I have enough Christmas decorations to start may own shop, and I add to my collection every year despite Mr W’s protestations. Most of the house gets a little Christmas hit but the main action is in our living room, bedroom and summer house. This year I’m sticking with the same styles and colour schemes as last year but with a few new additions I’ve picked up when I’ve been out and about. Christmas decorating starts at the end of this month but I thought I’d share some of my plans and ideas on how you could achieve similar looks.
Interior designers rarely get free rein on a project (or an unlimited budget). Or maybe they do in London, but not in Cumbria. If we did I’d have a lot more competition that’s for sure.
Most of my clients fall into 1 of 3 camps. I’ve worked with some that don’t know what they want only what they don’t want. At the opposite end of the scale I’ve worked with clients that know exactly what they want but value a second opinion or a fresh pair of eyes. And with some clients it has been a very collaborative process. Typically these clients have an interest in interior design, and want to get into the details of how things would look or work. As I’m an
annoying extrovert that gets their energy from interacting with other people I love working with clients like this because they want to bounce around ideas and look at options together. Not everyone wants to talk about skirting board profiles and tile laying patterns apparently…. Continue reading “The Open Plan Kitchen Dining Space”
I am 100% an outdoor person. Outdoor living, eating, drinking, exercising, relaxing, working (when I can), the whole shebang. The garden was the main reason I bought Holly Cottage in 2010, and because of the state it was in, one of the reasons Mr W didn’t want to buy it…..Since I won that battle my outdoor space has been slowly evolving. Thought it’s fair to say the evolutionary pace has certainly picked up since I started my own interior design business. FYI constantly updating your own home because you see new and beautiful things every day is a hazard of the job I’m prepared to accept…. Continue reading “Outdoor Living – My Garden Style”
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…
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.
And then I fell in love with these little fellas.
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*
Mia stocks the key pieces needed to get Hygge like the Danes, i.e. scented candles throws and cushions
….and its not all monochrome.
She also has some pretty funky artwork…..
and fab lighting, including these concrete pendants.
The shop is a veritable treat for the eyes, everywhere you look there’s something you want to prod and poke
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?
So don’t just take my word for it get online at http://www.miabode.bigcartel.com/products and take a look for yourself
The kitchen is my favourite room in the house, and since installing the island over a year ago it had become my live, work, dining space. I say ‘had’ because I’m being evicted. Now that Mr W lives with me 7 days a week it is no longer practical for me to treat the kitchen as my office and test paints, create mood boards and do all my paperwork on the island. Which is a shame because it’s perfect for all those jobs.
I do have an office in the spare bedroom above the kitchen, but it was designed for my past life and I outgrew it the minute I started my own business. I also have a plan to convert our garage to an office / workshop. A plan which
I hope will be implemented this year but hasn’t yet started. So right now I need a plan B, which explains why I was in Ikea at 8pm last night.
Plan B – Operation Improve Actual Office
So my temporary solution is to improve my existing office. It can’t cost too much as I need to pay for the new office / workshop, and it all needs to be easily removable so that I can relocate it all to the new office / workshop when its ready, and return the room to a bedroom.
So the beautiful but impractical antique desk and leather captains chair will be going on eBay this weekend, and their sale will fund the improvements. The bed is staying as this will be a temporary office and I like having enough beds for our many many house guests, but the bedsides will have to go into the loft temporarily. This will give me enough space for two desks. One to sit at
gawking at fabulous interiors stuff on the internet doing research, paperwork and phone calls. The other to stand at test paint samples and create mood boards. My house was built in 1756 so a lot of the decor is traditional or rustic as the house lends itself to these styles. But I’ve gradually been adding other elements to give it a bit more interest. So this time I’m going for a Scandinavian look with clean lines, natural wood and a simple black and white scheme.
There’s a lot of natural oak in the room so I’ve gone for oak effect table tops with black adjustable legs to counter any problems with the wonky original floorboards. I would have loved one of their BEKANT sit/stand adjustable desks and wasted a good 20 minutes playing with the adjustable height and dreaming. I mean just look how happy these office workers are……or maybe they’re just gawking at fabulous interiors stuff too. But I would have still needed two desks for the extra worktop space so I walked away after making myself a firm promise that I can have one when I get the new office / workshop.
I would also have loved trestle legs but one of the tables will only have two legs with the back fixed to the wall so that it can wrap around the radiator instead of having to sit in front of it. These restrictions do mean though that I could have two desks with legs for just £115. You gotta love IKEA.
