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Interiors Simple Pleasures

3 Interior Design Commandments

June 4, 2017

My head is full to the brim with houses right now. For those of you who don’t follow me on Instagram, you have missed out on the saga of the last month – we’ve found a new home and are moving 202 miles away to a little town in the Snowdonia National Park. Bet you didn’t see that coming, right?

This new house has a lot of expectations on its shoulders. Not only our hopes and wishes of what our new life will be like, but practical expectations too. I will be working there, living there, it will be my sanctuary when I feel alone in a new town, and it will be a sometime hotel to the family and friends we insist on coming to stay.

So what goes into this new home, and the planning and design of the rooms and atmosphere, are more important than the last time we moved. How am I going to make this house a home, and how can I help it fulfil all the duties I expect of it?

Inspired by Blogtacular x West Elm I’m starting with the furniture we need, and how I want it to make me feel in this new chapter of my life. I’ve picked out some West Elm goodies that would feature in my #dreamwestelm makeover, but are nonetheless inspiring the aesthetic of our new home.

In our old house, it always felt a little like we were camping out. It always felt…temporary. A classic case of a house that had been rented out for decades, with only the bare minimum of work and updating done to it – there were cracks in the plaster, paint flaking off in chunks and peeling woodchip wallpaper. No matter how much I spread around my trinkets and spruced with flowers, the walls were still crumbling away from the persistent damp.

Our new home, however, is freshly refurbished with the counter tops of dreams and beautiful pine doors. An old Welsh miner’s cottage, it sits at the end of a teeny narrow terrace, has zero straight walls or angles and is built with huge thick grey stone. There are ferns growing out of the back wall and perfect views of the mountains from the window. So it’s pretty dreamy (not quite a farmhouse with an orchard, but still dreamy).

But still there’s work to be done to make it our own. Here are my three commandments for designing this house, and I’d love to know any you’d add in the comments.

It shall be light and airy

While the walls are painted a light magnolia (of course), I am conscious that this house will be prone to darkness. The Welsh climate isn’t known for its year-round sunshine, and with old thick walls come small windows and slate floors and sills.

I therefore want to avoid bulky furniture, dark woods and general clutter that will steal the light. Given that it’s a design aesthetic made to deal with limited light, I’m heading down the Scandinavian route when it comes to theme. Simple accessories, block colours, and light, mid-century style furniture are what I’m coveting. I’m hoping this look will also help keep the decks a bit clearer and make me commit to that clean-lined aesthetic.

West Elm Ladder Shelf Media Console

Image via westelm.co.uk

Case in point is West Elm’s Ladder Shelf Media Console. When you rent you can’t just be drilling holes all over the place, so you end up with a lot of bare wall, or big bookcases. These open shelves make use of that space without being bulky or light-stealing (and just imagine the shelfies…).

There will be quality over quantity

We moved into our last house very quickly, and we needed to buy a house full of furniture in a matter of weeks. As such we bought cheap and cheerful, and I think that is part of the reason it never felt homely. A cheap MDF coffee table is never going to feel as precious and stable as real wood with a gorgeous patina.

I think we underestimate that in our homes and furniture. Just how much effect they can have on our mood and well being. So I’m keen, where I can, to buy things that aren’t going to make me feel temporary, that will make me joyful and content. I’m going to be a little prone to loneliness as it is, so I want to be surrounded by things that build me up not bring me down. Things that I love, things with a little heart and soul, things which I can be confident in and things I can feel good about.

Each room will have it’s own purpose

At some point it became necessary, or fashionable, for rooms to have multiple functions – see kitchen-diner and bedroom-office. Of course, needs must in small and urban homes, but in our old home we really took it the extreme. We had a bathroom-utility, the lounge was a living-dining-exercise-office room and our bedroom tripled up as the attic and laundry room.

None of which was particularly zen or calming and led to a general feeling of mess and chaos all over the place. This is something I’m desperate to get away from.

I want every room to have a purpose. Moving into an area of much lower house prices has meant we’ve got a third bedroom, which has opened up a world of opportunity. In the old attic on the top floor of the house are the two rooms with the best views and light. My vision for up here is to have a floor of creativity. One of the rooms will be Dan’s room, where all his 60s and 70s vinyl can be displayed and played to his heart’s content (and maybe I’ll do a sneaky bit of yoga in there too).

The other room is going to be my office. It was really important to me to have boundaries now I’m going to be working for myself from home and I wanted to make sure I had a room to work in so the living room could be a laptop-free zone. This is the lightest room in the house, so as well as my writing and marketing work I’ll be doing the crafts I’ve been longing to take up and doing all my photography in here.

The #dreamwestelm Makeover

I’m focusing on this creativity floor for my #dreamwestelm makeover (it’s mainly just my office but I don’t want to be completely selfish now…😉).

Desk

I need a small desk – the bigger the desk the more space there is for me to dump piles of paper and photo props. I can’t choose between these two: I love the clean lines and openness of the of the Mid-Century Mini Desk (and it’s photo backdrop potential, obvs), but I’ve wanted a bureau-style desk since I was really little and the Mid-Century Mini Secretary is the stuff of my childhood dreams (yep, I was that kind of kid). Which would you choose? Maybe I need two desks….

