New Year & New Loo

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Firstly, Happy New Year! I hope that your celebrations were fun and that 2015 has got off to a good start.

We had a very enjoyable, if hectic, time with family and friends but with the kids back at school we are slowly getting back into our normal routine which I have to say feels like a good thing: there are only so many mince pies and sherries a girl can take after all.

As mentioned in my last post, I have a few recent projects to share with you and I thought I’d start off with our newly redecorated downstairs loo. This wasn’t really a project I’d anticipated doing any time soon, however I’d picked up the wrought iron Queen Victoria balcony remnant at an antiques fair recently and thought it might look good on the wall in there. Coupled with the fact I had a few days to myself in the week before Christmas, I decided to get cracking on a cheap and cheerful makeover.

Downstairs Loo

Downstairs Loo

Whilst it might be more cheerful than before, it didn’t actually end up being quite as cheap as I’d envisaged. Within half an hour of starting, disaster struck when I propped up the Queen Victoria piece on the loo to see how it looked, only for it to slip and smash the cistern lid and the loo seat. The replacement was an eye-watering price on account of the loo being discontinued, but the people at HM James were super-helpful and I had the new lid within 24 hours: impressive stuff.

With the demolition phase behind me, this room then required nothing more than paint as we replaced the light, mirror and the splash back tiles some time ago: the only new addition (other than the vengeful Queen Vic) is the wooden blind at the window.

Whilst this might be the smallest room in the house, it was long overdue a little TLC. It’s also right by the front door (and usually on view given my kids’ penchant for leaving the door wide open) so it’s good to have said goodbye to shabbiness and hello to a fresh new look for the New Year.

Sourcebook:

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Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year

Trygve M Davidsen

Preparations for Christmas have felt like a total marathon this year: I think I’ve been juggling too much recently (oh, when will I learn?) but today I think I may have turned a corner as I  finally feel as though I am making headway on the old ‘To Do’ list. This time tomorrow I hope I’ll be kicking back with G&T and starting to enjoy the festivities.

As well as our master bedroom makeover that I recently mentioned, I also have a few other projects that I’ll be sharing, so I look forward to getting back into the swing of regular blogging in 2015 and I hope you’ll join me. In the meantime, thank you for reading my posts and for the lovely comments. I hope you all have a very happy Christmas and New Year!

Image: The Matchbox by Trygve M. Davidsen

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Before & After: En Suite

Life has been getting in the way of blog posts lately, but it’s nice to be back to show you the fruits of some of my labours over the last few months.

As well as keeping an eye on the construction of the new garage, my painting clothes have been getting some wear as I have revamped not one, but two rooms in the house. Over the summer we embarked on a long-awaited master bedroom makeover which is now 99% complete with only some cupboard doors waiting to be trimmed and refitted. What is finally finished however is the master en suite which, despite its diminutive size, actually took longer than the bedroom on account of the relative complexity of the job (more of which below). In fact it took so long I was starting to get a bit fed up by the end if truth be told so it was with a happy heart that I downed brushes and moved our stuff back in.

A makeover post would obviously be no fun without some slightly dodgy ‘Before’ pictures that we took when buying the house, so here goes:

En Suite Before

En Suite Sink Before

It was a perfectly useable little space but was looking a bit tired and the blue/beige combo wasn’t really our thing. As per the other makeovers that I’ve shared here before, this is another tactical one: in other words we’ve tried to keep things relatively cheap as we have grander plans involving builders down the line and simply want to make the house more ‘us’ while we save up for the big stuff.

While painting the ceiling was challenging on account of the slopes, the biggest job by far was repainting the border tiles around the room. This involved masking off every other tile before applying undercoat and then a couple of top coats of oil eggshell which each took 16 hours to dry. There was a fair bit of touching up when the tape was removed as well. I then had to repeat the process for the alternate tiles (cue much sighing).

It may have taken a while to finish but we are very happy with the results: the colours are restful, toning in beautifully with the bedroom, and the blind seems to bounce light back into the room which, miraculously, makes it seem bigger than before.

En Suite - After

En Suite Sink - After

En Suite Details - After

I look forward to sharing the master bedroom with you soon, but in the mean time, here is a little sourcebook for the en suite:

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New Flower Bed: Update

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It is hard to believe that it was way back in March when I wrote about planning two new flowers beds in the vegetable garden. I had to put the hours in digging over the beds and making preparations for the new additions but it seems to have paid off as the plants quickly filled out over the summer, as you can see from the picture above (taken in July).

Some plants have been real stars: the Geranium ‘Rozanne’ just goes on and on, clambering over the box ball and contrasting beautifully with the lime green of the Alchemilla mollis. The Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’ are still going strong too although I must remember to stake them next year as they are currently flopping all over the place!