Thankfully I don’t need a lot of drawer space. So one drawer unit will be enough. There will be enough oak going on in the room now so I picked a simple black one with steel drawer labels.
I kept my practical head on just long enough to pick a chair. I damaged my coccyx during my one and only wind surfing lesson (and spent the rest of the week face down on a sun lounger), and am too old to sit without lumber support so ergonomics came first and last on this occasion. Although I did think the wire mesh on this one would go nicely with the wire organisers I planned to find.
And now the fun stuff starts… I’m a huge fan of the HEKTAR range of lights from IKEA. The range comes in dark grey or bronze and includes a floor lamp, pendant shade, a 3-spot ceiling track light and these fabulous wall lights which can also clamp on to a desk or shelf. I’ll take two of those please. I may add another two if I need extra light on both sides of each desk.
I need a memo board for reminders and what not and like the idea of a magnetic one. This black stainless steel one from Master of Boards fits nicely into my scheme and the space next to the window. It comes with magnets and hooks but for an extra fiver I added a pack of 20 additional mini magnets.
I’ve bought a whiteboard so I can display where my customers are in the pipeline and underneath this I’m going to have clipboards for each customer for their to do list and latest receipts – check me out, Mrs Organised.
I’ve ordered a couple of shelves and picture ledges for above the sitting desk which Mr W will be fitting. I’m not to be trusted with a drill. I practically whooped with delight when I saw this pic on the IKEA website. What a great way to store the rolls of lining paper I use to test paint samples.
I’ve ordered some shoe box size storage boxes for business cards, phone chargers, batteries and other paraphernalia which will fit on the shelves. Black obvs.
I’ve written before about my love of wire (see earlier post – Totally Wired) so this is a great opportunity to indulge myself with a few wire magazine holders etc. mostly from Amazon, totally making that Prime membership work for me.
And after bagging so many IKEA and Amazon bargains I felt I deserved a treat. Every office needs a clock and I’ve been hankering after a sunburst clock for a while. This black George Nelson clock from Cult Furniture is perfect and will look fab above the black woodburner.
While I was on the Cult Furniture site I stumbled across this cheeky little item and as it was reduced to £7 I just couldn’t resist.
OK so up until now I was doing really well budget wise, well under £500 for everything. Then I got sidetracked. It started with me thinking, ‘ooh I’d love an opticians eye test chart to frame and put on the shelves’. This then led me to eBay and a huge framed vintage print. Which then led me to another framed print the seller had of a phrenology head. £40 each which I thought was a bargain for the size of them. Well that’s what I’m telling myself.
Fabulous aren’t they.
So I’m aiming to get the existing desk out on Friday and the IKEA haul arrives on Saturday so Sunday will be spent arguing with Mr W as is traditional when we have to build furniture or do DIY together, Can’t wait!
Pics to follow.
Quick post as I’ve got a few projects finishing at the same time so its a bit hectic at Holly Cottage. Of course it’s my own fault, organising a 3 day jaunt to London at this time of year. In my defence though I was initially playing the role of ‘bike mule’ couriering one of Mr W’s fancy road bikes south, but then Mr W got made redundant……..I know, big news! Expect future postings to go off track as I adjust to living full-time with my husband. So even though my bike mule services were no longer required I decided to stick with the plan as I love nothing more than a troll round the many retailers that don’t exist in Cumbria (that would be all of them then…) and do a little restaurant and bar hopping to see what’s new in the hospitality design space. So as a result here are three new items for the Fantasy Pad, a little Christmas cheer courtesy of Heals and my favourite toilet doors EVER.
so fantasy pad item 1, the Tisno armchair and footstool from Heals. I am little obsessed with leather chairs and would furnish my whole house with them if I had room, and the money….. This one is just shy of £2k for both in this lovely soft leather. You can have a wool version but why would you.
Fantasy pad item number 2, the Windsor chair designed by Katie Walker for Heals. Katie makes very beautiful pieces but is probably best known outside design circles for designing Prince George’s highchair. This baby starts at £2295.
…..and looks good with the obligatory sheepskin that manages to make any chair look cool
Fantasy pad item number 3 is a pair of oak and leather lounge chairs designed by Gareth Neal for Heals. I haven’t decided whether to have black or tan or one of each in the fantasy pad. What the hell they’re only £895….
