Thursday 12 December 2013

The Retro Decorator - 90s Christmas Opulence

Who remembers 1991? It was the year of the first Gulf War, the year of the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the year Freddie Mercury died. Bryan Adams was riding high in the UK charts with "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" for weeks...and weeks...and weeks...and on TV the UK was watching the first "Prime Suspect". It was also the year that the first "PC World" store opened in Croydon.

It was also the year of a major UK recession caused by high interest rates, falling house prices and an overvalued exchange rate(1). Not that you would notice if you were a regular reader of House & Garden magazine at this time. No, the December 1991 edition can be described in two words: Christmas Opulence. No sign here of minimalist Scandinavian interiors, no driftwood trees or home-spun decorations. This is a Christmas of conspicuous consumption.

Exhibit 1 - the London home of florist Martin Robinson:

...and exhibit 2 the Christmas Eve dinner designed for a china shop by consultant designer Tom Ellery:

Quite frankly, I wonder how anyone had any space for the food!

Sunday 8 December 2013

Fantasy Christmas Decorations

Happy 2nd Advent!

My distinct failure to do any crafting has led to me hitting the internet for some favourite quirky Christmas finds this week instead:

I'm definitely aiming for a red and white/Scandinavian theme this year - and these purchases would be just the ticket.

1) I love the fact these snowflake decorations from the White Company come with their own Christmas scent.
2) These simple sticker place settings are my absolute favourite thing this year - they come in different colours and are personisable. via Swing and Pretty Things.
3) A simple modern take on the traditional wreath by Wild Ink.
4) Got a coastal theme? This unique driftwood star decoration from Driftwood Dreaming would go perfectly!

Sunday 1 December 2013

Christmas crafts even I'm tempted to try

As today is the first Sunday of Advent, it means my inner Christmasholic is finally allowed free rein without scaring too many people. (What do you mean I've hardly held back so far?!)

I've stated before that I'm not really much of a crafter. Sometimes, however, I come across ideas of both such elegance and apparent simplicity that even I'm tempted to give them a try - and if you can't try these things at Christmas, then what hope is there...?

My favourite is definitely this simple string tree decoration on the right - what a fabulous way of displaying a few cards!

Happy first Sunday in Advent!

Wednesday 27 November 2013

A Tartan Christmas

OK, I cheated. I was going to add tartan (that's plaid to any Americans out there) as a paragraph on my previous Retro Decorator post, because I have a strangely vivid memory of an old copy of House and Garden of my mums that showed a table festooned in green tartan for one Christmas issue. Rather irritatingly, I don't seem to have the magazine in question amongst my collection, so you'll have to use your imaginations.

The thing is, when I then went in search of tartan images for that 80s Christmas post, I soon discovered that, actually, tartan is still also quite "now", although it's definitely more red than green these days, which of course makes it an excellent accompaniment to a red and white Christmas scheme.

There's something particularly cosy and comforting about these schemes at this time of year, especially in the bedroom that makes me want to snuggle down in some flannel!

Friday 22 November 2013

The Retro Decorator - 80s Christmas

I've tried to avoid the C word for as long as I possibly could, I really have, but with little more than a month to go I've finally cracked.

It's been way too long since I did a Retro Decorator post, and I stumbled across this beauty on tumblr the other day that for me summed up what I think of when I think of 1980s Christmases:

80s Christmas
via Allthingsshabbyandbeautiful

I'm not even 100% sure it is from the 1980s, but a quick search through my magazine back catalogue couldn't come up with anything better, so we'll stick with this. However, just in case you aren't convinced, here's another reminder of the classic 1980s Christmas:

So, what will you need if you perhaps feel a desperate hankering to recreate your childhood?

1) TINSEL! And plenty of it. It seems to have fallen out of fashion in some circles, where a more pared-down, Scandinavian Christmas look of wooden decorations is de rigeur, but you can still find plenty of it around on the high street.

By Londonsista (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Which brings me on to...

