Saturday, 21 February 2015

How tastes change

Hope you're having a good weekend.   We took a lovely long walk along the beach front.  Did I say it was  a long walk? I've got blisters because I walked in boots instead of my Nike's and I don't really do trainers unless I'm doing exercise.  It was cold.  My cheeks felt like sheets of ice, but oh was it good to get out in the sunshine!

When I was in my late teens I was introduced to antiques by my then boyfriend’s mother Mrs C. They had lived in Singapore for many years and her house was a veritable haven of eastern antiquities. She often attended auctions and would come back with lovely items, mostly small but I was fascinated with what she turned up with.   As a shy 18 year old, when she noticed my interest in her furniture pieces, she would try and engage me in conversation and I soon caught the antiques bug.  She started buying me small pieces for my birthday and Christmases and I still have these beautiful items she bought me  and I use them all the time.   I will forever be grateful for her interest and  for taking time to share her passion with me. I started collecting the odd piece, mostly silver spoons and cutlery, and the later crockery, and then when I started earning money, larger pieces of furniture.  Back in the early 80s I was absolutely and completely in love with antiques or any piece of furniture that looked like it had lived a hundred years before me, not for me the bright colours and disco balls of the time!  

Victorian Armoire - Worthy of one's finest personal accoutrements, this exquisitely crafted cabinet is inspired by the massive freestanding closets that our grandparents knew. 81x24x81".

FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT   An Oak Reclining Armchair, designed for the William E. Martin House, Oak Park, Illinois, circa 1902
Throughout the years, my love affair with antiques hasn’t waned, I’d mix antique pieces with Turkish rugs and more modern pieces and although my taste changed ever so slightly, sometimes taking a few steps sideways, I never really deviated from my first love. I’ve being doing the eclectic look for more than 20 years now.  An odd collection of different eras which all seem to work rather well together.  When I talk antiques, I am not talking pieces worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, more in the three and four digit category.  Moving on 20 years or so and 3 grown up children later I found some of the heavy darker pieces too cumbersome too old worldly, so I sold a few pieces.  Once we moved to England, I couldn't fit some pieces into my home here, they were too big and bulky and I couldn't get them up the narrow stairs.  So they were eBayed much to my children’s disapproval.   I felt I wanted to go lighter, brighter and more French Provençal. (Being in a dark drizzly country does that to one).   Lighter in weight and in colour, more suitable for small rooms and narrow staircases.  I went all shabby for about five minutes and I started buying painted pieces that had been slightly distressed, whether naturally aged or intentional.  Fortunately I didn't buy too much in this French phase, it was more like a school girl crush on an older good looking French boy  who I soon found didn't have much of a personality, so I lost interest. 

Going for table setting for Christmas 2014 up on the blog
(The Victorian hors d'oeuvre cutlery is part of a set of 8 which I received as a gift from Mrs C in the early 80s)

New-York : Prospect Park sur / Photos : Andrea Chu.

I'm still in love with good craftsmanship. It’s in the genes.  Love a piece of wood.  Have been known to caress a piece until I get the odd look from the store owner as I run my hands down the legs or over the table top.  And there are some décor trends  I will never like and some pieces and accessories that will stay with me until I die and I'm not particularly bothered whether they are trendy or not, they are mine and I love them.    But  lately I'm liking more mid-century pieces, pieces with simpler lines, and less fuss,  especially the sideboards and armchairs… might be something to do with my age….so what do you think?  Has your style changed over the years or do you still have the same pieces your bought 20 years ago…I’d love to know, please do share!

Sharing a lovely pic of flowers from last year.

Until next time!

Monday, 16 February 2015

When you rent - part two

We had a very non-valentines weekend …instead our weekend was spent moving furniture from one room to the other.  Our Honeybee left in December so we did a big clean out of her bedroom and at the same time moved our son’s room around.  He’s now got a double divan and he’s loving the transformation from a cluttered bedroom with too many pieces of furniture he didn't really need, to a more streamlined ‘sophisticated’ look – his words not mine! I won’t be posting pics because we've taken down shelving and poly filling holes and still need to paint, but perhaps in a few months I might share a photo or two.

So my previous post was all about what you’re stuck with when you rent a property which might have sounded a little depressing, but on the upside this post is about things that you can change and take with you when you eventually move out onto the property ladder.  Not everything is bad news though.  Some landlords might even let you paint your walls white or any other colour as long as you paint them back again before you move out.  It’s worth asking.   Magnolia walls you can live with, cream carpets you can live with, dark brown carpets…well you need to get clever... (it's a long post as I wanted to eloborate on certain elements so hope you stay with me for the journey!)

