challenge is always something we look forward to. It's a battle of wills really. The combination of a  nearly 11 year old who will not be told when her answer is not quite (completely wrong) right and a 5 year old who is just not interested, full stop. (Unless it is crafting an imaginary creature out of toilet rolls and paint.) Harmonious it never is! I rarely feel as hot and bothered as I do than after homework sessions.....and I know I am not alone on this one!

I did get to have a quick glance at the property section of the paper. There was an article on range cookers which caught my eye.

I have never hankered after a real range....of the Rayburn, Aga variety. Always makes me smile (inwardly, of course) when, on property programs, house viewers enter a kitchen and coo the minute they spy a range or a Belfast sink....both, and they are unable to contain themselves!  Those I know that have ever owned a range (the real deal...not an electric version) complain of the inefficiency of running one in terms of fuel costs and the impracticability of having them on all the time.

The article concludes with a section on  quick and easy ways to cut your bills, in addition to ditching the range, taken from Good Housekeeping. Always of interest. I'm stealing their pointers....but they sounded like sensible ones.

  • Put foam strips on draughty windows and doors and this claims to save £35 - £50 per year. Secondary glazing also a worthwhile and cost effective solution.
  • Turn off the television instead of leaving it on standby. Claims to save £50-£90 per year.
  • Install a water efficient shower head for as little as £30. Could save a family of 4 £75 a year plus a further £90, if, like us, you are on a water meter. And/or, for a couple of pounds, add a shower timer.
  • Turning down your thermostat by just 1ºC can cut heating bills by around £75 a year according to the Energy Saving Trust. Save even more by turning off the radiators in rooms you rarely go in.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Post Christmas blues...and greens and neutrals....

Well. It's all over for another year. The tree is down and all the dec's are wrapped in tissue and back in their boxes,  tucked up and hibernating until next year.
The one good thing about de-Christmasing the house is that it is never cleaner!  Dust, like tumbleweed appears from behind the tinsel and in corners where furniture has been temporarily moved in order to house the tree.
With Christmas bringing a much needed respite from all things decorating related (in my own home at least...), I am now refreshed and ready to launch into 2015's projects.
A possible wallpapering of the downstairs cloak maybe?
Here are a few choice examples of contemporary wallpapers that I think would look great in a bathroom, downstairs loo or anywhere else for that matter!
Papers chosen from Zoffany, Cole & Son, Farrow & Ball, Sophie Conran for Arthouse and Harlequin.




Thursday, 4 December 2014

My Next-ra special Christmas wishlist!

As with many parents of young children at this time of year, I always think it's a nice touch to sit down with the littles and get them to write a letter to Father Christmas.  

Now, Father Christmas always replies...though he has somewhat made a rod for his  own back I feel,  in so far as he always hand writes the reply in a style very reminiscent of the writing in JRR Tolkien's 'Letters From Father Christmas'!  

It is mere coincidence that we have that book!  I can recommend it.
A friend pointed out that, on request, Father Christmas will type a reply!  Wish I'd known that 3 years ago!
Neither of my two have any particular requests this year. Phew. The 'requests' have tended to be costly and often end in disappointment...particularly with the 10 year old. Mobile Phone? No! My own iPad? No! Horse? No! Alpaca? Errr. No! Ad infinitum. 
No requests means a letter to Santa asking him to use his imagination. Fantastic. I know Santa enjoys shopping for little, inexpensive items that will bring as much pleasure as all of the afore mentioned budget busters!

With that job done and dusted I was approached by Next to compile my Nextmas Wishlist top 10. How could I refuse? I put on Sinatra 'The Ultimate Christmas' and off I wandered in to fantasy Christmas wish list land!

So. Here goes. My list, as you might expect, is compiled from the Home and Furniture range. In no particular order, my Nextmas Wishlist top 10 is as follows....and I will be writing to Father Christmas in due course!
            1. Classic Velvet silver Westcot bedstead.....for elegance in the bedroom.
            2. Textured panel cotton bed set......who can resist crisp, white bedlinen? 
            3. Brooklyn TV unit......contemporary, smart yet functional. The perfect balance.
            4. 7ft Grove Pine Christmas tree.......for a real look without the dropping needles.
            5. Silver luxury fur throw........for cosy cuddles by the fire.
            6. Large Curve Arm floor lamp.....stylish lighting in on trend grey.
            7. White Geranium and Jasmine fragrance 3 wick candle.....Mmmm. The scent....
            8. Pewter beaded mirror....metallics are bang on trend.
            9. 200 LED bright white fairy lights.....never have enough of these!
           10. Silver Chrysanthemum wallpaper.......perfect for a feature wall.

Follow this link to see all of the above and many, many more delicious, stylish, festive products that could so easily have made my top 10.