Flower Bed - Update

As predicted there are a few tweaks that I’d like to make: the yellow flowers are possibly a little dominating (cue spending an unhealthy amount of time deliberating as to what the right shade of yellow would be instead) and I think the Heuchera ‘Marmalade’ might be better elsewhere as it doesn’t blend in especially well. I’ve also decided I’d quite like some asters as I have spotted some really striking ones when out and about recently and I think some more blue would work well.

All in all though, it’s been a good start to the makeover and I’m sure I’ll be back out with my spade before too long.

P.S. As you may have spotted, I’ve been nominated for an Amara Interior Blog Award which was a really unexpected-yet-lovely surprise. Voting runs until 3rd October so should you feel inclined you can vote for me here and can catch up on posts about my home and garden here. Thank you!

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Outdoor Lights

Rookery Barns

It was a while ago that I mentioned we were in the throes of trying to obtain planning permission for some alterations to the house and that our resident bats were causing a few hiccups along the way. Well, I am pleased to say that after having the ecological survey conducted and then drawing up a plan of action to mitigate any impact on the bats – a process which took a the best part of a year – we have finally got the green light from the council.

The work is too expensive and disruptive to do in one go so we’ve decided t0 phase it over the coming years; I’m therefore excited to report that Phase One (a.k.a. Rebuilding the Garage) starts next week. The damp, rotting, flat-roofed monstrosity with the broken door is finally going to be replaced by a beautiful oak framed building with a store room upstairs and a log store to the rear, not dissimilar to the one pictured above. Much of the detailing has already been finalised with the builders but I am in the process of hunting down some outdoor lights to go above the barn doors and side door (any excuse for a bit of interiors, or rather exteriors, shopping).

Here’s a few that have caught my eye:

Outdoor Lighting

  1. Nordlux Luxembourg Outdoor Copper Wall Light
  2. Davey LED Mastlight
  3. Garden Trading St. Ives Downlight
  4. Garden Trading St. Ives Ships Light
  5. Jim Lawrence Boathouse Wall Light
  6. Hunza Wall Down Light

Images: Rookery Barns, John Lewis, Davey Lighting, Garden Trading, Jim Lawrence, Moonlight Design

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Viva España

Andalucia Sunset
It’s lovely to be back blogging after the inevitable hiatus while the kids were on holiday. The summer seemed to whizz by which is probably testament to the fact the we packed so much in: we ventured to Spain with friends, Northumberland with family and had lots of fun closer to home in between. I’ve also been working on a much needed revamp of our bedroom and en suite which I am really looking forward to sharing here in the coming weeks.

Andalucia

Our fortnight in Andalucía was a definite highlight of the holiday. We stayed in the mountains inland from Estepona which afforded us peace and quiet (well, to a point given we had five kids in tow), stunning scenery and the chance to explore the charming whitewashed villages of Casares and Gaucín on our doorstep.

Gaucin

Apart from the odd trip to the beach, most of the days were spent poolside and the evenings involved either home cooked feasts or a trip out to a local restaurant. As a group of gluttons foodies we were spoilt for choice with what was on offer locally: we stocked up on white peaches, gazpacho, chorizo and manchego from the supermarket and dined out on delicious tapas, barbecued fish and roasted meats (all washed down with plenty of rosé). Suffice to say, we ate well.

Flowers & Olives

Despite being warm(ish) at the moment, it feels as though we’ve said goodbye to summer now that the kids are back at school and the garden is starting to take on the odd autumnal hue. I think we’re all relishing the return to a vaguely normal routine though and I’m looking forward to having the time to share lots of projects, updates and discoveries with you over the coming months.

Until next time…

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Peas from the garden

Pea 'Hurst Greenshaft'

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This year is the first time we’ve grown peas from seed and they’ve been a resounding success. Picking them has become a daily ritual in the last week or so and is especially enjoyable in the early evening when the sun starts to sink behind the hills and the pods are backlit: silhouetting the bounty within and highlighting the tendrils which coil their way around anything in their path.

We are making good use of the harvest in the kitchen; earlier this week I livened up some barley couscous with raw peas, lightly cooked broad beans, mint and feta which were lightly dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. Just perfect on a warm summer’s evening.

Barley Couscous with Peas & Broad Beans

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RHS Chelsea Flower Show: Part 2

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Slightly later than planned, but I’m back with Part 2 of my post about The Chelsea Flower Show: this time with my highlights from inside the Grand Pavilion.

With a vague threat of rain on the day, a lot of people spent the morning looking around the show gardens outside. Being contrary types, Mum and I decided to do the opposite and head indoors to enjoy the spectacular displays put on by various nurseries and specialist growers in relative peace.