In other news I have broken my Christmas rule – NO DECORATIONS BEFORE 1ST DECEMBER. I blame Heals. Their festive displays practically had me carolling in Tottenham Court Rd. As soon as I got home I was in the garage hauling out the Christmas trees (yes plural). They also prompted me to do things a little differently this year. Now don’t worry I’m not going to go all interior designer on you and start showing you 5 different looks for Christmas. I’m actually from the more is more, santa’s grotto school of thinking when it comes to Christmas decorations. Taste only gets a minor look in. I even purchased a light up reindeer for the garden last year…..
So anyway back to Heals. Their displays were all a little Nordic. Very natural looking, lots of wood, faux fur, pine, cones, candles and dried fruit.
This dark blue velvet looks fab with the fur cushions and throw
I do love a white Christmas scheme with lots of greenery
The Gareth Neal Ease lounge chairs (below left) also fit well with this this look
I already had a lot of cones and dried fruit in my Christmas stash so I stocked up on candles when I passed through IKEA on Sunday and I’ve paired back the tinsel and gone for a more natural approach myself this year. I picked up these wooden reindeer tree decorations in Wilko last year which fit perfectly with my new Nordic/natural look. They have a metal version in their Natures Noel collection this year.
And now for the best toilet doors ever (cue drum roll). I’m obsessed with Hospitality design and it’s amazing I haven’t been arrested yet for taking photos in bathrooms. I suspect many people don’t even notice the detail that has gone into some of the designs I’ve seen and admired. But not me, I’m in there with the camera and forcing my male friends to take pics in the mens loos. These were in All Bar One in Houndsditch, London and are my favourite toilet doors by a country mile. I think the pictures of hanging dresses are genius and would look good on wardrobe doors too. The mens loos had ties on them BTW. My so called friend Phil forgot to take the pic when he went to spend a penny….
Anyway, back to work and an early Merry Christmas to you all
If you live in the UK there’s a very good chance that there are days when you’re stuck indoors because it’s raining. If you have Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sky or a life this probably doesn’t bother you. But it bothers me. I like being outside. I hate being stuck inside whatever the weather. I just googled ‘what’s the opposite of agoraphobia’ to see if there was a name for it. It’s claustrophobia apparently, which I don’t have. But I think I have macrophobia (fear of long waits) and nomophobia (fear of losing cell phone contact). Oh the power and distraction of google. You search for a Jamie Oliver recipe and before you know it you’re reading about Japanese snow monkeys. Or maybe it’s just me. I once went out to buy a hairdryer and bought a car…….Favourite phobia on the list? Sesquipedalphobia, the fear of long words which, as the author points out seems like a cruel joke. Check out the list, its very
funny informative 100 Weird Phobias.
Anyway, I digress. My point is, 3 years ago I came up with a solution. A way of being outside, enjoying the fresh air and my fell views without having to sit in the rain. I built a summer house. Well I say I….. I bought the house flatpack from Dunster House and had my local landscapers put it together and build a huge deck around three sides. It also solved the problem of what to do with the boggy bit of the garden that nothing grew in. At the time I didn’t want to spend a lot on the interior so just slapped on some paint and furnished it with spare furniture I already had. But it’s just had a makeover and ‘cor blimey’ it looks lovely. Want to come and take a look inside?
The summer house makeover was my chance to work with styles and materials that don’t fit in my very rustic cottage. So although it’s still a little rustic (it is a log cabin after all) it has both Nordic and industrial elements.
It’s basically a big wooden shed in what can be a very wet garden so I had to keep my practical hat on hence the rustic wood effect floor tiles. But occasionally the hat fell off, and a cow hide rug appeared…
Almost everything in this room is ‘my favourite thing’ but I am really happy with the new sofa covers and cushions which were made by my friend Di (Di’s Soft Furnishings). The sofa bed didn’t need replacing but I hated the old covers – duck egg blue and very twee….The linen fabrics are from Ada & Ina. I love the funky chevron and zig zag patterns, and the bright indigo which is becoming very popular right now, just pop into John Lewis if you need any proof.
Mr W’s favourite thing is the new bar built by a fabulous local joiner Kev (Curwen Joinery). I used an ageing technique on the wood to give it that weathered look. The metal bar stools were a billy bargain from Debenhams – reduced from £100 to £40 each! The pendant lights are from Nook London – aren’t they gorgeous.
I couldn’t find lampshades I liked so I made these using a roll of Albany deer hide effect wallpaper and kits I bought online. The effect is so realistic and looks fab with the reindeer rugs and antlers.
The coffee table is another DIY triumph constructed from scaffolding planks, and treated using the same ageing technique I used on the bar.