Have a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2015. xxx


Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Batman! You've been eFrame.

We have recently tackled the children's bedrooms which was a relatively simple task. Carpets are being replaced later this month, but the rooms are stripped, lined and painted (white).

Both children chose blinds for their windows. This is not a curtain household, as you may have gathered. The five year old chose a lime green blind and the ten year old a raspberry pink blind. She is revisiting pink at the age of ten, having abandoned it for three or four years in favour of less 'girlie' colours.

Five year old then chose to replace his Mr Men framed poster with  more 'grown up' subjects, namely, Batman and his other superhero friends. I was happy to consider anything that wasn't Ninja Turtles! I actually think the old superhero posters have a strong design element....great colours. Captain America graces the playroom wall.....a particular favourite of the 'adult boy' in the house!

The Batman poster came from and I was lucky enough to have been approached by eFrame offering me a custom made frame at a discounted cost.  (Click on the link below to take you to their site.)

As this was for my son's superhero poster and not an inherited work of art, I chose a simple black reflective lacquer frame which lets the poster do the talking.

This photograph doesn't really do the framing justice. The frame perfectly suits the poster!

The eFrame service was excellent, I have to say. I asked a number of questions prior to ordering and the response was prompt and useful.This frame cost just under £50. Yes. You could go to Ikea and spend £20, but in actual fact I couldn't get the size required and also the general quality of construction (no gaping joints at corners...), backing and fixings is well worth the extra. The frame arrived well packaged and very quickly.  I was slightly surprised that the frame did not come with glass rather than plexi glass...but, again, eFrame came back to me straight away with a comprehensive response.

The frames come with what is called Clarity+ Glazing - Also known as plexi glass. It's 1.5mm thick and is sent out with 95% of eFrame frames.
This glazing has many advantages over and above traditional glass and actually costs  more money. eFrame swallow the additional cost as a company though because this is what they prefer the product to be shipped with.
They deal with many Top London Galleries and most of them choose to take this glazing over and above the 2mm float glass option (available on custom frames below 600mm x 600mm in size). Even the world famous auction house Christies takes this glazing option! I'm in good company then!
Not only do eFrame offer a comprehensive choice of custom and ready made frames but their site also has a 'design your own' section where you can upload a photo of your picture and then design your own frame and mount and see how it will look prior to ordering. A really useful tool. 


For more information on eFrame and for some great pointers in what to consider when framing pictures follow the links below.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

How much more mustard can a house take? I hope you are reading Jonathan Adler....!

I'm starting to ask myself, " when is enough enough?"

I'm sure my family will start asking before too long.

The colour mustard seems to have taken over my very being! As if a wall and cushions weren't enough I'm now planning a bedroom scheme and will shoe horn some mustard in there if it kills me! I blame a good friend, whom, on a recent trip to New York, bought me
these gorgeous Michael Aram napkins. Not a great pic, but, trust me, they are beauties. Fuelled my mustard love affair!

As we are nearing the end of our own mammoth house make-over, give or take another 3 rooms (!!), I am slowly losing a little I am re-directing into guiding others through their own house make-overs...but more of that in posts to come.

For our own bedroom I have scaled down my early enthusiasm and have started off as George Clarke would, by slapping crisp, white paint on every wall. I rather like it. No doubt at a later stage I will add some colour, it'll be too hard to resist, but for now, the white stays and I'm turning to bedding as a way of introducing some bold design.

This, I am finding frustrating. Flicking through my trusted magazines, I pulled out a couple of schemes which immediately appealed.     


I am instantly drawn to geometric prints and chevron in design. It's very 'definite' and that, for me, works perfectly when looking at more contemporary styling. Layering colours, pattern and fabrics help to soften what, alone, can be too strong a statement.
So the backdrop to any soft furnishings are white walls and a very plain, straightforward navy blue roller blind at the window purchased from  I will post a photo in due course, but the room is currently in a state of chaos, with bed and wardrobe dumped in the centre of the room whilst we plough on with the emulsion.
I excitedly logged on to the computer having decided I would try and find a throw, blanket or bedspread in a nice, mustard tone and a second bedspread in navy and white chevron. Oh dear. My excitement was short lived. I quite like the Tweedmill fishbone blanket below, and reasonable at around £40-£50. Apparently BHS do a mustard throw but not only could I only copy this tiny image, as seen below, but infuriatingly, when I tried to get on to their site, a message popped up saying the site had crashed due to Black Friday...which seems to have morphed in to Black Saturday! The sooner the whole sorry business is over and done with, the better!
Then on to the zig zag or chevron idea. Even worse! The only one I found was a fleece blanket below from at £35. May well be ok for a pop of zig zag, but fleece was not really what I wanted. 
What I really hanker after is a Jonathan Adler Alpaca zig zag throw, but cant quite reach the £295 price tag....but if you are reading, Jonathan, you are one of my design heroes and I would love to have one of your beautiful throws draped across my bed! I'm not too proud to grovel!
In the meantime, if any readers can point me in the direction of a cost effective alternative, I would love to hear from you.



