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My 2015 Interior Design Report Card

Sorry if I’ve been a bit quiet but I assumed you were busy with Christmas and whatnot. It’s been a tad hectic at Holly Cottage too but not with interior design stuff. I’ve spent the past 7 days with Jamie Oliver, and together we have produced some wonderful dishes including Christmas Roast DuckBloody Mary Beef and Rabbit Bolognese. Today we’re collaborating on Chicken Liver Parfait and Roasted Pork Shoulder. It’s the only time of year I have the time and the appropriate number of mouths to feed to warrant such domestic goddesstry, and now Mr W is officially retired I have a new sous chef which helps.

Taking some downtime from Interior Design and cooking with Mr W

Pre-Amelia Wilson Interiors, cooking was essential therapy, and I still find it very relaxing. These past few days when I haven’t been chopping, stirring or flambéing, (that was the chicken livers this morning – goodbye eyebrows), I’ve been thinking about how far I’ve come since I started my interior design business a little over a year ago. So this week, instead of homework, I’m submitting my 2015 report card for your perusal.

Overall interior design performance

I’m very pleased with the number of interior design projects I’ve completed this year, and how diverse they’ve been. It’s not just been bedrooms and bathrooms, but living rooms, kitchens, a pub, a shop, a showroom “and a partridge in a pear tree”……. sorry, still feeling very festive. I’m not quite making enough to keep Mr W in the manner to which he had become accustomed, but I probably never will. Please don’t tell him or he might make me go back to London….

What’s really motivated though me has been the positive feedback from every single one of my customers, and from others online. When you hop on the social media train you leave yourself open to (sometimes not very constructive) criticism and I’ve had a couple of ‘not likes’ but I’m a big girl, both mentally and of late physically, and everyone is entitled to their opinion. At the end of the day it’s what the customer thinks, and nothing says customer satisfaction more than “when can you start the next room” which I’ve heard a few times this year. A big thank you to everyone who has ‘liked’ my work though – it really is appreciated.

Gold Stars

I’ve come from a background of team working so being a one-woman band is new to me and working from home can be isolating. So I’m proud of and value the partnerships I’m building, not just with tradespeople and suppliers but also with distribution partners. Cockermouth Kitchen Co is my first and I have a couple more in the pipeline – watch this space.

I’m also chuffed to bits with the new website. I was feeling pretty smug about building the first one in April but after a few months I realised it was a bit dated so I gave it a makeover and I think it looks pretty good. I am officially a geek.

I’m also giving myself a gold star for the effort I have put into maintaining my social media presence and experimenting with various marketing and advertising tools including press, online media, and starting January 4th – Radio! The time all that takes should never be underestimated and is what keeps me up late after I’ve finished actual interior design work.

Nothing to do with my interior design business but I’m also pleased to have kept 8 out of 10 chickens alive. RIP Shakira and Brittney, fingers crossed the mysterious bug that ended your short lives doesn’t wipe out the others in 2016..

Could try harder

Although I did work on three commercial projects this year I haven’t broken into the hospitality space yet. So I’m a little disappointed, but I’ll just have to ramp up the efforts in 2016.

I’m also getting better at photography, but David Bailey I am not. I think I’ve figured out the angles and close up shots, but god help me the lighting in Cumbria is a challenge. Might need to invest in a big flash….

Grades

So I’m giving myself A’s for effort, customer satisfaction, distribution and marketing, a B for sales (need to help maintain Mr W’s new life of leisure), and C for commercial activity and photography. Not bad for a start up me thinks.

I also took a look back at which of my blog posts you liked the most and top of the list was all the best parties end up in the kitchen. I suspect this had more to do with the movie at the end than my interiors waffle…check it out it did make me chuckle this morning.

So thats me done until New Year. My next group of visitors arrives this afternoon and I’m still in my PJ’s.

Make sure you check back in January as I have some more great before and afters to show you.

Spare a thought for Cumbria this Christmas

Tonight I need to digress a little from my usual interiors waffle to ask you to spare a thought for Cumbria this Christmas. I was fortunate enough to have some free time today so I spent the afternoon with a lovely lady called Liz walking around Cockermouth handing out hot drinks and food that had been donated locally to homeowners that had been flooded and tradespeople that were helping them clean up the mess. Now we’ve all been watching the news and reading the papers, but seeing the extent of the damage to peoples homes firsthand and hearing their stories makes you realise just how tough it is for them. I met singles that were couch surfing, couples that were living separately because friends or relatives could only put up one of them, and a family living on their first floor surrounded by everything they had been able to save before they were flooded, because they don’t want to rack up a big insurance claim and become uninsurable.