2) Multi-coloured decorations. If you're buying tinsel, don't just stick to one, or maybe two colours. The 80s tree (as demonstrated so beautifully by George Michael) was a riot of different colours - the brighter, the better. That also goes for any non-tinselly stuff you may be adding:

Zellaby on Flickr
3) Foil garlands. A bit like tinsel, but for the room, rather than just the tree. Mr Fantasy Decorator still has a number of these "original" beauties that we argue over every year ("It's a family heirloom!" "It's not, it kitsch tat!" etc etc) before they get banished to the kids playroom where I hope nobody thinks I had anything to do with them. I didn't actually realise you could still buy them...:


Finally, if you're going to enjoy an 80s Christmas, make sure you dress for the occasion, won't you? Because if there is one thing that appears to be back with a vengeance this year, it's the Christmas Jumper...


Tuesday 12 November 2013

Painted floor love

The problem with having relatively recently painted our bathroom floor is that of course now I'm itching to do the same with the varnished floorboards in all our other rooms! As I don't think that's happening for a while, I'm drooling over other people's instead!

Whilst I'm definitely in love with the bright cleanliness of white floorboards, I couldn't help falling in love with these stripey ones in a cute children's bedroom:

House to Home

...and how funky is this red kitchen floor?

...although tempting as they are, I just love the versatility of white as a base for adding pops of colour:

via Emmeline blog they still look great in a more neutral/all-white palette:

via Pinterest

Now where did I put my paintbrush...?

Monday 21 October 2013

Warming up the home

The nights are drawing in here in the Northern hemisphere, and temperatures are taking a downward turn.
Do you like to add texture and comfort to signal warmth?

1) Anta
2) Oka direct
3) Not on the High Street
4) via Furnish

...or do you prefer to signal the changing seasons with richer, more autumnal colours?

1) House of Fraser
2) Apartment Therapy
3) Harlequin
4) House to Home

Much as I love the idea of changing my interiors even few months, in reality it's just not that practical, but even I might be tempted by the odd throw...

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Random hotel room of the week

I was lucky enough to be whisked away for a night at the Feathers Hotel in Woodstock last week. This is a higgledy-piggledy olde-worlde sort of building that apparently has been everything from a row of cottages, to a butcher's shop to a sanatorium for those recovering from tuberculosis until it was knocked into one building in the 1960s. 

From an interiors point of view, the styling is what I would call "traditional with a twist". We stayed in one of the suites, the bedroom of which was in a fairly traditional style. 

Our little seating area was slightly quirkier, however, with a splash of bright pink and some abstract art (a lot of which was dotted around the rest of the hotel):

The bathroom was fairly modern and functional, just as I like it (coincidentally the tiles are a very similar colour to our own bathtub at home)!

To be honest though, the real attraction wasn't necessarily the room, but the bar with its hundreds of types of gin...

Monday 23 September 2013

Thirty Pound Bathroom Makeover

I've written before about how I've never been in love with our bathroom, which was put in by previous occupants who were obviously trying to keep it within the Victorian style of our house. Within a couple of months of months of moving in, not only had I managed to crack the sink by dropping a cup in it, but the dark stain of the floor also started coming off. 

Since replacing the broken sink a couple of months ago with a similar eBay bargain, it really highlighted how awful the rest of the room was, and now that I have a bit more time on my hands, it seemed like a good opportunity to tackle that embarrassing floor:


The dark stain is what the entire floor was previously covered in.

The lovely Karen from The White Approach had previously recommended Ronseal's Diamond Hard Floor Paint as one that she had successfully used in her own house (with four men!), and her recommendation was good enough for me. 

We decided against brilliant white, and instead went for the off-white "cotton" shade in the hope that it would blend better with the rather tired paint in the rest of the room. The tin recommended two coats, but in the end I probably applied more like three as the floorboards weren't in great condition to begin with and needed lumps and bumps going over a couple of times. 

My biggest fear was that painting the floor such a light colour would only highlight the gaps in the floorboards, which to an extent it does. However, I think the overall much brighter effect it definitely worth it:


Finally our towel ladder from Cox & Cox feels a bit more at home

Not bad for thirty quid, if I do say so myself!

