Category Archives: Accessories and ornaments

Christmas is coming early…..

Although I absolutely love Christmas, and literally smother my house in Christmas decorations every year, preparations do not start until at least 1st of December. Anybody wanting to get into the Christmas spirit earlier than this is quite welcome to but do not be playing Mariah Carey within my earshot, or asking me to pick off a Christmas menu. And no I haven’t started my bloody Christmas shopping yet, it’s October! So you can imagine how torn I was when a magazine asked me if they can photograph my house all decorated for Christmas…..next week. Yes Ilona Hadfield I can hear you laughing from here.

So this year Christmas is coming early to Holly Cottage as I haven’t got the energy to decorate, undecorate and then decorate again. And I’m kicking off with my first Christmas present. I have teemed up with the lovely people at Blinds2Go to offer one of you lucky people the chance to win a window blind of your choice worth up to £150.

Linen roman blind from Blinds2Go in summer house designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

Linen roman blind from Blinds2Go in my own summer house

I’ve been working with Blinds2Go ever since I started Amelia Wilson Interiors as they offer a very affordable made to measure service where you can choose from a large range of fabrics.

DuJour velvet blush roman blind from Blinds2Go for show home designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

DuJour velvet blush roman blind from Blinds2Go for my recent show home project

Their range includes lots of different colours with both plain and patterned designs.

Bottle green cotton roman blind from Blinds2Go in bathroom designed By Amelia Wilson Interiors featured in RealHomes magazine

Bottle green cotton roman blind from Blinds2Go in a bathroom project featured in RealHomes magazine

And the quality and service is also very good, with most blinds being made and delivered within 2 weeks.

Navy tartan wool roman blind from Blinds2Go in a holiday let designed by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

Navy tartan wool roman blind from Blinds2Go in a recent holiday let project

Competition Rules

So to be in with a chance to win all you need to do is head over to Instagram and follow these simple rules (I know not everyone uses Instagram but it would be worth downloading the app just for this):

  1. Follow me @mrswpics and @blinds2go
  2. Post a picture of the window you would like a new blind for
  3. Include the hashtag #blinds2gomakeover in your post and tag at least two friends
  4. You can post as many pics as you like but you must tag new friends each time

The competition will run until 21st November when a winner will be selected at random. The winner will then be contacted and asked to choose their new blind from the Blinds2Go website and provide the necessary dimensions etc. so that their blind can be made and delivered in time for Christmas.

It’s as simple as that so get snapping and posting those window pics and in the meantime I’ll start putting up my Christmas decorations… Ho Ho Ho!

 

Opulent Interiors

The Christmas decorations have come down and the house is looking bare. It’s dark and cold outside. The news is all sad events and depressing politics, and worse still for some of us it’s a dry month. I think we all need a pick me up, and maybe a little sparkle in our lives, so the trend for opulent interiors couldn’t have come at a better time.

Opulent interiors luxurious living room and dining room

Image via Nathalie Priem Photography

Opulence in my own home is something I can only dream about. I have an old house in a very boggy part of the country, half way down what is only one notch up from a dirt track. And I have two dogs. Velvet has no place at Holly Cottage. But that doesn’t stop me from fantasising, and 2017 is about to supply me with a steady stream of luxurious loveliness to covet and force on present to my customers.

Opulent interiors - the Fendi boutique hotel in Rome

Palazzo Fendi in Rome – image via KOKET

The opulent or luxe look is heavily influenced by 1920’s Art Deco and the fashions of 18th century France,. It’s definitely not a subtle look but you do not want to overdo it and recreate the Palace of Versailles in your living room. Though if you do, please can I come round and take photo’s?

The key to getting it right is by having just one or two statement pieces in the room. Striking items that are well designed, and made with really good quality materials or fabrics.

Opulent interiors - Furia Odyssey blue velvet sofa and velvet ottoman

Furia Odyssey blue velvet sofa – image via John Lewis

Metallics

In the 1990’s everyone fell into one of two camps. If your taps, toilet roll holder and door knobs were gold you were old fashioned. If they were chrome you were fashionable. And choice wise that was it. But over the last couple of years polished, brushed and antiqued versions of gold, silver, bronze and copper (although apparently we call this rose gold now) have found their way into our furniture, lighting and accessories, although frustratingly not so many taps and bathroom fittings – why is that?. So metallics are not a new trend, but there are other elements which have pushed their way to the front pages and home pages of the interiors world, which when combined with existing trends like metallics tip us over from a little bit of luxe to pure opulence.