There is a lot of support locally of course. The church hall is filled with food and cleaning stuff that has been donated by supermarkets, businesses and local residents. And there are lots of volunteers offering help. But none of that makes up for the fact that most of these people won’t be spending Christmas at home this year. Those that had been through this before told me it took 6 months to get their homes back in order. 6 months. None of them were moaning or complaining though, that’s not the Cumbrian way, they were just getting on with it. Throwing out furniture, ripping up carpets and trying to get rid of the mud which is everywhere.

I also chatted to someone which made me realise there will be many that were not directly affected by the floods, but impacted still the same. This lady runs a cleaning business and gets most of her income from holiday lets. Some of her customers properties have been flooded so will be off the rental market for up to 6 months. Obviously this is terrible news for the property owners, but hopefully most will have insurance which will cover them for loss of income. But she has no such protection, so will be struggling to make ends meet until their businesses are operational again unless she can find other work.

I know there are worthy causes all over the world and this is just another appeal. But I couldn’t live here and witness this and not ask you to support Cumbria either by donating to the Cumbria Flood Recovery Fund, shopping online with one of the local businesses in Cockermouth that have an online shop , or visiting what I think is the most beautiful place in the world and spending a few quid. If you ask nice I might even put you up 🙂

Sign in shop window in Cockermouth after Cumbria floods

My glamorous life and some great before and afters

As you can probably guess the life of an interior designer is very glamorous. This week I have:

  • Driven hundreds of miles sourcing things for various projects
  • Spent 2 hours trying to remember how many miles I drove in the last 3 months for the records my accountant keeps telling me I need to keep, that I keep forgetting about
  • Collected, cleaned, restored and delivered secondhand furniture
  • Spray painted a chair…..plus my hands, shoes and a bit of the dog
  • Updated my own website so that I’m no longer on page 42 of Google when you search for ‘interior designer Cockermouth’ (am now on page 1 – result!)
  • Spent more hours on the phone that I can remember begging and bartering ruthlessly with suppliers for freebies and discounts
  • Photographed and edited a completed project
  • Started designs for a new customer and completed the designs and estimates for 4 kitchens in the showroom I’m updating

I then spent yesterday in the kitchen showroom meeting customers. So after a few drinks and dinner in Cockermouth with Mr W I was in bed (with the dog) at 9pm. Rock and roll.

But I wouldn’t change my new life for anything, its fab. And I LOVE designing kitchens. Probably because most people leave theirs until they become so outdated they’re almost fashionable again, which makes the transformation amazing. I can understand how this happens. The average customer now spends between £10,000 and £15,000 on a new kitchen and the mess and disruption can be quite stressful so you can’t just change it when you spot a new trend you like. Of course there are ways you can update your existing kitchen without spending too much,. You can keep the units but change the doors or paint the existing ones, replace the floor or wall tiles, or just change the lighting and accessories. Even a few small changes can often make a big difference. But lets be honest you can’t beat the WOW of a complete makeover.

To prove it I’m going to show you the finished kitchen which I photographed this week. This was part of a complete house renovation project I worked on, and has got to be one of my favourite before and afters. You’ll soon see why….if you’re holding a small child, or more importantly a glass of wine, put it down first, I don’t want you to spill it.

So here is how it looked. Magnificent mahogany!

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Poor lighting, gloomy tiling and useless corner shelves…..

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A very anti-social wall facing breakfast bar which nobody wanted to sit at….

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A window that didn’t get blocked in when the extension was built…..

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and a corridor of wasted space leading to random patio doors that open onto the front drive…

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So a huge kitchen with loads of potential and the owners wanted it gutting – I was in my element!

And here’s how it now looks…..

