Thursday, 8 December 2016

Crushing on Velvet

As a teenager I dreamed of owning a house with sash windows huge enough to take floor length, trailing, ivory velvet curtains! (I clearly needed more hobbies at that time!) I still think that it would be a great look even now, although I'm currently very over curtains. I'm definitely not over velvet though. It's timeless and elegant, warm and luxurious and it's having a serious moment with soft furnishings. I love it when my favourite things are on trend and I can gorge myself on items that are usually not so easy to get hold of. Here's my top five velvet crushes (this week!)

1. Graham and Green 'Tiffany' Curved Velvet Sofa. 


Look! Look! Have you ever seen such beauty? Filling the gap that we never even realised was there between traditional sofas and corner sofas, I fell in love with the grey version of this sofa at Graham and Green Bath store launch party. The gold version is mighty fine too but at £3250 it's a huge statement piece that you're going to have to be absolutely sure of before you buy.

2. Ikea 'Stockholm' Sofa.
This three seat sofa comes with the 'Sandbacka' removable velvet cover as an option - in both emerald green and black. 

Image: Pinterest.

You can always trust Ikea to come up with a solid, budget option of an on trend item. At £1000, it's not their cheapest sofa but still a great price for this well designed piece that manages to straddle modern and traditional at the same time. And the covers are removable and dry cleanable, an absolute must when you have children under the age of ten and pets. Trust me, I've learnt this the hard way! 

3. Oliver Bonas Velvet Tub Chair.

If you can't afford a velvet sofa, then how about an armchair? This yellow velvet tub chair is £445 from Oliver Bonas and would add a splash of colour to a traditional room scheme, or add a splash of tradition to a modern room scheme. Here's one beautifully styled by @lou_ a_watkins looking just the ticket in her 1930s home. 

Image: @lou_a_watkins
4. Graham and Green Velvet Cushions.

If you can't stretch to a velvet sofa OR a chair, how about jumping on the velvet trend with a velvet cushion. There are lots around, and H&M do a good budget version (£6.99) but I particularly like the quality and generous proportions of the Graham and Green Velvet and Linen backed cushions. £35 for any size or colour. 

Image: www,

They come complete with a feather inner and they're perfect for adding a pop of jewel colour to a plain sofa. Mix them up with Mongolian fur, linen and knitted wool cushions for an extra cosy look. 
The Graham and Green 'Amalfi' dip dyed velvet cushions are currently on offer with the 60cm x 60cm floor cushion reduced from £60 to a bargainous £36. 

One of these *may* have dropped into my online shopping basket, just for research purposes for this blog post, obvs. 

5. Loaf Bagsie Sofa.

Last but not least, the Loaf Bagsie sofa has been at the top of my wish list forever. Starting at £1795, it's a modern homage to the classic Chesterfield and it looks like cosy, classy perfection to me. 


Available in three sizes and a multitude of different fabrics, it also comes with the choice of 12 'clever' velvet colours. I like the sound of clever velvet  - 100% polyester, it claims to be dry cleanable, super durable, spill resistant and doesn't mark. This could be the answer to the prayers of anyone like me who has children and dogs! 

So - long live velvet! Easy on the eye, comfy on the bottom, eminently strokable and now easy to clean too, there's no excuse to jump on the velvet bandwagon.

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Thursday, 20 October 2016

Vintage Caravan Makeover

We've always loved camping and outdoor living and have long hankered after buying a camper van. So, a few years ago we bought a VW Transporter with plans to convert it into a camper van, complete with a pop up roof, kitchen and folding seats for beds. However, we soon discovered that the cost of doing this work was prohibitive - up to £5000 for the roof conversion alone! 
So we had to think again.... and the idea of a caravan came to me. Not any old bland, beige caravan though, like the ones that you see by the acre at caravan parks. What I wanted was a caravan with the character, beauty and quirkiness of a vintage camper van. These sort of caravans didn't exist as far as I knew, but a 'quick look at' aka 'several days poring over' Pinterest confirmed that these type of caravans DID exist, as long as you're prepared to create them yourself.

Image from Pinterest
 I absolutely love interior design, vintage vehicles and, as mentioned before, outdoor living, so the idea of finding and doing up a vintage caravan ticked every box for me!
So the search for a caravan began! I quickly decided not to go for classic, iconic caravan, such as a Cheltenham or Carlight, as I'd be obliged to restore it sympathetically. I wanted to be able to 'go to town' on a caravan without compromising or ruining any classic features.