Opulent interiors - gold metallic finishes in a luxurious dining room

Image via John Lewis

Velvet

One of those new elements is velvet, and when it comes to fabric, velvet is the epitome of opulence (try saying that after a few). It’s soft dense pile screams luxury and is incredibly tactile. You literally cannot take your hands off it. I challenge you, try and walk past a velvet sofa without copping a feel. Bet you can’t.

It used to be made from silk and was expensive to produce, which is why it was associated with the rich. But thanks to the use of cotton and synthetics and new manufacturing techniques even us paupers can afford it. So if you want to be bang on trend in 2017 then buy a velvet sofa. If I could have velvet at Holly Cottage then I think I’d have the Crumpet sofa from Loaf in burnt orange. I love the shape and the name, and I wouldn’t need to change my curtains – bingo.

Opulent interiors - burnt orange velvet sofa from loaf

Crumpet sofa from Loaf – image via Real Homes

I’ve been trying to find a home for this emerald green IKEA sofa since I spotted it 2 years ago. Maybe now I’ll be able to find a place for it……It has removable covers and is only £1,000 which for a large velvet sofa is a bit of billy bargain.

Opulent interiors - emerald green velvet sofa from IKEA

Emerald green Stockholm sofa £1,000 from IKEA

But if you’re not ready to change your sofa then buy a velvet chair, or really make a statement with two in different colours.

Opulent interiors - Penelope velvet armchairs from sofa.com

Penelope velvet armchairs from sofa.com

Or take the opulence into the bedroom with a large velvet headboard (it must be large) or better still an upholstered bed.

Opulent interiors - plush plum velvet upholstered bed

Image via Houzz

Precious gems

Now you may have noticed a bit of a colour theme with all the images I’ve been showing you. If you really want to nail the 2017 opulent interiors look then make sure the colour of your statement piece is emerald, sapphire, ruby, amethyst, topaz, turquoise or any other colour associated with jewels. Or use these colours to accessorise.

Opulent interiors - velvet upholstery fabric from Sanderson in jewel colours

Boho Velvet fabrics from Sanderson

Dark walls

Now for those of you that have only just moved from magnolia to pale grey and are a bit  “thats quite dark enough for me thank you very much” then this isn’t an essential component in opulent interiors. BUT metallics, velvets and jewel colours do look amazing against dark walls. So if you’re going for the look, why not go the whole hog.

Opulent interiors - plum and gold velvet against teal walls

Image via Houzz

I just love these emerald greens against these dark grey walls….just lush.

Opulent interiors - emerald green velvet furnishings in dark grey living room

Image via Houzz

So what do you think, is there room in your home for a little opulence?

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Mi Abode – home of Scandinavian Interiors

No thats not a typo *tuts* and I’m not inviting you to snoop round my house either. Tho if you happen to be in the area and you bring biscuits I’m fairly sure I’d let you in. No, Mi Abode is a Scandinavian interiors and homeware retailer in Uppermill, Saddleworth. Which is a little off the beaten track for us Cumbrians but luckily also has an online store. Phew…

Mi Abode Scandinavian interiors and homeware retailer in Uppermill Saddleworth

So what makes Mi Abode worth talking about? Well for starters they sell a mixture of beautiful but very affordable vintage and contemporary Scandinavian design pieces. But more importantly Mia the owner is actually Scandinavian, and many of the items she sells are actually from Sweden. But what I really love is that some of them are made by her mum Helga. Yes Helga. From Sweden. Could this Scandinavian interiors shop be any more authentic?

So want to see what caught my eye when I happened to be in Uppermill for a very important breakfast meeting (by which I mean a catch up with my sister over heavily buttered fruit toast and coffee)?

The first thing I spotted was these felt baskets. Perfect for rolled up towels or loo rolls in the bathroom, or magazines or throws in the living room.

Felt baskets from Scandinavian interiors retailer MI Abode

Felt baskets – 3 sizes available, priced from £20-36

And then I fell in love with these little fellas.