Cream shaker style kitchen by Amelia Wilson Interiors Ltd

The first thing I put in the plan was a downstairs loo which I put in the corridor of wasted space. Next to this I added a cupboard for the boiler which we wanted to move out of an upstairs bathroom, and a laundry area with a new washer dryer (the old kitchen included a separate washer and dryer). A small dividing wall zoned this area off from the main kitchen. Replacing the patio doors with a regular door meant the owners could use it to bring shopping straight into the kitchen. The owners were delighted when I showed them the plan as they have a lot of parties and really wanted a toilet downstairs to stop visitors traipsing upstairs.

Zoned utility area in kitchen for toilet, boiler cupboard and washer/dryer

And we still had room for all the extra ovens the lady of the house wanted for her annual Thanks Giving bash when she cooks dinner for 30+ people. Her husband would like me to point out though that this is the only meal she cooks. For the rest of the year it’s restaurants and microwave meals. (Sorry Wendy – he’ll only add a comment if I fail to mention this…)

Two ovens, microwave and plate warmer at eye level

and we still had room for a hob and a new wine cooler – yes this is the worlds longest kitchen…..

Gas hob with herringbone effect metro tiles

Next on my list was obviously the window which had to go, and a new belfast sink and taps to give the kitchen the more traditional look the owners wanted.

Cream shaker style kitchen with Belfast sink and herringbone effect metro tiles

I originally gave them a plan that included an island but after a bit of deliberation the owners decided against it as they were worried about losing floor space. Secretly I think this might have been dance floor space as they do like a party. So I reworked the plan to include a new breakfast bar that was more sociable with diner style lighting. (These pendants were a bargain BTW – under £40 from Tesco!)

Breakfast bar with diner style lighting

This meant the old breakfast bar could go and we could have more cupboard space with internal lighting. The fitters did a great job of modifying the left units so they fit around the stairs which are behind the kitchen.

Cream shaker style kitchen with in cupboard lighting

I re-designed the units behind the breakfast bar to look like a dresser to add to the traditional feel of the kitchen. I wasn’t concerned about losing the work surface between the units as there was plenty in the rest of the kitchen and the central horizontal wine rack made a nice feature.

Dresser style kitchen units

The owners had already decided they wanted a buttermilk colour, and when they went to see the kitchen supplier I’d found for them he suggested a contrasting worktop colour which he’d used with similar cream kitchens and they loved it.

I suggested keeping the painted walls and wall tiles neutral to avoid too many colours but used a dark grout and herringbone effect around the sink and hob to make the tiles stand out.

Herringbone effect cream metro tiles

I showed the owners a selection of simple stone effect floor tiles, and they liked these best. Both the wall and floor tiles are from Walls & Floors

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The owner had seen some bar stools that she liked which had copper coloured tops so we got these and I added a few more copper touches to complete the look. The owner has added a few  more since.

Copper kitchen accessories

When it comes to kitchens people tend to have strong opinions about what they like, and preferences they don’t even realise they have. Gas vs electric, mixer taps vs separate taps, knobs vs handles or levers, amount of fridge vs freezer space, combined or separate washer/dryers, recycling bins, traditional or jug kettles, 2 or 4 slice toasters….the list is endless…. This means these projects have to be far more collaborative than other rooms. It’s a big investment so it has to be right.

It’s probably another reason I enjoy doing kitchens so much – teamwork! Blimey thats a bit cheesy isn’t it, I was almost back in my former life ‘motivate the sales team’ mode then…..

So what do you think – best before and afters ever?

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?

Getting close to the Finnish line

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…

Large wet room with stone effect wall and floor tiles and huge skylight

Wet room influenced by outdoor showers

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.

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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…..

Weathered effect wood on bar

Our new weathered wood bar

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.

Small enamel pendant light in midnight blue from Nook London

Small enamel pendant light in midnight blue from Nook London

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.

Striped linen throw, currently £49.50 on sale at John Lewis

Striped linen throw, currently £49.50 on sale at John Lewis

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.

Scaffolding plank coffee table and cow hide rug

Scaffolding plank coffee table – last years upcycle with a new coat of dark wax

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.

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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…….

Interior Design UFOs

Ever since I started working as an interior designer people have been asking me “what’s your style?”  I dread this question, particularly if it comes from a potential customer or a journalist as the reality is I don’t have one and I worry this makes me sound flaky. Maybe one day when I’m an internationally famous and fabulously rich designer (cue giggling and pig snort) I will develop a trademark style that is instantly recognizable and much sought after. But right now I genuinely like working with and can appreciate all styles of décor if they work. In fact I find that if I’ve been doing a lot of one style I start missing others. Right now I’m itching to rock a bit of 70’s retro but I might need to look outside Cumbria for that..