Cheltenham Fawn  - Image from Pinterest.
My only rule was that it had to be dry and with a solid chassis.
After a few dead ends, we found a 1978 A Line Crown - it has been parked under a tree on a friends neighbours drive for 30 years! It hadn't been towed in all that time and had just (been used for storage. We hitched it up (the towing lights still worked perfectly) and towed it home. Absolutely everyone, including my husband, thought I was mad! 
What the hell had I bought?!
And I was inclined to agree! The caravan was a shrine to 70s bad taste. Brown, with brown carpet, brown kitchen units, fake beige cork tiled walls, brown upholstery and brown curtains. There was definitely a theme going on and it wasn't pretty! It also reeked and it was full of spiders!  Also at this point, my husband, understandably, decided he wanted nothing to do with the caravan. Undeterred by these obstacles, I started cleaning the caravan up by jet washing the outside.
Marginally better.
I then scrubbed the whole of the inside with sugar soap before embarking on an epic painting job, painting every wall and cupboard inside the caravan with 'Difficult Surface' primer.
Faux teak veneer hell.

I should have bought shares in melamine primer.
I then moved on the outside of the caravan while the weather was dry. I started off by sanding the whole caravan and removing all of the old sealant. This took absolutely flipping ages. Then, using a small foam roller and and carefully sanding down between coats, I painted the brown sections of the caravan with two coats of trade exterior undercoat. 

This preparation and technique achieved a very smooth surface. I then applied two coats of trade exterior gloss, mixed up to match the 'Stone Blue' colour of our VW Transporter, and achieved this result.

I was pleased with the finish, considering that it wasn't a spray job!
As the weather turned autumnal, I turned my attention back to the inside of the caravan. The original foam seat cushions were still fine apart from the colour!

So I had and had them recovered in a Clarke and Clarke fabric grey polka dot fabric, brilliantly made to measure by The Sewing Angel.

I really wanted to copy the wallpapered caravan doors I'd seen on Pinterest but my wallpapering skills were not up to it. So instead I sent off for a load of Pip Studios wallpaper samples and pasted them on the door in a patchwork style. I am still to this day ridiculously pleased with the result and I think it was my favourite part of the caravan! 

Finally, we put a new vinyl floor down - Rhino Artwood in Bleached Wood. 

In total, the caravan took about 4 months to do up but on a very much part time basis. My lovely dad helped me too with some of the structural work which included removing the old bathroom and repairing some damage caused by the leaking bathroom window.

What I loved about the caravan the most was it's ability to multipurpose. It spent most of its time in the front garden and it was a real talking point with passers by! My kids loved playing in it, I had friends over for a cuppa in it and I used it too for a bit of peace and quiet. We also used it for family weekends away.

Mostly  though it was used as a glamping accessories shop at street fairs and festivals.

In total, the caravan cost £700 to buy and do up which I think was a total bargain, considering how much could be done with it. I loved it and enjoyed every second of doing it up. George Clarke declared it 'very cool' when I tweeted him a picture of it and it was featured on 'Kirsty Allsopp's Best of Both Worlds'!

'Very Cool'  - actual George Clarke tweet to yours truly!
Sadly though, we sold the caravan last year. It was just too small for the five of us to holiday in and it turned out to be such hard work towing it to festivals, setting up, running the shop and packing it all away again. It taught me a lot though - especially that I enjoyed the interior design and styling of the shop more than the actual selling of goods - and I would do it all over again, if I was allowed! 

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Thursday, 13 October 2016

In Praise of Neon

I've had a soft spot for neon lights ever since reading an article in Living Etc years ago about Gods Own Junkyard in London - You've no doubt heard of it before, but if not look at THIS and prepare to be dazzled!

Pic:Gods Own Junkyard
I obviously love the injection of colour and light you get with neon, but I love their provenance too. They have a great retro vibe and are nearly always inviting you to something fun or naughty!

Pic:Gods Own Junkyard
Look my beloved Smiths lyrics immortalised in mixed media including neon! Pic: Gods Own Junkyard

As beautiful as they are, they've always been aspirational, just for shop decoration or events and, most importantly, well out of most people's price range....until now! Back in the summer Gigi from new neon company Bag and Bones (@bagandbones asked if I'd like to borrow a neon light to play with at home and see what I thought. 