Elf Christmas decorations from Mi Abode Scandinavian interiors retailer in Uppermill

Elf Christmas decorations made by Helga

Mamma Helga makes these Elf Christmas decorations in various shapes, sizes and shades. I bought the big guy, now known as Lars. He will probably spend Christmas on the living room hearth but he will spend the rest of the year in my Scandi styled summer house……which just might have been featured in Real Homes magazine this month *tosses hair over shoulder celebrity style*

Large Elf Christmas decoration from Mi Abode Scandinavian interiors retailer in Uppermill

Large Elf Christmas decoration

Small elf Christmas decorations from Mi Abode Scandinavian interiors retailer in Uppermill

Small elf Christmas decorations

Mia stocks the key pieces needed to get Hygge like the Danes, i.e. scented candles throws and cushions

Range of wool throws and cushions from Scandinavian interiors retailer Mi Abode in Uppermill

Get Hygge with their range of wool throws and cushions

Longhaired curly lambskin throw from Scandinavian interiors retailer Mi Abode in Uppermill

Longhaired curly lambskin throw

….and its not all monochrome.

Lighting and soft furnishings from Scandinavian interiors retailer MI Abode in Uppermill

Mustard throw and matching shade on tripod lamp

She also has some pretty funky artwork…..

Quirky framed posters from Scandinavian interiors retailer Mi Abode in Uppermill

Quirky framed posters

and fab lighting, including these concrete pendants.

Concrete pendant lights from Scandinavian interiors retailer Mi Abode in Uppermill

Concrete pendant lights

The shop is a veritable treat for the eyes, everywhere you look there’s something you want to prod and poke

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And its not just pretty stuff, there are practical things too. Instead of stuffing your kitchen drawers with postcards that you don’t want to throw away, recipes you’ve cut out of magazines and vouchers you want to keep, what about putting them in these cool storage books?

Storage books from Scandinavian interiors retailer Mi Abode in Uppermill

Storage books – perfect for the stuff that usually ends up in the kitchen drawers

So don’t just take my word for it get online at http://www.miabode.bigcartel.com/products and take a look for yourself

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Boutique on a budget

It’s pretty easy to make a room look good if you’ve got big bucks to spend. I’m not saying big spenders don’t make interior design mistakes, you only need to watch MTV cribs or Through The Keyhole to prove it. And I make no apologies for watching these shows, they are house porn in its purest form. But it takes a lot more creativity and resourcefulness to create the wow factor on a budget. Which is why the theme for my stand this week at the Lakes Hospitality show was boutique on a budget. The majority of attendees own small businesses – restaurants, hotels, B&B’s, guest houses and holiday lets, and although the lakes remains a popular destination for tourists they still have to work hard to make a profit, and that’s before the recent floods hit. So I wanted to show attendees that you can create impact without breaking the bank.

Now every designer likes a blank canvas, but exhibition stands bring a whole new meaning to the word drab.

Standard exhibition shell stand at the lakes hospitality association trade show in Cumbria

If I wanted to wow I needed wallpaper but it needed to be high impact low cost. I um’ed and ah’ed for weeks over the right look, and was nearly seduced by three that I’d found on offer at wallpaper direct.com. All usually £35 a roll but reduced to £10.

My first love was this black and gold wallpaper with the back to back usherettes. Great colours for a luxe look and very striking from a distance. But maybe not right for the Lakes…..

Interval from the Albany Performance Wallpaper Collection

Interval from the Albany Performance Wallpaper Collection. Image via Houzz

Next I was strangely drawn to this Chorus Line wallpaper. I loved the idea of the black background with hot pink accessories. But again perhaps not right for the Lakes.

Chorus Line from the Albany Performance Wallpaper Collection

Chorus Line from the Albany Performance Wallpaper Collection. Image via Houzz

And then I spotted this blush pink and gold Geisha wallpaper. The colours are bang on trend, and its very pretty, but AGAIN perhaps not in the Lakes.

Geisha from the Albany Performance Wallpaper Collection

Geisha from the Albany Performance Wallpaper Collection. Image via Houzz

And then I found the perfect specimen. A natural looking motif that’s not ‘country cottage’, a striking design that isn’t garish, and a colourway that works with a boutique look. And £10.99 a roll – hurrah. I had sleepless nights over my plan to screw plywood sheets to the stand and wallpaper on site, particularly since its been 20 years since I wielded a wallpaper pasting brush. There were also a couple of attempts to foil my plan on the day that involved getting the electrician to move cables and borrowing a saw to cut two of the sheets to fit but we did it, and I managed a wallpapering job that would have my decorator in tears but looked perfect from a distance of 3ft. Result.