After the spectacle of the show gardens, the Great Pavilion offers the chance to window shop and chat to the growers: we sought advice on deterring slugs from the the gentleman at the Bowdens Hostas stand (use WD40 on the sides of pots apparently), Mum had a mystery clematis identified and we swooned over the delicious smell of newly launched The Lady of the Lake rose at David Austin Roses.

For sheer charm though, The Peter Rabbit Herb Garden won me over; the judges were impressed too it seems as it was awarded a well-deserved Gold Medal. Replicating illustrations from the books, the garden was planted with a medley of culinary and medicinal herbs, heritage vegetables and cottage garden flowers; Peter himself nestled amongst the radish patch and his blue jacket was used as a scarecrow in the vegetable plot. Forget manicured lawns and prairie planting; I think this is garden we all secretly want to spend our days pottering in!

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It was nigh on impossible to come away from the show without a host of ideas for our own gardens: on my wishlist are the beautiful rose that I mentioned and the ethereal Silene fimbriata which would look beautiful in the shady woodland garden I’d like to create at the front of the house one day.

The Lady of the Lake & Silene Fimbriata

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Cable & Cotton

Cable & Cotton

When decorating my son’s room last year I bought a set of Cable & Cotton string lights to hang behind the armchair where he likes to sit and read; a little finishing touch that he was thrilled with as they look great and add a bit of interest. Since then my daughter has dropped the occasional (unsubtle) hint about getting some of her own, so when Cable & Cotton got in touch recently and offered to send me some to review, I knew exactly which room they were destined for.

I chose some string lights and decided to get creative with the ‘Pick your own’ option which allows almost endless colour combinations, although should you find yourself stumped there are pre-selected options available too. My daughter’s room is decorated in shades of aqua with the odd hint of pink and white so I opted for shades in Pale Pink, Pure White, Moss Green and Ice Blue: the online design tool cleverly divvies up the colours according to the number of lights you’ve chosen so you get an idea of how the finished string could look.

Assembling the string lights is pretty straightforward as it’s simply a case of pushing the individual fairy lights into the shades: thankfully the balls – which are made from cotton thread and natural gum – are surprisingly robust and were easily pushed back into shape when the odd dent occurred. In fact, I think the hardest bit was deciding what order to put the colours in so there was a fair amount of chopping and changing but the lights were none the worse for wear at the end of it.

Cable & Cotton - Assembly

Hung from a clear hook behind my daughter’s armchair they give off a gentle glow and cast twinkly shadows at night: another lovely finishing touch and hopefully an end to the heavy hints… for the time being anyway.

Cable & Cotton - Assembled

These lights were kindly sent to me by Cable & Cotton – all opinions are my own.

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RHS Chelsea Flower Show: Part 1

Chelsea 2014 - The Telegraph Garden by Tomaso del Buono & Paul Gazerwitz

The Telegraph Garden by Tommaso del Buono & Paul Gazerwitz

After watching the BBC coverage wistfully for the last few years, my Mum and I finally realised a little dream of ours this week and visited the The RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

It’s always a worry when you’ve built something up into being a Big Deal that it will somehow fall short of expectations but, despite the crowds, we had such a fun, inspiring day and came home buzzing with ideas for our own gardens, lists of plants to search out and a few thoughts as to how we might spend any future lottery win.

Whilst the TV coverage is great at showing you sweeping panoramic views of the gardens and providing interesting insights into the work of the designers and growers, what was brilliant about actually being there is having the time to take in all the detail: seeing the colours, textures and little touches close up gave real insight into what makes these gardens so beautiful.

Needless to say, I took a lot photos (many of which fall into the somewhat geeky ‘future reference’ category). Of those that are blog-worthy, here are some of my favourites from the Show Gardens, Artisan Gardens and trade stands.

Show Gardens

Chelsea 2014 - M&G Garden by Cleve West The M&G Garden by Cleve West

Chelsea 2014 - The Telegraph Garden - Tomaso del Buono & Paul Gazerwitz

The Telegraph Garden by Tommaso del Buono & Paul Gazerwitz

Chelsea 2014 - The Laurent-Perrier Garden by Luciano Giubbilei The Laurent-Perrier Garden by Luciano Giubbilei

Artisan Gardens

Chelsea 2014 - The Topiarist's Garden by Marylyn AbbottThe Topiarist’s Garden by Marylyn Abbott

Chelsea 2014 - The DialAFlight Potter's Garden by Nature Redesigned

Chelsea 2014 - The DialAFlight Potter's Garden by Nature Redesigned

Chelsea 2014 - The DialAFlight Potter's Garden by Nature RedesignedThe DialAFlight Potter’s Garden by Nature Redesigned

Trade Stands

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Alitex

Chelsea 2014 - Willie Wildlife SculpturesWillie Wildlife Sculptures

To avoid Chelsea-overload I’ll leave it there for now but I’ll be back soon with some of my highlights from the Great Pavilion.

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