You need something to look at when you’re sat at the bar waiting for Mr W to pull you a pint (yes we have pumps too but they only come out for parties). So I’ve started a gallery wall of ‘good times’ – I found these fab Kiko frames at Not On The High Street which I’m a huge fan of.
A bit of greenery always brings a room to life and ferns and succulents have a better chance than most of surviving my exceptionally un-green fingers…… The pineapple is from M&S. Its supposed to be a hanging bird feeder but I thought it would make a good tea light holder.
The gnome is also M&S. I couldn’t resist him…….
So I love my new Nordic style sanctuary, and now its getting a bit cold, wet and windy I can retreat up the garden, fire up the log burner and watch the rain any time I like….
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.
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.
The fabrics for the soft furnishings have been ordered. Ada & Ina came up trumps and delivered three gorgeous linens.
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….
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.
In my old life I travelled a lot. Thanks to Daddy Warbucks (aka Mr W) I still manage my fair share of holidays. OK I probably take more holidays than the average person. OK I’m only just trumped by Judith Chalmers, but I’ve earned it! In my last job I was travelling almost every week. And as every business traveller knows, its rarely glamorous and often tiring. But I enjoyed it, and a lot of my interior design ideas are influenced by the places I’ve visited and the hotels and I’ve stayed in. Subtly of course, I’m not talking Greek taverna style kitchen after a week in Crete.
I recently suggested to a customer that we cover some of her IKEA wardrobe doors in white PVC to re-create the glamorous effect I saw in a hotel in Lisbon. For those of you looking aghast she liked the idea and if we go ahead I’ll share the photos to prove it will work! The idea for my downstairs wet room actually came from outdoor showers I’d seen in Africa and the Maldives. Now I appreciate that nobody wants to take a shower outside in Cumbria, even in summer, but the high ceiling, light stone effect wall and floor tiles and huge skylight were supposed to create the same feeling of being outdoors. Well I think I achieved it, even if it did take underfloor heating and the worlds largest cast iron radiator to match the temperature…
The Nordic countries were among my favourite places to visit. (Scandinavia plus Finland and Iceland for those of you not familiar with this part of the world). I haven’t made it to Iceland yet but Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen are great cities for people, culture and food (surprisingly its not all pickled herring), and 2am karaoke in Helsinki with a group of Finns is not to me missed. They may seem a little gruff but Finnish hospitality is fabulous and the Finns love of alcohol and heavy metal is only surpassed by their love of saunas (Google world sauna championships for more on this). It is these countries and specifically their summer houses which they retreat to in July and August which have influenced my own summer house and the new decor I am working on.
The old interior was thrown together mainly with stuff I already had as Holly Cottage was still a second home then. The new interior will be modern rustic with a Nordic feel. The colour scheme will mix greys and white with natural linen and dashes of bright blue. I’m painting the whole interior my new favourite grey – ‘bottlefly wings’ by Valspar. Admittedly the name is my favourite thing about this colour, but it is a lovely almost white grey with a tinge of blue to it. I’m hoping it will look as light and airy as this one I found on Pinterest.
If you’ve ever been to an exercise class (I prefer self torture these days) you will be familiar with the warm up where the instructor gets you to stick your arms out to the sides, palms facing out and make circles backwards and forwards. Do that for 2 hours and that’s how my arms feel today after transforming our new bar from natural pine to this…..
It’s a great match for the weathered wood effect tiles we’ve had laid. I toyed with the idea of stripping and treating the floorboards again but decided tiles were more practical in a county that gets more than 4m of rainfall a year.
We’re adding new pendant lights above the bar to make more of a feature of it. I found these great enamel pendants online from Nook London. They also supply the full kit with a choice of metal finishes and cables.
I can’t justify replacing the furniture so we’re getting new sofa covers made up as soon as I’ve found a fabric suitable for upholstery that resembles heavy natural linen. The armchairs aren’t perfect but with the right cushions and throws they’ll blend in. I picked this beauty up in John Lewis on my last jaunt to London.
When I was treating the bar I gave the scaffolding plank table (last years upcycle) a lick of dark wax so it now matches the bar too.
The huge cow hide rug I bought at Grand Designs in May, the reindeer throws and the wall antlers are all staying to give it that Nordic look and I’ll finish it off with some rustic accessories like these jugs and willow log baskets.
The UFO? I already have it but you’ll just have to wait. Our annual summer BBQ is at the end of August so it has to be Finnished (see what I did there..) by then. Pics to follow soon!
PS chicken count is still 5…….