Feeling old….

A month ago when I set up this blog I was feeling pretty pleased with myself for figuring out the technology. Now I have a problem (adding photo’s) and feel like an old lady thats been given a computer for the first time. Needless to say blogging temporarily suspended while I try and fix things – wish I was a young hip techno-savvy geek!

A folly in the city?

Wherever I am I’m always on the look out for design inspirations and London never disappoints. Drinks with friends last night took me to The Folly which I love because it’s so not The City where it’s located. The interior has a real forest feel but also includes lovely vintage kitsch and it’s own pop up homewares shop. With free wifi and lots of natural light it’s a great place to camp out too – and the service, food and wine list aren’t bad either!

Forest feel bathrooms in The Folly, London

Door to who knows where in The Folly, London

Forest feel dining at The Folly, London

From sales management to chicken herder, online retailer and interior designer

Now the ladies are acclimatised I’ve started to let them out into the garden. On their first outing I spent most of the time trying to keep them from transferring all of the soil from my raised flower beds to the path…On their second outing I managed to herd them up onto the lawn. When I checked on them a few hours later they were behind the summer house digging like their lives depended on it. Clearly they hadn’t realised that if they wanted to escape they could just walk down the drive and across the neighbouring fields. Getting them in this afternoon so I could go out proved to be a little challenging. The phrase ‘herding cats’ should really be replaced with ‘herding chickens’ I’m convinced it would be easier with cats. My former workmates would have laughed their socks off if they’d seen me chasing Agata across the garden when she tried to make a break for it, while shouting “go to the hen house” to the rest of them….20 minutes it took me. Thank god I only have 7 chickens. I keep telling myself the eggs will be worth it (possibly prize winning my exceptionally competitive side says….)

I may not be a natural chicken herder but I’m definitely happier since I started my new life in Cumbria. It was a year ago when I realised I wanted to do something different with my life. I just couldn’t work out what I wanted to do. My friends often complimented me on my homes but it was only after the third visitor to Holly Cottage suggested I consider designing homes for a living that I started to wonder if this was something I really could do. When I thought back it was always something I’d been passionate about. I used to drive my mum crazy reorganising my bedroom and begging for it to be decorated again. I bought my first house very young and decorated it myself, stripping floorboards and filling it with second hand furniture I’d salvaged from friends and relatives. This trend continued throughout my 20’s and 30’s, experimenting with different styles and designs. One of my favourite being the uber-modern apartment in Greenwich that came with 1000 sq. foot of roof terrace. I grew the most beautiful roof garden that lit up at night. I was devastated when we sold it and the buyer insisted I remove it before the sale completed. I cried when I came home to bare concrete 2 days before we moved out. I kept telling myself it was just a garden, but it wasn’t, it was a little slice of paradise 6 floors above the streets of London.

So after discussing it with Mr W I decided to explore the idea of a new career. I signed up for a Diploma in Interior Design that I could do remotely with the British Academy of Interior Design, and started two night school courses, one in upholstery and one in furniture restoration. Within a week I was hooked and realised I wanted to follow my passion. I continued to work on personal projects, and took some other courses at weekends; curtain making, furniture painting. I even signed up for a second term of upholstery and furniture restoration. I didn’t see myself becoming a full time upholsterer or restorer but I enjoyed learning the skills and it was great to meet people that had similar interests. The multitude of courses available is one of the things I loved about London.

It all came to a head when changes at work put me in a position where I had to make a choice. I  knew it was time to move on and try something completely new, and although they didn’t want me to leave my boss and the management team were exceptionally supportive. I had worked there for 20 years and given it everything I had. I knew they recognised this but I still didn’t expect the amount of support I got. It was a very emotional last day and there were a few tears in the pub that night.

So here I am in Cumbria. When we bought Holly Cottage we decorated it as a second home, with cheap furniture and some basic upgrading. Now this was going to be my permanent residence and where Mr W would also retire to we decided to give it a proper make over. So that was to be my focus for the first few months, while I also finished my diploma. My plan being to set up the interior design business in the 2nd quarter of 2015.

That still is the plan and as you’ll have seen from my previous posts the renovations are keeping me busy. But anyone who knows me will not be surprised to learn I’m also working on an idea for a new online retail business, and I have recently accepted my first interior design customer! I’ll be working for a friend and former colleague who is returning from Australia to the house she was letting out while she and her husband were out there. I haven’t seen the house yet, or heard what plans she has if any, I just know she wants a major overhaul and would like some help with creativity and project management. I’m excited and dying to get started. Unfortunately for my builders it means extra pressure on them to get my work completed. I’m an extremely “efficient” project manager when there are no time pressures, so god help them now…..