Mr W wielding a sword on the Amelia Wilson Interiors stand at the 2016 Lakes Hospitality show in Cumbria

(A very frustrated Mr W after we realised we’d need to cut two of the board to fit)

The wallpaper is called Whisper by Arthouse and available from wallpaper direct.com – what do you think, enough wow? Amelia Wilson Interiors exhibition stand at Lakes Hospitality show. Whisper wallpaper by Arthouse

Whisper by Arthouse wallpapers available at wallpaper direct.com

I needed  a way of displaying examples of my work without taking up too much room and decided a gallery wall would do the trick. It also fit with my ‘hotel lounge’ idea. A few old frames I found in my garage mixed with a few from my neighbours garage (everyone has picture frames in their garage…) and some recent charity shop purchases and voila! The lovely inky grey paint is called Evening Coat by Valspar and was supplied free courtesy of my lovely local rep Becky in return for a plug (here you go Becky – thank you)

Gallery wall painted in Evening Coat by Valspar and covered in old frames

Gallery wall painted in Evening Coat by Valspar

In my mind no guesthouse or B&B lounge would be complete without a hostess trolley, and look at this beauty I found on eBay for £20. Straight out of my granny’s living room and perfect for my gold and grey colour scheme.

Gold retro hostess gin trolley

A few vintage decanters and tumblers, an empty whisky bottle filled with cold tea (clever eh), some old books from Oxfam and a magnifying glass from Homesense (£7.99) and it looks like its straight off the set of Fawlty Towers…

Vintage decanters, old books and magnifying glass used to style a retro hostess gin trolley  I put a black Biba decanter on the bottom tray which picked up for a tenner in the House of Fraser sale. Looks fab with a few black ostrich feathers doesn’t it?

Black decanter from BIBA and black ostrich feathers used to dress retro hostess gin trolley

The centre piece of my stand was going to be an old console table that used to reside in my flat in London many moons ago. It was originally from Heals and is the Tina Turner of tables (great legs). I wouldn’t normally paint wooden furniture but the veneer was damaged in a few places and couldn’t be repaired so I took a big gulp and painted it Evening Coat grey to match the gallery wall and sealed it with a clear varnish to prevent chipping.

On top of the table I wanted two oversized table lamps. I’ve been scouring Homesense for a while for the perfect pair but to no avail, so in the end I opted for a couple of bases (£15 each) which I sprayed gold, and made shades using kits from Needcraft and some grey velvet and ostrich feather fringing I bought off eBay.

Gold lamp base with grey velvet lampshade with grey ostrich feather fringing

(Re-sprayed lamp bases and homemade lampshades. Total cost around £35 each)

I found the gold mirrored tray below on sale at Laura Ashley (reduced to £30) and added some more charity shop glassware, another Biba vase from House of Fraser (£8) and an old Hendricks bottle. The tray is going in my bathroom when I’ve unpacked….

Vintage glassware, BIba vase and Hendricks bottle use to decorate a mirrored gold tray from Laura Ashley

And the finished effect? Check out the table legs – beautiful aren’t they…

Grey console table with gold and grey table lamps styled by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

Now you can’t have boutique without a velvet chair but space was limited. However, I am lucky enough to have a very talented upholsterer friend, who produced the perfect petite piece. A vintage French cocktail chair which she picked up for a few quid on one of her antique market jaunts.

Vintage French cocktail chair before being upholstered by Ilona Hadfield, proprietor of Fandango

Don’t believe what you see on the Great Interior Design Challenge. Upholstery is not easy. And it involves more than just a staple gun. Well it does if you want it to look good and last. I know this because I spent two evenings a week for 6 months trying to learn the skill. There is a reason we pay professionals and thats exactly what Ilona is. She upholstered it in beautiful Designers Guild velvet with contrasting gold buttons and piping. Unsurprisingly it had a few ladies swooning on the day. It’s for sale BTW so message me if you’re interested.

Vintage French cocktail chair upholstered in Designers Guild crushed velvet with contrasting gold piping and buttons by Ilona Hadfield

A tall frothy potted palm plant from Ikea and the stand was finished. What do you think? Could you imagine yourself transported to the Lake District on a cold November evening, in an old Victorian guesthouse, lounging on a velvet chair sipping whisky listening to the open fire crackling and the rain outside?

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OK, maybe I have a very vivid imagination, but it certainly pulled the crowds at the show. Better than some boring grey felt eh?

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

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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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It works in the kitchen

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It works in the hall or utility room

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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.

