Shed envy

According to the last three tests I took on Facebook, positivity is my greatest strength, I have an optimistic personality (courtesy of the inkblot test), and Happy by Pharell Williams is the ‘legendary’ song that describes my life. So it’s hardly surprising I’m possibly the only person in the UK that isn’t complaining about the weather and actually believes summer is here. Or maybe that’s because I live in Cumbria and 4hrs of sunshine does equal summer.

Anyway all this glorious weather is causing me to turn my attention to the garden, and more specifically the summer house. We built it 2 years ago when Holly Cottage was still a second home, so it got decorated rather quickly and was largely furnished with furniture that didn’t fit anywhere else. Well that’s what I’m telling myself in order to have an excuse to redecorate. It’s not just me, Mr W also wants a new bar. Apparently the current one just doesn’t fit. I don’t agree but I’m not arguing as the re-decoration (budget albeit unspecified..) now has his sign off.

To be honest I’m also blaming George Clarke a little. Suppliers of garden rooms, sheds, summer houses, decking and all other associated paraphernalia must be rubbing their hands with glee every time a new episode of Amazing Spaces Shed of the Year airs. The whole nation must have shed envy right now. The great news is that this project gives me an outlet for my love of industrial decor, which is very hard to satisfy in a Georgian cottage. So expect lots of lovely industrial treats over the next few weeks while I fit this new project in between actual work.

First up, the Louix Chair. They won’t be going in my summer house as I need high bar stools but I had to share them as they made me ooh when I saw them. They’re an original Alexandre Arrazole Martagon design from Aleks Design Studio. They’re made of steel and teak and are available on www.cultfurniture.com at £149. Gorgeous aren’t they…the white is my favourite.

Louix Chair by Alexandre Arrazole Martagon at Aleks Design Studio. Available at www.cultfurniture.com

Louix Chair by Alexandre Arrazole Martagon at Aleks Design Studio. Available at www.cultfurniture.com

Louix Chair by Alexandre Arrazole Martagon at Aleks Design Studio. Available at www.cultfurniture.com

Quackers about Charlotte Gerrards artwork

Tonight it’s a very short post as I’m a wee bit tired after 3 days galavanting around London. The primary reason for my trip was House, the interiors show at Olympia, but it would have been rude not to fit in a few cocktails with friends. Great timing meant I also fitted in my annual pilgrimage to Taste of London, which I love, but it has to be said the balance of food to drink exhibitors swings a little further to the right each year. This year definitely being the year of gin with herbaceous, floral, citrus and spice infused gins on every corner. Me and my liver are both relieved to be back home. Future restaurant tip – The Modern Pantry. We tried their mince and tatties with bombay potato and it was to die for.

But back to interiors….House was a huge success for me with new purchases for Holly Cottage and some great ideas for customers. I’ve attended shows in the past with a few too many wooden hearts on string for my liking but this was definitely not one of those events, the variety and quality of exhibitors was very high. Mr W also enjoyed himself and had to be reined in on more than one stand before he broke the bank.

So before I go to bed (its now 12.30am…..) I just wanted to share the work of artist Charlotte Gerrard who we met at Olympia. I’ve been concerned about Holly Cottage becoming too rustic, and have been on the look out for a few modern touches to funk up the place without confusing the decor. I found just what I was looking for on Charlottes stand. She produces paintings and screen prints of animals, cows being her favourite. But I fell in love with her ducks. Modern style, rural subject matter, perfect for my wet room!

Community Charge - screen print by Charlotte Gerrard
‘Community charge’
Waddling on - screen print by Charlotte Gerard
‘Waddling on’
Classic - screen print by Charlotte Gerrard
‘Classic’
Meet the kids - screen print by Charlotte Gerrard
‘Meet the kids’

 

 

Triathlons, chicken proofing and a virtual world of interiors

Cumbrians are hardy people, fond of extreme outdoor activity. The county is known as the adventure capital of the UK with a full calendar of swimming, cycling and running events, often combining all three, and almost all involving steep hills. If you don’t get involved then you’re not really Cumbrian. So today was my initiation ceremony and my first ever triathlon. Its clearly the secret to a long life as a rather large percentage of the competitors were pensioners. I was mortified when one geriatric overtook me on the run…. but I finished in an acceptable time and now feel officially Cumbrian.

