Monthly Archives: September 2015

Furnishing the fantasy pad

As much as I love Cumbria the shopping could be better (and I don’t mean just from the perspective of an interior designer). So I need to head to London occasionally for a little retail therapy very important business research….. (HomeSense, please please open a store in Cumbria I beg of you). Last weeks jaunt to the London Design Festival was fun and I got a few new interiors ideas but the time I spent trawling around all the furniture and homeware stores and departments was probably more productive as a lot of what is exhibited at these design events is well outside the budgets of most of my customers.

But one day I could land a millionaire customer (we do have them in Cumbria you know) so in preparation I am hoarding things on Pinterest under the heading The Fantasy Pad. What goes inside The Fantasy Pad has to meet one of the following criteria:

  1. Is way outside most budgets
  2. Is too big to fit in any normal home
  3. Is cool but I’m not sure where I would put it

And I’ve found the perfect property for the fantasy pad when my millionaire customer turns up, a £30m ‘fixer upper’ in London! At 6107 square foot (a mere £5k per square foot) there will be plenty of room for all my fantasy items. Having had many famous residents it has all the credibility a fantasy pad should have, and apparently it’s in need of modernisation throughout – perfect!

£30m fixer upper 80 Eaton Square London

£30m ‘fixer upper’ in Belgravia London

First item for the fantasy pad will be a pair of Beatnik private sound cocoons. They’re only €5500 each so why not. They’re modelled here by a student visiting 100% Design at Olympia. They’re ergonomic and connect to your laptop, mobile phone, tablet or mp3 player using bluetooth or Apple’s Airplay technology. Perfect for Sunday afternoon ‘don’t disturb me and I won’t disturb you’ surfing, reading and general loafing.

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Beatnik Sound Station

Next through the fantasy door is a bath so beautiful you would never bathe in it for fear of damaging it. I stood gazing at it longingly for so long I made the salesman very nervous. Made of wooden veneers and a snip at £11,000. I might even put one in each en-suite.

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Laguna bathtub by Alegna

You’ll notice I am furnishing the fantasy pad without any thought to overall style. Another indulgence. It is a fantasy pad after all I can worry about style when I meet my millionaire customer.

Next out of the removal van, this rocking day bed, shown here on a stand so it wouldn’t rock. This probably meets all three criteria as it was over £5k and huge, but it fit most comfortably in ‘cool but not really sure where I’d put it’. I mean it wasn’t really big enough for 2 people, getting on it was a bit tricky even on the stand, and you couldn’t properly lie down. I just liked it.

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 Rocking daybed from Se7e Life Design

I don’t think my fixer upper has a garden, but lets pretend it does so I can have four of these beautiful pebble seats around a fish pond. They were surprisingly comfortable, very tactile and sort of relaxing to sit on. Made you feel like you were sat on a big rock on a beach somewhere. They were outside my budget which is why they made it into the fantasy pad (from £3k depending on the size you went for) but they’d be perfect in the gardens of a spa hotel if I could just persuade one of my local ones to employ me….. Ben and Jen on the stand were very lovely too.

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Pebble Seat by Ben Barrell

In the entrance to my fantasy pad I’m thinking about having this amazing handmade glass leaf chandelier. It’s supplied by Gladee who are based in the Design Centre at Chelsea Harbour. I didn’t ask how much it was, I was in Chelsea, I already knew it would meet my first criteria. Gorgeous though isn’t it – fits with my autumn vibe.

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Last on the list for now is just in case the fantasy millionaire customer is a Dr Who fan or my friend Phil (who is a Dr Who fan and has a birthday next month) becomes or meets a millionaire. £1500 from Lots Road Auctions in Chelsea. Would look great behind the couch…

Gladee

Dalek

Lots Road Auctions

So I’m closing the door on the pad for now as I’ve got chickens to feed and a dog to walk, but if you had a fantasy pad what would you furnish it with?

Autumn – a look for life not just the season

Central heating alert – Autumn has arrived in Cumbria! I’m not complaining though. I’m actually one of the few Brits that doesn’t complain about our weather. I love our climate, our seasons and the unpredictability of our weather. Few places in the world offer this much variety without the extreme. We get sun, wind, rain and snow, but we don’t get forest fires, tornadoes, hurricanes and arctic blizzards. At least not yet; if we keep damaging the planet it might not be long before polar bears are eating my chickens.

And I love autumn. It’s when Cumbria is at its most beautiful. Our high rainfall makes for a lush county and when autumn comes the change from green to a thousand shades of red, orange, brown and gold is breathtaking. This blaze of colour was the inspiration for my living room, and this month it’s popping up in all the interiors shops and magazines.