Front door

The first thing you see as you approach your new home is the front door.  This is the easiest thing to change from drab to fab. When we did the little house renovation last year, one of the first things we did was to paint the front door a beautiful pale ocean blue and add new shiny hardware.  If you feel like taking a peek it’s here: front door and the dining room here.  It instantly made the façade more appealing and it says a lot about what the interior might look like.  I liken the front door to the saying ‘the eyes are the window to our soul’… a dark worn out front door with broken hardware and peeling paint gives you a depressed feeling even before you’ve opened the front door…whereas a lovely front door speaks volumes about what lies beyond and gives you a feeling of anticipation and joy at what you might encounter once inside.  At least that’s how I feel!  And it’s probably one of those things that your landlord won’t mind you doing as long as you improve the look.  New chrome or brass hardware can be purchased on eBay or in hardware stores.  If you can’t change the door colour or hardware, add a few hanging baskets with some colourful flowers instead!


One thing you can change in a rented home are the light fittings.  Everything looks better in ambient lighting.  Middle of the ceiling pendant lights are fine if you need to see everything in bright daylight colours, but table lamps give off a softer glow and create cosiness and intimacy that pendant lights just don’t do.   They are easy to remove and new light fittings which suit your style can be purchased and you can take them with you when you move.  Keep the original light fittings in a box in the garage or up in the loft.  The effect of a great table lamp in a space is hugely underrated.  I’m not talking some little 30cm lamp with some shady shade plopped on top, I’m talking about great table lamps, make sure they are big tall and sculptural with an interesting texture.  And of course candles…they offer a special kind of softness, a romantic feel as well as making your home smell rather nice.


So you’ve got cream or dark brown carpet throughout the downstairs, except the kitchen. Even the dining room has been carpeted.  I can never understand a property owner laying down carpet in the dining room... has he thought this over carefully?  Probably not, instead of investing a little extra into wood laminate or real wood or ceramic tile flooring, he’s put down carpet. Carpets get dirty, very quickly.  We sit, we eat, we drink, we spill, and before long the new carpet in the dining room is full of nasty splodges.   So now you need to get the carpet cleaners in to do the entire house….I could go on as carpets are my pet hate.  Read my post here on flooring:  floored…so if your dining room has a carpet you don’t like you could lay a rug underneath your dining table and chairs.  It’s also got the added bonus of zoning off the area, which is great when you have one big open plan space.  A patterned rug will camouflage splodges and spills and can be wiped off more readily than having an entire carpet cleaned.   The rug needs to be larger all the way around your dining room table and all four chair legs need to sit on the carpet with plenty spare on the sides…again at least 60cm all round.

If your lounge floor is dark and your sofa is dark, and it’s all feeling like the sofa has organically grown out of the brown carpet, then you need a large colourful or patterned rug to differentiate between the floor and the sofa to make it feel less like Hobbit Land.   You can have several rugs layered on top or next to each other.  Turkish rugs look particularly good layered over or next to each other if you go for a similar colour.

Accessorising with mirrors and artwork:

You collect art, have a few great canvasses or framed pieces but you can’t hang them up.  If you have a chest of drawers or a sideboard then you can use this piece of furniture to prop up some art so you still get to see your great pieces.  Prop art onto chests of drawers with a lamp and some accessories. Displaying your art, framed and unframed along the floor is a great way to increase the interest factor in your room although if you don’t have much floor space, it might make it feel cluttered.    Large floor standing mirrors look really good and can make a space feel bigger.

Think about what you’d like your own home to look like and start to furnish your rented space with pieces of furniture that you actually love and want to keep for the long term.  This will stop you going on a shopping spree and just randomly buying pieces of furniture just because they are cheap or fit the space you currently have.  Dress up your existing sofa with great cushions and throws, again make sure you’re not just picking up any old cushion in any old colour and hoping it’s all going to magically come together… try and stick to your chosen colour scheme.  If you know you’ll change the sofa a few years down the line, throw on a couple of sheep skins for texture and a few cushions to hide the sofa.


Some people collect shells, others collect cameras and they want them displayed so that others can see how passionate they are about their passion!  This is where those Billy bookcases will come in handy, because you can go all American on them and start hanging pictures from the bookcases alongside those books and CDs together with your collection of WWII paraphernalia!    Paint the backs of the bookcases in a contrasting colour to create depth or wallpaper them.  I recommend you paint or wallpaper these before you assemble them.


Painting old pieces of furniture is the easiest way to upcycle existing pieces of furniture.  Sometimes they just need to be painted in a different colour to give them life again.  Paint the side tables and the coffee table if they are too similar in shade to the carpet. Or invest in some glass and chrome or marble and wood coffee tables or whatever style take your fancy. You might need to save for these, but if you make a list of what you really want to purchase for the long term, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can tick them off your wish list.