Saturday, 1 November 2014

A splash of colour courtesy of Henri Matisse and Harold e Maude!


So....finishing touches include a couple of framed posters to add a little colour and interest to a room.
I struck a deal with my husband that I would choose one and he the other. Once I had steered him away from The Exorcist promo posters and Star Wars he decided on Harold and Maude. Phew! My choice was the Henri Matisse print, chosen particularly for its bold injection of colour. Excuse the quality of the pictures. I used my phone as my camera lens has been (little fingers, me thinks..) struck down by a mysterious ailment. I need a new camera in short! 


Figuring out what kind of artwork you like can be difficult. I tend to go for more casual artwork....tourism posters from cities visited, gallery advertising posters that sort of thing. I like the fact that the subjects have some personal meaning but also they tend to be quite bold and structural in style which I like. I also like architectural prints that also satisfy my like of a more structured, sharp style. The third picture, sat on the desk, is from a little art shop somewhere in deepest Derbyshire and is, I think, based on a Rembrandt, but in actual fact, when I googled the original, it looks nothing like this one! The original would have been much nicer, but Rembrandt prices are just that bit too much of a stretch for us! Quite like it all the same.
If you change your décor regularly (as I do) then buy more cost effective pieces and theme them around the colour palette. The two posters you see in the above scheme are from All Posters and cost a few pounds so can easily be changed at any point should I desire! They have loads of choice and regularly offer price promotions.
Location can be the deciding factor. You may prefer more calming artwork in the bedroom, more dramatic in the dining room and more relaxed in the living room or you may feel rules are there to be broken!
I've tried to link the prints chosen to the scheme, picking out particular colours and sticking to a more modern feel. However, you might have a piece of valuable artwork that may be a family heirloom or a piece you have invested in that may require the scheme to work around it rather than the other way round. If so, try positioning the artwork on different walls or alter the wall colour or surrounding furniture in order to accommodate the art.
Plain and/or white walls tend to be the best backdrop for art and this applies in general to furniture and art too....the less is more principal, especially if the picture is quite detailed or busy. Make it the star of the show.
For positioning on the wall, with average ceiling heights, pictures look best at eye level and if more than one, grouped to balance the width and height of the wall. For a more relaxed, loft like look, lean pictures on the floor against a wall. This works particularly well in bedrooms I think.

Above all, the artwork in your home should make you smile, relax, remember or wonder. 

Monday, 13 October 2014

Blue/black. Love it or loathe it?

We've just about finished the front room now bar the odd picture or two.

I think I like it.....

I argued with myself over colour along the fireplace wall. Too dark? Wrong shade all together?

The thing is, sometimes you just have to go for it. It's only a painted wall after all. I can change it relatively inexpensively if I decide it's not right. At the moment, I think it is.

I'll start with the 'before' picture taken from the agent's details. Very brown!

Fortunately this room is triple aspect and therefore benefits from lots of natural light. As a result we could afford to introduce some dark, bold colour. Sticking with a bit of a theme....though I try to avoid too much 'theming' I introduced some citrus zing via cushions and will in time bring in some further colour with pictures.

I didn't really want white walls everywhere, despite having originally planned to have white walls everywhere! We tested lots of wall colours including purples and greens but eventually plumped for Farrow and Ball 'Railings' along the chimney breast wall. Though this looks black on this photo, it is actually an intense blue. I don't really go for blue and black together, but on this occasion it actually helps that the wood burner is black as it clearly shows the blue in the wall if that makes sense.  

I don't know if any of you have seen that new Interior Designer challenge show that has been on recently, where amateur designers are let loose on members of the public's homes...presented by the woman that was a dealer on 4 Rooms? Anyway. Last week, one of the rooms featured a black wall and one of my friends happened to comment asking why anyone would paint a wall black?
Given that the room was quite small and quite traditional in style, I would agree. Black was completely wrong. Any kind of feature wall in a dark or bold print needs space and preferably light to sit comfortably. I'm not sure where they found these amateur designers, but I would have cried had they done any of the things they did on my house!
We haven't been out and bought new furniture for this room and so I have mixed a few more traditional items from the cottage with some slightly more contemporary touches. Margo, the cat, has a new cushion!
Wood burner - Charnwood
Stove and hearth fitting -
Paint - Farrow and Ball 'Railings' -
Sofas - Ikea
Cushions - John Lewis and Oka
Flooring - engineered, oiled oak.