When we viewed our house the living room had a cream carpet (ridiculous in a rural location), an ugly off centre ceiling pendant (the ceiling is only just above the average head height), wall lights in random locations, plug sockets half way up the walls, gloss painted beams and a hideous gas fire. And that was just the living room. Mr W was positively disinterested but I could see the potential and used my powers of persuasion (I pouted and sulked) to convince him we should buy it. So we did.

Since then we’ve changed the carpet to oak flooring. We’ve replaced the lighting with recessed spots, over picture lights and a table lamp and relocated the plug sockets. We had the beams restored and removed the gas fire to find the original sandstone fireplace and bread oven (flashback to me being delighted and outraged at the same time), which we also restored. The previous owners wouldn’t recognise it.

Rustic living room in autumn shades

My Autumn inspired living room

I spent months looking for fabric in the right shades of burnt orange, red and green, but once I had everything else just followed.

Burnt orange, green and plaid moon wool fabrics

Wool fabrics from Moon

Persian rug in rustic living room

Persian rug from Persis, Stockport. Leaf dishes from Bitter Beck Pottery. Bowling balls from Yew Tree Barn

Autumn accessories in rustic living room

More autumnal accessories – candle and stand from Lily & Co, fern vase from Bitter Beck Pottery

Glassware in autumn colours

Glassware in autumn shades from Tesco Home

Now if you’re sat there thinking “well I don’t live in a cottage or barn so the autumn look won’t work for me” then think again. This isn’t a purely rustic look, its all about warm autumnal colours and texture. Oak flooring and a wood burning stove are not mandatory. This green sofa from Loaf with the burnt orange cushions adds warmth to this otherwise neutral scheme and not a log basket in sight.

Pudding sofa in Willow from Loaf

Pudding sofa in Willow from Loaf, also available in burnt orange

And this isn’t a one season wonder which will need changing after you’ve taken your Christmas tree to the tip. Throw in some spring or summer blooms and you’ll see burnt orange in a whole new light, I mean how fab does it looks against dark walls……

Burnt orange sofa and walls painted in farrow and ball Railings No. 31

Burnt orange sofa against walls painted in F&B Railings No.31 Estate Emulsion

And autumn colours make great accent colours in a neutral room. I know this room looks like its just missing a halloween pumpkin but you’ve got to admit the orange and gold looks great against the cream.

Burnt orange accent colours in neutral living room

Pinterest

Laura Ashley have clearly fall-en (I had to get that in somewhere…) for the autumn look with their range of copper and green velvet cushions. I also love this burnt orange leaf motif cushion from Dunelm.

Velvet cushions from Laura Ashley. Leaf motif boudoir cushion from Dunelm

Velvet cushions from Laura Ashley and leaf boudoir cushion from Dunelm

I love a good throw and there are umpteen around at the moment in shades of burnt orange, red and green but I really like this multicoloured one from Next.

Multicoloured throw from Next

Multicoloured throw from Next

There are also plenty of autumnal accessories in the shops too, like this glassware from Next.

Vase from Next     Vase from Next     Vase from Next

Glassware from Next

So don’t feel disheartened if you don’t have an open fire and a plaid wing back chair, autumn isn’t just for country folk, anyone can get the look whatever their pad or budget.

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Pudding sofa in burnt orange from Loaf

Totally wired

 

I’ve found a new love that has replaced my love of willow. I’m talking baskets now. Having 4 log burners at Holly Cottage requires a lot of logs and a lot of baskets, which is where the willow obsession started. I have big willow baskets for logs, small ones for kindling, shallow ones for towels in the guest bedrooms, round ones for toilet rolls in the bathrooms, a tiny one filled with fir cones under the coffee table. It’s got a little out of hand to be honest. But there’s something about the lovely grey colour that says I might be rustic but I’m a bit cooler than wicker or rattan, I belong next to sheepskin and reindeer skins and old leather, I can sit on limestone flags or a wooden floor. I could be in a swish Swedish summerhouse or a New York loft I’m that cool. Sorry, I’m getting a little carried away. Baskets don’t talk. Classic basket case.

Anyway, my new love is wire and it’s even more versatile than willow. It’s been a bedroom storage staple for some time but it’s now out of the closest and working the room elsewhere.

It works in the bathroom

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Pinterest

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Pinterest

It works in the kitchen

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Pinterest

It works in the hall or utility room

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Pinterest

It works in your home office

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Birdie wall mounted desk from Loaf

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Neatfreak memo board and organiser from Loaf

Its upped its game in accessories

Juxtapose teal geometric wire bowl from House of Fraser

Juxtapose teal wire bowl from House of Fraser

Gold metal wire basket from H&M

Gold metal wire basket from H&M

It doesn’t limit itself to storage. It’s become way more visible in lighting (literally) ever since the industrial trend was born, and now It’s worked its way into the furniture market too. I think that actor chap (Michael?) on the Great Interior Design Challenge who had a wire obsession might have been the catalyst.