Numbers schmumbers

In my old life I managed, and was managed, by numbers. Targets, stretch targets, submission volumes, hit ratios, conversation rates, growth rates, retention rates and a million other metrics. I introduced a tool that measured the value of all our producers that went viral in my organisation, earning everyone involved the equivalent of celebrity status in our global corporate world, and my new business budget had more zeros than you’d find in a model agency waiting room. These days many of my business decisions are unashamedly driven by emotion. Of course I’ve used my business acumen to develop and follow a sound business plan, but when it comes to the customer interaction I follow my passion. When I fall in a love with a place, or when I view a property begging to be made over, or when I know me and the customer will have fun, I flex the pricing model. Because I want every job to be one that I can’t stop thinking about, one that keeps me up at night and one that I bore everyone senseless with. The only problem is I feel like that about almost every job I go to see….Thankfully my conversion rate has been good or my head would be full of ideas for jobs I didn’t get!

I love my job so much I’ve even brought my Macbook on holiday to Dubrovnik. In my old life colleagues were told to text me if a life or death situation arose as all emails would be ignored until I landed back in the UK. But every morning before my sister and niece get out of bed I’m on the internet looking for interiors stuff for customers or working on marketing ideas. There was a time when my old job had the same effect, but I think that was youth and ambition. This feels different – this feels like a calling for want of a better cliche.

When I remember I’m supposed to be on holiday I look at things for my summer house which I’m redecorating before our annual summer BBQ at the end of this month. This morning I ordered some fabulous Kiko frames from notonthehighstreet.com. I’m going to fill them with some of my favourite holiday snaps.

Kiko frames by Nkuku - www.notonthehighstreet.com

Kiko frames by Nkuku

I also spent some time slavering over these cow hide lampshades also on notonthehighstreet.com. In the end I decided I couldn’t justify the £75 price tag. It’s not actually their fault. The lampshades they’re replacing cost roughly the same and I’m feeling guilty about replacing them so as I haven’t found anything else I like I’m thinking about making my own. I’ve ordered some wallpaper samples to experiment with……photos to follow if they work out.

Grey cow hide lampshade by Begolden

Grey cow hide lampshade by Begolden

The fabrics for the soft furnishings have been ordered. Ada & Ina came up trumps and delivered three gorgeous linens.

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So now its just down to the finishing touches. The scouting trip is planned for next week and I’m very excited. Targets include vintage enamelware and a clock. I’d like something like this if you know where I can find one….

Nordic style sunburst clock

Nordic style sunburst clock

Before I go, a Trevor McDonald style ‘and finally’ chicken update. We’ve doubled the occupancy at Cluckingham Palace. Whitney, Britney, Christina, Shakira and Cilla (RIP) moved in at the beginning of the month. The pecking order is still being established. The existing tenants are not happy about sharing their perch or their morning treats and making it known. Shakira and Cilla have formed a tag team, protecting each other when Harriet or Phyllis (known trouble makers) go on the attack. Whitney, Britney and Christina have been temporarily located to a separate run until they’re big enough to stand up for themselves. I’m hoping things will have settled down when I get back but I’m not confident, I may have too many divas for one coop.

Is yellow the new mustard?

I’ve been a mustard fan for some time now. Not the English or whole grain varieties, but the kind that has been creeping into interiors for the past year or so. It was inevitable really what with all the beautiful grey paints and soft furnishings available, it’s a natural pairing. Like the grey it’s sophisticated and elegant, but it brightens up a scheme without being gaudy. However, it might be the sunshine going to my head but I’m beginning to think we can go a bit brighter……

It started when my friend Annie arrived yesterday for a short break. Annie is a bold decorator who loves a bit of glitz and glamour. Her master bathroom features a black bath with a sparkly floor and a glittery disco ball, her favourite colour is red, and she’s not shy when it comes to animal prints, in her wardrobe or home. So I wasn’t at all surprised when she told me she was on the look out for and struggling to find a canary yellow metal garden table to go with the red metal chairs she’d recently acquired. I love an interiors challenge, so while she flicked through a stack of my house porn I started surfing, and the more yellow I saw the more I liked it. By the time dinner was ready I’d already decided the replacement covers for the sofa in my summer house were going to be yellow. Here are just a few reasons why I think yellow might just be the new mustard.

Yellow chest of drawers in vintage bedroom

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It’s a good warm, sunny colour for a young girls bedroom, but not as a wall colour, just a piece of furniture with hints in the soft furnishings like here.