Thursday 12 September 2013

Hues of Blue

Remember that Cyprus holiday apartment that's slowly been taking shape? Well, I thought it was time for an update on how far it's got now...We spent a couple of weeks there in August, and, while it needs one or two more finishing touches, it's pretty much got all we need.

We went for a hard-wearing navy in the living area:

With a slightly brighter blue in the kitchen/breakfast area:

The inside table is relatively small, but most of the eating will be done outside anyway:

We've continued the blue theme in the bedrooms, with the main bedroom mirroring the navy of the living area:

...and the twin is the slightly brighter blue that's a bit more fun for kids:

teddies not included ;-)

And while we're still lacking a few more wall decorations, we do already have a few bits and pieces up that we took with us:

Boo & Boy

mirrors from TK Maxx, sticker from Not on the High Street

Vase an old one of ours, filled with blue stones found at Lidl!

Our next trip out is at Easter, so until then the quest is on to find a BIG blue seascape for the main living area!

Friday 6 September 2013

Review - The Inspired Home by Karen Lehrman Bloch

I've been wrestling ridiculous amounts of spam on this blog over the past couple of months - everything from dumpster rental to p*nis enlargement (and no, it doesn't fool anyone if you type the link in Spanish, dear spammer). It's been more than a little disheartening and frustrating, to say the least. So when the lovely folks at Harper Collins asked me if I wanted to review a book called "The Inspired Home - Interiors of Deep Beauty", I figured it was just what the doctor ordered to get me back on track and focused on what really matters with this blog!

The foreword is by Donna Karan, and her opening sentence sounded like just the tonic; "What is a soulful interior? How do you create a home that feels like a retreat, a sanctuary, every time you enter? How do you find the calm within the chaos?" This sounded like just the book for me.

The author's premise is simple - that in fact the modern trend for a "decorated", and fashionable home is not a concept that actually makes for harmonious living. Instead, she advocates the use of natural elements to create a home that we feel comfortable and at peace in. It's an approach that appealed to me straight away.

She uses photographs of the homes of, and interviews with, a number of artists and designers from around the world to illustrate her point, e.g. Consuelo Castiglioni (founder of Marni), fashion designer Alberta Ferretti, sculptor Jérôme Abel Seguin, interior designer Mimmi O'Connell, Donna Karan herself, plus many others. 

The book is divided into five parts - authenticity, simplicity, balance, surprise, and grandeur - designed to mirror natural elements, and each idea is well illustrated through the use of several specific homes. 

What this book is not:If you're a fan of ultra-modern, or very colourful interiors, you won't find a great deal to please you. Also, if you are looking for step-by-step detailed instructions on how to implement some of the looks and ideas you probably won't find those beyond one or two vague pointers. I personally would probably describe it as aspirational.

What this book is:It may be short on text, and what text there is can be a little new-age for some sensibilities , but it is jam-packed full of stunning photography of some amazingly beautiful homes that I could spend hours drooling over:

The home of James Cavagnari in Salina, Italy, photographed by Giorgio Baroni 

Home of Marie-Laure Helmkampf photographed by Jean-Marc Wullschleger/Living Agency and Tim Street-Porter

Home of Cathy Vandewalle in Bangkok photographed by Vicente Wolf

Full of neutral palettes and quirky touches, these homes are individual, luxurious and incredibly beautiful. Be warned though - if you're anything like me, they'll spark insane jealousy.

The Inspired Home: Interiors of Deep Beauty Karen Lehrman Bloch is published in hardback by Harper Design and will be on sale in the US on 17th September at a price of $35 dollars. 

Disclosure: I was provided with a preview copy of this book, all views my own.

Tuesday 16 April 2013

The Retro Decorator - 50s bathroom, Basildon Park

The miserable weather that characterised the British summer last year meant we didn't get out and about as much as we might have liked, and as a knock-on effect we didn't really use our National Trust membership to its full potential. This year, however, we're determined to get the most out of it, and we recently visited the lovely Basildon Park in Berkshire. 