Black wire cage side tables from Dwell

Black wire cage side tables from Dwell

And it works in my summerhouse. I’ve started with a set of 3 wire baskets I picked up in Homesense for about £40. The big one is for throws, the middle one for magazines and the small one is perfect for fruit on the bar. (It’s important to have fruit in your cocktails – helps with the 5 a day).

Its far easier to clean than willow and you can spray paint it any colour you like – whats not to love?

Charles Eames style blue wire chair from Cult Furniture

Charles Eames style blue wire chair from Cult Furniture

I suspect the wire will slowly creep through the house until all the willow has been relegated to the interiors graveyard that is my garage. I used to take my rejects to the charity shop, auction or tip. Now they sit in the graveyard, I mean garage, waiting for a place in future projects. Who knows when I might need that extra pair of antlers I have? Or this industrial table I rescued from outside the Diesel HQ in London? (The manager even gave me the planks for the top and bottom shelf #worldsgreatestfreebie). I might need to start clearing some room for all those willow baskets though…..

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Lush Interiors

I love love love greenery. It’s my favourite interiors accessory by a country mile. Yes I like flowers, but for me its the foliage in floral arrangements that bring them to life. It’s probably why I chose to live in Cumbria 20 miles from the wettest place in England – Seathwaite if you’re interested.

Sunflowers and mint floral arrangement

Sunflowers £4 from Morrisons. Mint fresh from my garden!

Before Cumbria became my permanent home we had a huge roof garden in London that my green fingered sister (Hunter Gardening Services) designed and helped me build. We spent one glorious Sunday buying half the plants at Columbia Road flower market to stock it. Big Sis was in her element, it was like letting Immelda Marcus loose in Manolo Blahnik. Took us 3 car trips to get them all home. It was fabulous, all ferns, hostas, reeds and grasses. Mr W loved the garden too, but he did complain about the lack of colour. I kept telling him green is a colour!

Don’t worry this isn’t a  gardeners trip down memory lane. I am going to get to the interiors bit shortly…..

Anyway, when we bought Holly Cottage I was desperate to add some greenery indoors but it was initially a second home and I don’t share my sisters green fingered genes so I knew any plants would have a very low life expectancy, even if I did remember to water them during my fortnightly visits. I hunted high and low for lush, vibrant looking artificial plants, that weren’t plasticky or dusty looking but no joy, so the house stood foliage-less…..until now.

‘Now I’m based here I can indulge myself with the real thing. Succulents, cacti (or cactuses – both are grammatically correct) and ferns are my favourite. I like to plant them up in glass vases so you can see the soil, and top them with moss I scrape off my garden walls. Unfortunately however even the hardiest don’t last long though. Yes, I can even kill cactus. Turns out I’m still rubbish at watering stuff even on site.

Potted ferns in my summer house

Potted ferns in my summer house – the terraniums on the shelves below lie empty waiting for me to find the perfect occupants…

This is why I’m very excited about the recent announcement from Interior Designer and Retailer Abigail Ahern. Abigail is already famous for her faux flowers, and I’ve been coveting one of her giant cactuses for a while.

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Current plant range from Abigail Ahern

But after relying on suppliers, leaving her with demand outweighing supply, she has decided to start manufacturing her own faux botanicals, which means there will be no holding her back. Her new range will be bigger, more eclectic and even more decadent. If you’re familiar with AA’s work you’ll understand why I’m so excited. This is the lady that brought us my favourite ever lamp.

Teal flock Pelican lamp from Abigail Ahern available at Debenhams

Teal flock Pelican lamp available at Debenhams

Her faux botanicals range will be launched September 23rd but she’s promising us a sneak preview of the website anytime soon…..

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Coming soon!

I’m also excited about the faux florist she’s opening next to the Heals store on Tottenham Court Rd. If you’re an interiors obsessive like me, you’ll already know that TCR has enough interiors stores to keep a fanatic like me happy for a day. Now I have another reason to head down there on my next London jaunt. I’m seriously contemplating a day trip for the opening. But I may need a companion to help me carry the tree I’m likely to buy. Big Sis once helped me carry a 10ft reed from the Chelsea Flower Show across London, utilising a tuk tuk, two buses and two tubes so she’s my first call. Holly Cottage could be looking a whole lot greener soon.

PS I wasn’t paid to say all this, I’m just an AA fan.