Yellow fireplace in a grey living room

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I can honestly say I would never have thought of painting a fireplace yellow but look how well this works against the pale grey walls.

Yellow sofa in living room

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I’m even considering it for the sofa in my summer house after seeing this but I think it needs to be surrounded by bold prints as shown in this room to avoid looking too twee.

Yellow four poster bed frame

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I recently used mustard as an accent colour in a pale green room with botanical elements, but a brighter yellow would have worked just as well and I love this four poster bed frame.

Yellow kitchen units in grey kitchen

 

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I’m still not sure about yellow kitchen units though……it does remind me of the toy kitchens made for little girls.

Yellow front door

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But I do love it as a front door colour, very cheery and welcoming. This one looks great with the white walls and rosy pink rugs.

So are you sold or do you think it will be a summer fad replaced by mustard again in October? I’ll leave you to ponder while I go and hunt for yellow fabric for my sofa….but before I go, great news Agata has returned! AWOL for 36hrs then strolls nonchalantly up the drive as if she’s never been away. Where she was is a mystery but she still has that jaunty look about her which suggests she was having fun…..the dirty stop out.

 

Bag yourself a bargain

As an interior designer I appreciate space, particularly my own. Which is why it’s a good thing Mr W has finally returned to London. I love my husband, I wouldn’t be without him, but our 5/2 relationship suits us both. Divorce or death (of one of us) would have been the only outcome if he’d stayed much longer. So now he can get back to his routine, and I can get back to the non-routine I just realised I prefer. This involves only shopping or cooking when I feel like it, working until midnight if I’m in the grip of something, and spending a few hours gardening if the sun is out and I need thinking time. The opposite of my previous life, which was bound by routine and schedules. Perfect.

The other personal change I’ve noticed, is that I have replaced my handbag snobbery with car snobbery. Posh handbags don’t really cut it in Cumbria or my new life. It isn’t practical to carry tape measures, notebooks, paint/tile/fabric/flooring samples in soft leather, silk lined pouches. They don’t really work on building sites either when I need to put them on the floor while I measure up and take photos. So I’ve happily made the transition to cheaper and more practical shoulder-wear. However, I recently dropped my fabulous ‘takes me anywhere, fits anything in it’, automatic 4WD off for a service and was given a tiny, tinny, manual, skodia fabia for the day. I actually had to get someone to show me how to start it, and you should have seen my attempt at parallel parking without a camera and sensors, it looked like it had been abandoned by bank robbers. If by some strange cruel twist of fate this becomes the car of the future with all other models becoming obsolete I will revert to taxi’s everywhere. A challenge in my line of work and rural location but a necessity I’m afraid.

Bizarrely I am the complete opposite of a snob, (what is this, egalitarian? modest? humble?) when it comes to interior design. I love nothing more than a cheap replica of something that costs an arm and a leg elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong I love the expensive stuff too, but most people can’t afford it. So as interior designers it is often our job to create the same look for a lot less. I’ve recently been looking for items to spruce up my summer house so behold my current favourite spring themed bargain replicas!

First on the list these wood effect drum shades. Yes the John Lewis one is beautiful but for a tenner the one from Wilko is a stylish bargain

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Woodland nightshade from John Lewis, £35-45

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Wood effect nightshade from Wilko, £10

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There’s a definite bee theme in the shops at the moment, and these are two of my favourite clocks.

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Progetti Time2bee wall clock, £145 by Red Candy

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Honeycomb clock from George Home, £12

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There is no denying that this Juneberry & Bird cushion by young British designer Lorna Syson is georgous. But if you can’t afford the £32 price tag, Wilko has a pretty bird cushion for only £6.50.

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Juneberry & Bird cushion, £32 from Howkapow

 

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Bird cushion, £6.50 from Wilko

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Sticking with the bird theme, both of these rugs are beautiful and the one from Next isn’t expensive at £160, but I actually prefer the cheaper one from Kaleidoscope.

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120cm x 170cm Hummingbird rug from Next, £160

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120cm x 180cm Hummingbird rug, £115 from Kaleidoscope

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Finally, my summer house is littered with tea light holders, my excuse being that many are presents from visitors (honest guv), but there’s always room for a few more…..

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Set of 4 LSA green glass tea light holders, £18 from Heals

 

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Glass butterfly motif tea light holders, £3 each from John Lewis.

So Mr W is home again this weekend, and despite my earlier comments I have missed him, but if he misses his train home on Sunday I might have to move into the summer house to save our marriage….