From the outside, it looks like a lot of similar Palladian mansions built in the 1700s:

Basildon Park facade

However, it has a slightly more unusual history in that it was never fully completed, and had a number of different owners with varying financial difficulties - including the government, which used the house as a barracks during the Second World War. (Interestingly, the house was almost completely dismantled and shipped to the USA at one point, and a large number of interior elements have been stripped out and can be found in various public buildings in the US).

The house was rescued from ruin in the mid-1950s by Lord and Lady Illiffe. They set about trying to restore the house until it was left to the National Trust in 1978. As well as some very grand state rooms, the house also contains a number of original 1950s "mod cons" that make for interesting viewing, and which is how this makes it into a Retro Decorator post!

The 1950s kitchen is currently undergoing some restoration, but it's the bathrooms that caught my eye...

I've always stated my preference for a clean, modern bathroom, but anyone who has followed this blog for a while may remember that conversely I also have a particularly nostalgic love of a black and pink bathroom - and these ones are probably as grand as they come:

Who wouldn't want to bathe in this?

Very Hollywood screen siren, I'm sure you'll agree! (And if the house looks familiar, it's because it has been used in a number of films and TV productions...)

Thursday 28 March 2013

Bit of Admin

So, Google reader will soon be no more. For those millions of you that follow using this method, you might like to know that I'm setting up a bloglovin' account. I really have no idea what I'm doing, but apparently I have to paste this into a post:

 Follow my blog with Bloglovin

 So I have. x

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Cyprus holiday apartment update

It seems Cyprus is the hot topic of conversation at the moment for all the wrong reasons. I therefore thought it might be nice to give it a bit of positive publicity and remind ourselves that it's still a fabulous holiday destination despite all the financial problems!

As a quick reminder, you can find the back story and my interest here.

My parents have just come back from a quick stint in Cyprus, and have done a fantastic job in getting some more of the basic furniture in that will allow us to spend our first proper family holiday out there in August (including air conditioning - a must in the heat of the summer!)

There is still a long way to go towards giving the apartment a "wow factor", but at least we will have somewhere to sleep: will the children...

and we'll have somewhere to sit in comfort (note air conditioning unit on wall - hoorah!) well as cook and eat, even if at the moment it is on outdoor furniture for the balcony only.

It's frustrating being so far away and being time constrained each time we do visit - it does limit us a little bit in terms of what we can do each time, and what is available to us. Hence why there is more IKEA furniture in the apartment than I probably initially would have liked. It seems you just can't beat them for instantly available furniture wherever you go - plus, I guess you know what you are getting, which can be reassuring if you don't know where to shop and where to avoid.

Our next bigger job will be to get some fabric into the place to deaden the echo - a couple more rugs, and window hangings, and add a few pictures to the walls to try and brighten it up and pull it together. Still with five months to go I think it's fair to say I've got plenty of time to do some more fantasy decorating in the meantime...

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Simple hallway lighting

It's no secret that I've got a terrible magazine habit. I love flicking through them to get ideas, marvel at other peoples' homes, and generally get inspired. However, it has been a long time since I bought a specific item that I've seen in a magazine.

I was looking at the July 2012 edition of Ideal Home magazine, however, and came across this...

The strange thing is that I'm neither a huge fan of the "country" look, or of the colour green..why, therefore, could I not get this picture out of my mind?

It wasn't the picture itself, but one of the items in it. Something about the light grabbed me. I just liked its simplicity, especially against the rest of the "country" look. I tried to dismiss it, yet somehow I became obsessed with it, bookmarking the page in the magazine and visiting and re-visiting the page. The light was available at Bailey's home and garden. I stalked their website, umming and ahhing.

My husband of course, couldn't understand my obsession. "It's only a light" he'd say, "and quite a plain one at that!". By October I was determined. I knew exactly where I wanted the lights (yes, I needed two!), namely to replace the ornate pink affairs in our hallway left by the previous owners. I'd always felt they detracted somewhat from our beautiful Victorian flooring and cornicing.

And so it came to pass that I got my way and I got my lights. Out went these:

...and in came these...

...and very pleased I am too!

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