The car boot rookie

Now that I no longer have a city salary I need to be a little less frivolous, if only to keep myself in Bobby Brown eye cream. I will continue to support my local charity shops with donations and purchases but as I clear our house of unwanted goods my first thought should be whether I can sell them. Following the success at the auction I decided to give a car boot a go this morning. I spent Saturday rounding up as much random paraphernalia as I could. Nothing was ruled out. I then packed it all in the car on Saturday night to save time on Sunday morning. The gates of my local car boot opens to stall holders at 6am so I wanted to get their early to get a good pitch. Mr W kindly offered to come with me to set up, so at 5.30am this morning we both dragged ourselves out of bed and set off. It was a bit of a free for all when I got there but I managed to secure a pitch right in the centre of the action. The venue hosts livestock auctions during the week so thankfully its covered, as we had howling wind and rain all day. This at least brought us a lot of customers who had nothing better to do on a wet Sunday morning.

I thought I was prepared, but I was a naive rookie. This is what I learned….

  1. Dress like a true Brit, i.e. layers. Better to strip than shiver. Mr W had to leave me his coat.
  2. Take a decorating table and/or pack your things in boxes which you can then use as tables. I at least got this right.
  3. Take change, carrier bags, bubble wrap, paper, pens and sellotape. It might be a car boot but car booters expect the same service they’d get at John Lewis.
  4. Take a chair. Do not forget the chair. Remember a chair. God I wish I’d taken a chair.
  5. Know the measurements, sizes, functionality, origin, history and future potential of every product. Car booters ask a lot of questions.
  6. Always quote a higher price than you want. Car booters always make a counter offer.
  7. Smile at all the passers buy and invite conversation as this will encourage them to stop and look at your goods. Though in Cumbria this does have its risks as the Cumbrians are a chatty bunch and you could easily miss a sale shooting the breeze with some old dear about the weather.
  8. Make friends with your neighbours so they will watch your pitch when you need the loo, lend you pen and paper which you forgot to bring, and let you sit on their chair…..

Favourite comment of the day; Customer – ooh that’s lovely bedding. Me – its £10 for the set. Customer – oh no I don’t buy bedding. Me – (in my head) so why are you looking at it then!

I also loved the banter with the guy that came back to collect the fan that his wife had paid for earlier. I insisted he describe her in case he was just stealing my fan. I quote, “short with dark hair and a bit of a big lass, actually a lot of a big lass”. He then made me promise I wouldn’t tell her what he’d said if she came back. To be fair to him the girl had curves.

The result – £106 net after the £8 fee for the pitch which will keep me in Bobby Brown eye cream for the rest of the year. Macklemore was right (in the song Thrift Shop). One man’s trash is another man’s come-up, and if you’ve got goods to clear when you’re updating your home you should give it a shot. You will always sell something.

So despite the cold and the backache from standing it was a lot of fun. As a teenager I used to work on a market stall at weekends and always loved the banter and the bartering. I had a few things left at the end which will now go to charity. I’m not ready to make this a weekly event…..


Reality starts to sink in…..

So after 20+ years in financial services I finally realised what it was that made me happy (aside from Mr W), and it wasn’t my current job or location. So I took the plunge and last week I moved to Cumbria to begin a new career in interior design. More on the build up to this later… Mr W helped me move but this morning he had to return to London so today was really the first day in my new life. And its been a busy one. Today I learned the real difference between a physical versus an online auction experience, which is back ache. Ironically it will take up less of my time selling my old furniture through MItchells auctioneers in Cockermouth that it would if I used eBay, but I’ll let you know on Thursday if it made financial sense. In the meantime I can say that you don’t get back ache using eBay and I may need to factor that in next time. I also learned today that all my years honing my negotiation and influencing skills means nothing when it comes to trying to get chickens back in their hen house. Even trying to bribe them with bread didnt work. So after chasing them around the outside of the hen house more times than I am prepared to admit I finally figured out a blockade was needed. Problem solved. But the most important lesson I learned today is that I need to figure out how I would like to spend my evenings to avoid becoming a workaholic recluse. This might sound crazy but I have come from a life where I was travelling overseas half the time, and when I was home I was either working late or catching up with friends over drinks or dinner. I don’t think I have ever seen the 6 o’clock news. So this evening after an initial ‘OMG what have I done’ moment of panic I used my free time to create this blog. Tomorrow I think I will investigate swimming pools, yoga classes and book clubs. That is of course if I have any energy left as tomorrow I have to treat the staircases and newly stripped bedroom floorboards with oil and I am not used to hard labour. For any other IDF’s (interior design fanatics) I’m using Osmo Polyx Oil and can highly recommend it. It brings out the natural grain on old and new wood, the clear satin matt product creates a beautiful natural finish and it is really easy to work with. But wear gloves if you don’t want to spend hours scrubbing your hands afterwards. Photos to follow. And August was supposed to be my ‘gardening leave’ before work on the new career begins….