Plant power:

Add plants, big ones, a palm tree, a Ficus Benjamina, or a Fiddle leaf fig tree…they create oxygen as well as giving us that calming peaceful feeling that we get around nature and they are green, which complements all colour schemes.  If you only have blinds and can’t hang your own curtains, plants can soften the sharp lines of the window, but make sure you have tall ones, as well as medium sized and small plants.   Love a plant. Prop them on window sills, bathrooms, bedrooms and anywhere you like.  If you’re not good with plants, go faux.  Faux plants are good, they don’t need watering either.

You have a bed and you've got bedside tables or not.  If not, you can improvise.  Bedside tables do not need to be tables.  They can be an antique chair or a few vintage crates or even a low chest of drawers. Or you can just go traditional, that’s fine too, just pump up the visual volume by adding lamps and accessories. You can’t hang wallpaper but you can get a sheet of MDF cut to the size of your bed and cover it in your favourite wallpaper, propped behind your bed, or drape it with a stunning fabric and it can be as tall as you want it to be. Instant headboard, instant visual interest for little cost.

Beds look great dressed in white bedlinen, but if you’re into colour I’m not going to try and convince you otherwise.  Some people like cushions, others hate them and wonder why we have to dress the bed in six different sized cushions only to have to pack them away every night when they go to sleep…but cushions do make a bed look gorgeous and well dressed, without them it’s like wearing a little black dress without the heels…you’ve got the jewellery, the hair, the earrings, the clutch, but you’re still wearing the flats that you fetched the kids in from school…so cushions do it for me…and a chunky textured throw draped over the bed adds to the cosy factor when you’re reading your favourite book on a drizzly Sunday afternoon...

Cream carpets in the bedroom give you a neutral background which will complement any colour scheme, but dark brown, now that needs taming….so rugs are a must here.  You’ll need a fairly large rug that sits mostly outside of the bedframe so it covers the carpet you don’t like, at least 60cm – 1 metre wider on each side.   Sheepskins are perfect for throwing down next to the bed and adding a bit of texture and you can pick these up at Ikea for a bargain.  An oversized mirror would look great on the floor, bouncing light from the window across the room.  The whole idea is to create a lot of visual interest so that you don’t notice the flooring, but by visual interest I don’t mean clutter.  And plants, add few large ferns or palms in front of a window immediately soften the hard lines.


One thing that most rentals lack is built in storage.  If you’re lucky enough to rent a newer type home then you will probably have built ins.  If not well, you might want to look at Antique armoire or modern glass fronted cabinets.  Ikea do a few I like, or hunt for a vintage wardrobe which can be painted and look stunning or mid century sideboards offer quite a bit of storage and display space.  Look for glass fronted vintage bookcases which you can use to store shoes and handbags.  There is plenty of variety out there. 

Storing clothing is always a problem.  Most of us seem to have more clothing than a high street clothing store but far less space to store it all.  Try keeping only seasonal clothes in your wardrobe and storing the rest away in vacuum storage bags or large suitcases which can be packed away at the top of the built in cupboard or in the loft (remember to add a block of cedar wood to stop the moths chewing your favourite jumper!)  Large woven baskets are ideal for storing fresh towels or any number of things you don’t have a home for and if they have lids, for shoes you don’t have space for in the wardrobe (tip: pop an air freshener thingy in the bottom so your shoes always smell like lily of the valley and less football changing room!)

All pics from my Pinterest board which will take you to the original pinner.

So to wrap up:

  • ·         Change the light fittings
  • ·         Invest in pieces of furniture you want to have in your forever house
  • ·         Rugs
  • ·         Accessorise with large table lamps and personal items
  • ·         Large floor mirrors and art
  • ·         Colourful and interesting fabrics, cushions and throws
  • ·         Upcycle furniture with paint.
  • ·         DIY headboard with wallpaper/fabric
  • ·         Large woven baskets
  • ·         Storage for your out of season clothing and shoes
  • ·         Large and small plants
  • ·         And did I say rugs….you can never have enough rugs!

Until next time!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Jody Olen Artist

It’s so grey outside and I am in desperate need of a little sunshine and Vitamin D.  I don’t like to say it too loud, but SAD (seasonal effective disorder) is real and some people get really depressed during winter.   My Honeybee is one of them.  Fortunately she is now in the land of much sunshine and brilliant blue skies with almost no grey…In the meantime I am cheering myself up with small bunches of hyacinths and tulips in really lovely colours.