Having said all that I have noticed a trait starting to appear in my work, the interior design UFO. The unexpected final object. I can’t resist finishing off a room with a little surprise. It’s usually something personal to the room owner and/or a bit quirky, without being out of place or tacky. The feeling I get when customers spot it and chuckle is deeply satisfying as I’ve made them laugh. For them the design instantly becomes unique and they will get the same enjoyment I get when their visitors spot the UFO and chuckle.

Here’s some couple of my recent UFO’s

‘Ear protection must be worn’ sign in the bedroom of a young drum player, sourced from a company that supplies construction companies.

‘Ear protection must be worn’ sign in a young boys bedroom – he likes to play the drums. Signs like this are not expensive and easily available from companies that supply factories and construction companies.

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Pub wall sign in traditional Cumbrian dialect. Joe Fagan is the pub landlord and a true Cumbrian. The sign means no spitting, no shouting, no fighting.

Tap towel hooks in add a bit of fun to a very classical bathroom. The customer loved them so much we put them in all 3 of her bathrooms.

The customer loved these tap towel hooks so much we put them in all 3 of her bathrooms!

Personalised selfie coasters ordered from Snapfish using photos downloaded from the customers Facebook page

Personalised selfie coasters ordered from Snapfish using photos downloaded from the customers Facebook page

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Custom made time zone clocks in my own kitchen. Mr W is often in New York or Europe so it helps me figure out if I can call him without waking him up!

So maybe the UFO will become my trademark, and photographs of my work will become the interior design version of where’s Wally, who knows. Or maybe I’ll just continue to sound flaky until I’m rich and famous, and possibly beyond…..

Another quick chicken count before I sign off. Unfortuntely we are now down to 5. Victoria Peckham recovered from her run in with Finlay the spaniel but Beate is MIA presumed dead. It’s made the remaining ladies very nervous and they now roam around my garden and the neighbouring fields together watching each others backs. It won’t be for long though. Harold is making me a new chicken coop so next week I’m off chicken shopping to fill it and restore egg production at Holly Cottage. I’m thinking about silkies – look how cute they are – pom pom chickens!

Silkie breed of chickens

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creating the luxury look on a budget

In my former life I was rarely alone. I lived and worked in central London, and if I wasn’t travelling I was out with friends enjoying the city. Now I live in rural Cumbria, only see Mr W at weekends, and could go days without seeing anyone if I didn’t visit my neighbours (aged 65 and 88 respectively..) and get a lot of deliveries. I’m on first name terms with Kev from DPD and have him on speed dial in case I’m running late for his exceptionally punctual visits.

I wouldn’t change my new life for anything but unsurprisingly I can get lonely now and again. So last week I adopted a 3 year old girl called Lexi. Before you think that’s a little extreme she’s an American Bulldog and I am totally besotted with her. I think the feeling is mutual.

Lexi the American Bulldog

Lexi my gorgeous girl

Another feature of my former life was staying in fancy pants hotels, both for business and pleasure so I’ve really been enjoying one of my jobs this week which has been to recreate the luxury hotel bedroom look on a budget. Here are a couple of tips on how to achieve this:

1. Layering

If your budget is limited you’ll need to shop around to find affordable items. Save yourself time trying to colour match everything exactly by going for a layered look. Pick your key colour and then look for items in tones of this colour. A neutral colour like grey is perfect for this look. But it also works with brighter colours.

Grey bedroom

Bedroom designed with layers of grey

2. Customise

There are people that knock Ikea but you can’t beat them for affordable simple furniture, and their self assembly model means you can customise pieces before you ignore the instructions and try and work out where everything goes (or is that just me?). I stayed at the uber glam Epic Sana Hotel in Lisbon earlier this year in a room that had white leather walls and wardrobe doors. I think this look could be replicated using Ikea’s high gloss wardrobe doors, good quality white faux leather and a glue gun. My thought was to only cover the middle doors in 3 door wardrobes to add a touch of glamour and introduce some texture into the scheme. If my customer goes for the idea I’ll share the results.