Look how it modernises this space. I could see though that my husband was slightly concerned about the electricity bill.

The little neon heart here just adds a little injection of fun.

And the little neon heart adds a touch of romance here (horrified face emoji required here) but the calmness of the room scheme remains because other accessories are kept to a minimum.

But look how it changes the mood of the room in a dark room scheme here! Staying in really is the new going out when you own some neon. 
My husband was still stressing about the potential electricity bill at this stage so I did some investigation and he was reassured to learn that Bag and Bones neon is made of LEDs which are very eco-friendly.
Incidentally, Bag and Bones will also custom make neon in your choice of colours, font and style. It would be brilliant, for example, as part of the decor for a wedding and then you could use it as a memento of the day afterwards. If I was getting married again, it's what I'd do to score some neon in our house! (Not that that getting married again is likely to happen to me, and I'm still hoping for a bit of romance with that neon heart in the bedroom!)

Pic: Bag and Bones
Generally speaking, I favour neutral decor in the home and always think that the expensive, difficult to change items in the home such as sofas, curtains and carpets should be neutral colours. I love colour, texture and pattern, but I get bored very quickly so I prefer to bring all those elements to the room with cheaper, easy to change accessories such as cushions, rugs, art and .......plants! 
'Easy to change accessories' is where neon lights fit in - it provides a pop of colour when you need it and you can switch it off when you don't. You can move it from room to room. You can use it to lift a plain room. Just treat it like any other accessory.

And just so you know for sure how achievable owning a neon light now is and how approachable @bagandbones are, I caught up with owner Gigi and asked her a few questions. 

1.   Who are Bag & Bones?
We are a London based neon art label. We are also sisters – which means we have a lot of fun together but there is also some sisterly squabbling going on! We are quite different and I would say Cavanagh is the ying to my yang…the bacon to my eggs, if you will! I think with my heart – she thinks with her head. So we work very well together. 

2.   What inspired you to start Bag & Bones?
I knew very early on in my life that I wanted to do something creative. I have always been a compulsive doodler and I’ve always loved neon, too. For as long as I can remember, it’s seductive glow has lured me in. It just has such a positive effect on my mood.

3.   What's your vision - neon in every home? 
Oh you said it, Dee! I mean, basically we want to sprinkle bag&bones neon all over Britain. And then the world! We love using neon as a d├ęcor element at home because of its ability to completely change the mood of a room and the mood’s of the people within …there’s something about neon that people just love – they are instantly drawn to it.

4.   Tea or coffee? 
Coffee…strong & milky with a little biscuit thrown in for good measure.

5.   Why is Bag & Bones neon better than other neon companies? 
Well, we are different! I like to think we have a really distinctive and original design aesthetic. We are the first of our kind in Europe – a company 100% focused on the design and customisation of affordable, eco-friendly LED neon; there is no one else like us! 

So, is neon here to stay? I think so, now that it's more affordable and eco-friendly (much to my husband's relief!). I love it's versatility and the fact that you can move it around easily - . you can now add neon to your arsenal of home accessories when styling a room. 

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Thursday, 29 September 2016

Five Ways with Hairpin Legs

Image from Pinterest.
A few months ago I was browsing through the Loaf catalogue when I stumbled upon a beautiful coffee table similar to this for £££. Surely, I thought to myself, that table is easy enough to make yourself! I promptly googled 'hairpin legs', showed OH the picture and off he trotted down to the garage to forage for spare wood.

Image from Pinterest

I love hairpin legs. I think they're the perfect way of mixing industrial and mid-century looks in your home. The raw, bare metal is very industrial looking and the shape is very reminiscent of the 50s, 60s and 70s. Indeed, the hairpin leg is a wartime invention, their design limited to the amount of metal available at the time. They were then embraced by iconic furniture makers such as Knoll and Eames thus probably making them one the most recognisable leg designs of the mid century.

Knoll Stools - Pinterest
These days there are plenty of suppliers of hairpin legs online. After a thorough googling session and a brief battle with my concience about buying British, I settled for a supplier on eBay called Designer-Legs. Their stock of hairpin legs came in lots of choices of colour and heights and I opted for 14 inch coffee table height which cost me £39 for the set of four.

Image from eBay

They arrived promptly and OH instantly disappeared again into the garage (any excuse!) I'm not exactly sure what he did in there because I'm not allowed in but, for those interested  in doing something similar, it was something along these lines! 

Image from Pinterest
He emerged several hours later with this beauty! 