Today I’m taking time out from showing you my usual interiors to showcase my brilliantly talented and ever so cool best friend, Jody Olen, and her art.  Jody is so super cool but she’s also real in the true sense of the word.  She's down to earth without any airs and graces and she has this incredible imagination that conjures up stories which she draws/paints either in pen and ink, or oils and pastels.  Now Jody is not an artist who paints pretty flowers and still lifes, she doesn't really do 'contemporary' which way back then I didn't really know what that meant in artistic terms, but she then went on to explain that she paints and draws things that are out of the ordinary and to some people might even appear a little crazy. Not all her work is totally off the wall though, and below I've showcased quite a few different mediums and styles.  Jody’s had a number of really successful exhibitions and is well known in the art world in South Africa and she’s currently busy illustrating a coffee table book and personally I can’t wait to get hold of it!  

So here’s a peak at some of Jody’s art, some of which is also showcased on my website here

If you are interested in any of Jody’s art or you would like her to commission a piece, email her on  and for more of her art, pop on over to her blog:  Jody Olen Artist

All above works are subject to copy right and belong to the artist Jody Olen and may not be reproduced in any shape or form.

I'm always talking about art and how introducing art in a home is a great way of personalising your space and making it look unique. Jody's oils are mostly large scale around 1x1 metre so perfect for a statement piece.  Hope you've enjoyed the exhibit!

Oh and I nearly forgot to say, she ships internationally too!

Take care

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

When you rent – part one

Tuesday we had a little snow, we get excited down south when that happens because it doesn't snow very often it's been cold and icy which means I've only ventured into the garden a few times to check on my bulb shoots and my seeds are still firmly in their packets, I can't wait for warmer weather so that I can get my bicycle out and do a little exercise!

More and more people are renting nowadays and after a conversation with a colleague who has just started to rent, I decided to do a post on how to decorate when you rent but it turned into a rather long 4 page list of dos and donts,  so I thought I’d split it up into two parts.  Starting with the basics, what you have and what you need.  At some point in our lives most of us have spent some time in a rental, and decorating can be more challenging when you can’t change the most basic things in the property, namely the walls and the floors.

Renting in the UK is totally different to renting in the US.  It seems that in the US, you can swap out the carpets, paint the kitchen cabinets and change the hardware, knock as many holes in the walls as you like whilst putting up your gallery wall and well, pretty much do as you wish.  The reality check here in the UK is that most renters don’t have that luxury. And putting holes in walls for even one or two pictures is usually met with horror unless your landlord is cool and totally on board with you, but it’s usually a definitive NO! Renters have to live with what they've got; usually magnolia walls and brown or cream wall to wall carpets throughout. Cream I can live with, but a dark carpet can feel depressing and cave like.

Because you don’t own the space, you might feel you shouldn't bother with the furniture either, since it’s not your own home and perhaps when you do eventually move into your flat or house, those pieces won’t fit the new house.  What’s worse, sometimes you sit with furniture that has to remain in the house permanently….this is slightly different and more of a student housing issue, but for the sake of this post, let’s assume that you are living in a totally empty home.  A blank canvas ready to be coloured in.

Now here’s the thing with Magnolia paint, it’s one of those colours that is neither here nor there and depending on the light, can make a room look yellow.  And it’s the number one colour in most rental properties in the UK.   Who am I kidding, even new houses are painted out in this colour! It’s not white and it’s not a creamy taupe, in other words it’s a difficult colour to work with.  If you live in a rental and your walls are white, you are one lucky soul!  We recently did  a home renovation project and we painted out all the walls in this lovely blue grey which is just so light and bright and welcoming…I wonder when property developers are going to get on board with colour and get rid of the 1960s Magnolia trend….

When you rent, and you’re stuck with certain elements that you can’t change, you need to be more creative about how you decorate so that the space feels like it’s your home and less like a transitory place to lay your head.  Although I love Ikea, who doesn’t? Furnishing your entire home with Ikea pieces doesn’t give it much character.  Mixing high street pieces with a little vintage or antique pieces or even going full out modern if that’s your style, will make your space look more interesting.  Most people who rent already have a few pieces of furniture before they move in.  You might have a bed, table lamps, a sofa, a coffee table and a few side tables and most definitely a TV.  So you’ve got the basics.  But the basics aren’t what you’d like to live with in your happily ever after house, they are just interim pieces that fill the void until you are ready for the big spend a few years down the line.  These items need to work in your new space while you save up for that original Mies van der Rohe armchair…but I'll chat about that in more detail next time.

Now that I’ve blabbed about the downside to rental homes and all the pitfalls of Magnolia and bad carpets, here are a few pics from some of my Pinterest boards to get you thinking about your space.  


Next time I’ll share the ‘how get a rental house to work for you’ with lots of ideas and inspiration pics!