Bedroom at the Epic Sana in Lisbon

Bedroom at the Epic Sana in Lisbon

3. Google

Web technology means any retailer can add text to the images on their website so that they show up in Google images. Even if they’re a one man (or woman) band and built the website themselves from a free template. So if you need amber glass accessories to complete your look, just google amber glass and see what pops up. I’ve found countless bargains scouring google images, and I’ve found products from major retailers that I’d missed when I was in store either because they’d sold out or because I was distracted by handbags and shoes I can’t afford…. I picked up the bargain below for £50 after googling grey zig zag rug.

Bargain Cabone rug from Lookagain.co.uk

Bargain Cabone rug from Lookagain.co.uk

4. Make regular trips to your local Homesense and TK Maxx stores

I know I’ve said this before but I just love TK Maxx and their homewares stores Homesense. They introduce new stock on a daily basis and you can find some great quality bargains at knock down prices. (The staff are also really helpful and chatty too). The rug above was for a customers guest bedroom. The room is less than 2m wide so even with a small 4ft 6″ double bed there was little room for bedside tables. But I found these stylish ceramic topped side tables in the garden section  of TK Maxx. Only 30cm wide and £24.99 each.

Small black and white zig zag patterned tiled side tables from TK Maxx

Small zig zag tiled side tables from TK Maxx

It’s great when you get a customer that wants and can afford luxury but most of my customers can’t, and to be honest I think I get more pleasure from creating a stylish look on a budget. It must be my northern roots – you can take the girl out of Manchester and all that.

Quick chicken count before I go – we’re still at 6 but Victoria Peckham is on the watch list. She had a narrow escape from Finlay the spaniel and may have a broken leg. If it doesn’t heal we may have to intervene to put her out of her misery. Thats the royal we of course, by which I mean Harold the farmer….

 

A sad day at Holly Cottage


Agata the escapologist chicken

Agata is MIA and presumed dead. She didn’t come home last night or this morning for breakfast, and a thorough search of the surrounding fields, gardens and sheds has not provided any clues to her whereabouts so we can only assume the worst. Death by fox.

I will miss her escapades and her jauntiness. She was the only one of my girls that could fly out of the coop. She wasn’t deterred when I built a fence to stop her accessing my neighbours garden and eating the bird food, she just walked down the lane and through her front gate. She had also mastered my neighbours cat flap and developed a taste for whiskas, but she always left a thank you note (albeit an unwelcome one…).

But most of all I will miss her double yolkers. Must have been all that bird and cat food…… Double yolker

 

Warning, reading this will cause severe house envy….

Its back to life in the slow lane again after my recent London jaunt. I do love my new life but a city fix is needed occasionally or there’s a strong chance I will become very unkempt and a bit dotty from spending to much time with chickens. This trip also delivered evidence that dispels two myths about London that I have enjoyed sharing with my fellow Cumbrians.

Myth One – Eating out in London is expensive: Two of the best meals I had that weekend cost less than a fiver. The first was a homemade, warm from the oven scotch egg. Orangey yolk, wonderfully seasoned pork with a touch of black pudding. Absolutely delicious. If you ever find yourself in N1 and hungry, find The Marquess and you will not be disappointed. The second was a portion of chips and curry sauce from a chippy in Blackheath Royal Standard, which would have knocked the socks of any triple cooked, gastro-pub efforts. Classy no, delicious, hell yes.

Myth two – Londoners are unfriendly: In preparation for my triathalon next month I went for a run in Greenwich park and five minutes from the house tripped over my own clumsy feet and took the skin off both knees and palms like a 6 year old. Half a dozen people offered assistance, including a lovely couple that administered first aid and two passing drivers who offered to take me to A&E. Thankfully my pride was the biggest injury sustained but it was heart warming to encounter so many good Samaritans.

But the highlight of my trip was without a doubt the North London House Tour organized by Livingetc. A chance to nosy around seven amazing private homes with a bunch of like-minded interiors enthusiasts, with all proceeds going to Crisis the national charity for single homeless people. We had been asked not to take photographs inside the houses but the staff and homeowners gave me permission to take a few which I can share with you now – apologies for the image quality, they really don’t do these properties justice.