Amelia Wilson after completing the Cockermouth Triathlon 2015

I have also been making the most of the sunshine (Cumbria was warmer than the Algarve and Ibiza this week I’ll have you know), and doing a spot of gardening, or more specifically chicken proofing it. If you’re not familiar with the term then this involves placing stones on every bare patch of soil to prevent them having soil baths and digging up all your plants in the process. It also means planting a 4 inch high trim along the edges of borders to stop them kicking all your bark chippings and soil into the path when they’re digging for grubs. I even had to cover one raised bed entirely with netting as this was their last stop before Cluckingham Palace at night, and had become their equivalent of your local kebab shop. It looked like a plague of locust had visited it. Although I may not need to bother if the dramas continue. Agata met her end 2 weeks ago after an encounter with the farmers dog, and next doors spaniel tried to fetch Beate for his owner earlier in the week. It’s made them all a little jumpy as you can imagine.

Anyway, when I haven’t been achieving a wondrous work life balance I have actually been doing some interiors work, and while researching for a couple of commercial projects have become fascinated by fakes. Historically our interiors choices have been significantly more limited. It used to be the case that if you wanted a wood floor you had to buy wood floor and hope it didn’t get damaged by damp or children. If you wanted bare brick you had to chip the plaster off your walls. Gas fires looked like gas fires. TV’s looked like TV’s and bookshelves were made of… well, actual books. But the world of interiors has now become a world of clever special effects thanks to technology and innovation and I love it.

I recently discovered a Swedish company called Happywall which offers a wide range of wall murals including a collection of extremely realistic and highly touchable backgrounds. They can be made to whatever size you need, which adds to the reality. I love this one below with the chipped red paint. Perhaps this isn’t the greatest advert but it sort of reminds me of the deserted cabin in the woods in a serial killer movie…..

Chipped red paint on wood mural from Happywall

They also have some great metal finishes like these rusted corrugated and sheet steel  murals. I might even like these more than the Brooklyn Tins wallpaper by Merci….

Rusted corrugated steel effect wall mural from Happywall   Rusted sheet steel effect wall mural from Happywall

If you have a dining room, wine cellar or bar that needs a bit of decoration how about their wine bottle mural?

Wine bottle wall mural from Happywall

And what about this grungy mustard coloured mural. In a smart room it would look like crushed velvet, but in an industrial setting or dark bar it would make the walls look aged and damp.

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This one isn’t really a fake as you’d never find a tree big enough to create a wall out of the stump, or want to for that matter, but this made me go “oooh” when I saw it.

Tree rings effect wall mural from Happywall

But this is my favourite. The mural is as clear as the photographic image which was clearly used to create it, and look how it appears on a living room wall. It’s as if you’re sat in a derelict building. Not everyones idea of style, but imagine if you lived in a cool loft apartment with steel beams and a concrete floor….

Grungy wall effect wall mural from Happywall

Grungy wall effect wall mural from Happywall

All of this got me wondering where this will lead. Will we eventually live in a world of interiors virtual reality, where all our walls and floors are white and we project images on to them to match the latest trends, our mood, the time of day or the seasons? You could have that loft apartment with the concrete floor and exposed brick walls, then when you’re fed up with it download a new scheme. Wake up to a grassy meadow in the sunshine, go to sleep to the sun setting over the desert. It might mean our furniture needs to be cheaper and more disposable (in an environmentally friendly way), or maybe renting your furniture becomes the trend. Whatever happens it can only mean more choice which is a good thing. Bring on the fakes I say.

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.

 

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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