My front room!
Needless to say, I was delighted! Exactly the coffee table I wanted for just the price of the legs because we used leftover wood in the garage. 
Once you've discovered how cheap hairpin legs are to buy and how versatile they are, you will want to stick them on everything, I can guarantee it! Here's four more ideas about how you can use them:

1. Stools - so simple and versatile and produces a Scandinavian vibe when mixed with pale wood.
Image from Pinterest
2. Side tables - I love how this look mixes up the mid-century look with an industrial and Scandinavian feel too.

Image from Pinterest
3. Vintage trunk table - you can also upcycle a vintage suitcase with hairpin legs to make a quirky side table with a very 50s vibe.

Image from Pinterest

4. Mid Century Sideboard - who doesn't love a mid-century Danish style sideboard -  but some of them can look a bit featureless and boring. These less stylish ones can be picked up for a song and certainly for much less than the well known ones such as Jentique or G-Plan. Replacing the standard legs on these plain sideboards with hairpin legs adds much more interest and a much more obvious retro vibe. 

Image from Pinterest

These are just a few ideas, the world is your oyster really and I will certainly be doing more upcycling with hairpin legs soon!

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Thursday, 22 September 2016

Three 'Must Have' Houseplants!

You only have to spend a few minutes on Instagram to notice how much the houseplant trend has taken off even more lately! Accounts such as @thejungalow @apartmenttherapy and @urbanjungleblog provide fantastic plant inspiration and make me want to turn into a crazy plant lady. Some may say that that ship has sailed! Anyway, here's three more of my favourite plants - one's easy to care for, one's a bit more tricky and the third slightly trickier still. But they are all worth it! 

1. Spider Plant. 'Chlorophytum comosum'.

Everyone has owned a spider plant and some point in their lives I reckon! They have a great 1970s vibe to them so they tick not just one but two huge current interiors trends boxes - houseplants and all things mid century. They look great in macrame plant hangers too. 

On top of that, they are super easy to care for so they are a must have plant for your home. 
You can pick them up at any garden centre or DIY store for around £5. They will tolerate most conditions but prefer indirect sunlight. If the light is too bright, i.e. on a windowsill then the leaves go pale and bleached out looking. They love weekly watering but will survive much longer without - they go pale and floppy if left too long without water but - lucky for us - they spring back to life in a matter of hours once watered again. If they are looked after properly with weekly watering and regular feeding then they will reward you handsomely with prolific growth in the summer months and lots of babies! 

To propagate them, simply snip the baby spider plant off and pop it in a jar of water.
After about a week, you should see white roots starting to appear. You can then pop the baby spider plant into a small pot of potting compost. 

2. Chinese Money Plant. 'Pilea Peperomides'

These are a relatively new houseplant and only became available in Europe in the 1980s (according to Wikipedia!). I love their big glossy round leaves. They're slightly harder work than spider plants in so far as they like lots of light and plenty of water. I've found I've had to move mine around the house a bit to find the right spot and in the summer months it's required watering up to 3 times a week. I picked the large one in this pic from eBay as a baby plant about a year ago for about £10. It loves being in the kitchen under a skylight - look how much it's grown in a year and that's one of six babies it's produced in front of it. 
The babies start as mini plants that grow from the mother plants roots.

Once it's 2 or 3 inches high and with a few leaves I just gently pull it away from the mother's roots and pop it straight into it's own pot of potting compost, being sure to keep it moist, but not soggy!

3. String of Beads. 'Senecio Rowleyanus'.

I fell in love with these succulents when I first saw them in on Instagram plant accounts. I bought this one from a plant seller on eBay for about £15 and it has tripled in length in less than a year. Lots of people say these plants are hard to keep but I've found it OK - as long as it has plenty of indirect light and is not over-watered. It's easy to forget these plants are succulents and need little water - I only water it once a week at most and that's only if the soil has completely dried out since the previous watering. In the winter months, it needs even less. I think they're well worth the effort - look at the amazing texture they add!

My String of Beads plant was struggling recently with over watering and also from being too successful - it had grown so much it was pulling its roots out of it's pot with it's own weight.
To overcome this, I re-potted it into a deeper pot and supported the bead strings by letting them drape over the table. Then, just in case it doesn't survive, took lots of 4 inch cuttings, rooted them in water for 10 days and popped them into their own pot. 

Wish me luck because it really is my favourite plant ever!

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