I started at house #4 on the tour, a 5-storey Victorian property that despite being filled to the rafters with artwork and curiosities didn’t feel cluttered. I stood for 10 minutes in the living room alone just soaking it all in. I didn’t even ask if I could take a photo I was so in awe so this is the one from the tour guide. Favourite thing about this house – the vintage lights.

Green and white room with vintage lights

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Next stop was house #3, a stained back cedar cube nestled between brick Georgian properties. Overall I found this house a little too stark. However, there were two things that took my breath away. The first was the view of their neighbours tree from the living room window, a huge expanse of glass that stretched the length of the room, which made you feel like you were in the treetops. On the opposite side of the room was a wall of floor to ceiling cupboards, and if I can offer my interiors two-penneth, personally I would have given them mirrored glass doors to reflect this vista, which would have been stunning all year round. The second was the view of the Japanese maple (Acer) in a private courtyard outside one of the bedrooms.

Stunning tree view from living room window View of Japanese maple (acer) from bedroom window

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On to house #2, a 3-storey Victorian villa with the most amazing kitchen overlooking the garden. What made the interior of this house so eye catching was the neutral colour scheme with the pops of bright primary colours in window blinds, bathroom vanity units and other items.

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Thankfully house #1 was just around the corner as I was starting to flag at this point. The house was beautifully decorated and furnished but the thing that caught my eye was the paint effects, particularly this one below which really framed the eves of the house.

Paint effect that frames the room

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On route to house #5 I popped into The Marquess for sustenance and was treated to another interiors surprise which I hope my fellow enthusiasts discovered. The lighting is what stood out, but I also loved the exotic ceiling fans in the main dining room.

Cluster of black vintage ceiling pendants in The Marquess in N1 image

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The trek to house #5 was a little long, but worth it. Another multi-storey Victorian villa, but this time a minimalists dream, all pale greys and very little furniture. I’m actually convinced this house isn’t lived in yet, as there was little evidence of occupancy . But it was here I suffered a severe case of bathroom envy.

White, grey and marble bathroom in Victorian property with gold fixtures

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I nearly didn’t make it to house #6 which was entirely my own fault for getting lost, taking the wrong bus and missing my stop when I found the right bus. This Edwardian terrace is owned by an artist who has turned it into an oasis of light and calm. I had another bout of bathroom envy when I saw the pebbled floors, and I loved her use of pale pink, which is a colour I have never liked and now want to plagiarise. And yet another beautiful garden….

Pebbled bathroom floor image image

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Last stop was at the top of an almighty hill but worth the climb as they had saved the best till last. The owner is an interior designer (Mad Cow Interiors) who has a bold and eclectic style which might not be for everyone but I loved it. The corrugated metal effect wallpaper, the hanging basket chair in the living room, the customised furniture, the album cover floor in the games room, the first floor sun deck, her amazing walk in wardrobe and boudoir bedroom. Even the downstairs loo was cool. I wanted to move in.

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Funky pop art decorated toilet Hanging basket chair

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So a huge thank you to the organisers, volunteers and home owners for delivering such an amazing event, I will definitely be back next year, by which time I should have recovered from the severe case of house envy. But for now I’d better go and feed those chickens….in the rain….and wind….

The definition of house porn

The term house porn has been in my vocabulary for years and one I use frequently but it only struck me this week that I might need to explain myself in case I’m branded a pervert. Surprisingly Wikipedia my favourite online encyclopaedia describes food porn but not house porn, which presents me with a golden opportunity to define it myself, I’ve even created my own Wikipedia account in order to start the process! In the meantime this is my draft, which admittedly plagiarises heavily Wikipedias definition of food porn…..

House porn – a glamourised spectacular visual presentation of homes, interiors or home furnishings in advertisements, print and digital media, blogs, television shows, events or other visual media intended to arouse a desire to own the objects displayed or re-create the effects shown.

What do you think, do I have the makings of a Wikipedia article?

In the meantime here’s some house porn from Grand Designs Live this weekend!

Pendant cocoon lights from Mac Master Design

Stunning cocoon pendant lights from Mac Master Design

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Wide plank wood flooring from Siberian FloorsWide plank wood flooring from Siberian FloorsWide plank wood flooring from Siberian FloorsScreen Shot 2015-05-10 at 22.48.23Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 22.48.39

Gorgeous wide plank wooden flooring from Siberian Flooring

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Stylish kitchen from Prentice Furniture

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