 

Mid Century Mini Desk Acorn

Image via westelm.co.uk

 

West Elm Mid Century Mini Secretary

Image via westelm.co.uk

Seating

A spinny chair that looks and feels like an armchair – need I say more? I can just see myself in the winter months, wrapped in a blanket cradling a cup of tea, gazing out of the window trying to spot the mountain top through the mist. Given my persistent back problems it is doubly important for me to have a good quality, supportive chair to work in, and the Helvetica Office Chair comes a gorgeous dark grey, so winning (and spinning) all round.

Helvetica Upholstered Office Chair

Image via westelm.co.uk

Storage

Storage is key for me in our new house. In order to keep the clean uncluttered lines I crave I need to, well, keep the lines uncluttered. That means having furniture I can hide all my props and papers behind, while displaying only some key favourite items.

West Elm Fishs Eddy Sideboard

Image via westelm.co.uk

The Fishs Eddy Sideboard (above) combines practical storage with the lightness I’m looking for – the white and tonal greys lighten up the whole piece and slot just perfectly into the Scandi theme (and also you all know how much I love grey). Similarly the Modern Narrow Tower bookcase is just the right size for slotting into our weird angles while keeping it all airy.

West Elm Modern Narrow Tower

Image via westelm.co.uk

Textures

I still want to keep this space homely and cosy – I want a little soft feminity among the light wood and storage. I love decorating with texture, I think it’s the easiest way to create interest and comfort, so I’m looking for textures to complement my already huge wool blanket collection.

West Elm Mural Collection Abstract Rug

Image via westelm.co.uk

I’m looking at the Mural Collection Abstract Rug (above) with its pinky browns and greys to bring luscious softness, braided baskets for extra storage (and photos, of course), plus a statement planter to inject some energising greenery. All to be paired with my favourite prints from indie makers, and, if I ever get around to it, some homemade bits and pieces too. First on the list is a lovely textural cork board…

West Elm Braided Baskets

Image via westelm.co.uk

West Elm Mid Century Turned Wood Leg Planters

Image via westelm.co.uk

 

I’d love to hear what design commandments you have for your home, and any tips for creating boundaries in your home. And, most importantly, which of the two West Elm desks you prefer…

Interiors Simple Pleasures

Decorating Your Home With A Coastal Vibe – with Happy + Co*

May 15, 2017

I love bringing the outside in and am always collecting little natural things on walks and holidays to dot around our home. Lichen, sticks, dried flowers and interesting foliage all make their way here to sit in jars and pots. Having lived my life as far away from the sea as you can pretty much get, the coast has always had a romantic, windswept allure to me.

Consequently, most of my favourite natural scavengings have come from the sea: driftwood, shells, but most of all, pebbles. I have a real thing for pebbles. I look for interesting colours, a beautiful smooth surface to rub my thumb against, and a shape that tells its story from the sea to me.

So when I found the Pebble cushion by Happy + Co*, I pretty much imploded with how perfect it was for our coastal living room. Inspired by this piece, I thought I’d share some of my tips for introducing a coastal vibe to your home.

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Interiors Simple Pleasures

Getting The Most From Your Candles

December 13, 2016

It is peak candle season right now. Whether you’re getting down with the hygge trend or you’re covering every surface in a bid to banish the winter darkness, no doubt you’re spending more time striking matches that at any other time of year. It is, however, during this high concentration of candle-burning, that I remember how annoying they can be, not burning equally or dropping little black bits everywhere. How do you take care of and get the most out of your candles.

A few weeks ago my friend and I went to a candle making workshop which turned out to be in a Turkish lady’s kitchen in a council flat in Kew. And yes, it was exactly like the set up to the surrealist comedy sketch it sounds like. I did, however, learn a few good tips for keeping my candles ship shape.

The First Burn

It turns out that the first burn is really important. The first time you light a candle you need to burn it for three hours, which is the opposite of what I’ve always done as I didn’t want to ‘waste’ the candle. The long first burn ensures that the wax melts evenly, stopping that tunnelling you get where the majority of the wax sticks to the sides while the wick burns away in a shallow pool at the bottom.

Trim the wick

Trim the wick down to a couple of millimetres above the wax before you light it. Not only does it stop those big black lumps dropping into your beautiful candle, but ensures that the ratio of wax to wick is correct, reducing soot and that flickering flame.

Getting rid of air bubbles

Have you ever bought a candle in a nice glass jar only to get it home and there be big air bubbles and gaps between the wax and the glass. These don’t affect the burning, but they don’t look especially great, especially if you’ve spent a lot of money on a candle. This is caused by the wax contracting in the cold, so all you need to do is warm up the glass. Gently blow it with a hairdryer or hold it over a steaming kettle and the wax will expand to fill the gaps and look just as perfect as when you bought it.

 

Do you have any candle care tips? What are your favourite candle scents?

Interiors Simple Pleasures

5 Ways to Bring The Outside In This Winter

November 16, 2016

As the leaves start to shed their leaves and the flowers stop blooming for the winter, I always feel the need to bring some of the outside in to temper the bleakness of the coming winter. We’ve been doing it at Christmas for centuries of course, from the first yule logs, to Christmas trees and decking the halls with boughs of holly. There seems to be some innate human need to hang on to the natural world as we plunge into the cold and the dark. Do you feel it too?

This needn’t be just for Christmas though (nor quite as morose as that first paragraph has turned out). There are lots of things you can do to bring pops of nature into your home this winter that are a little more imaginative that a wreath, without resorting to pricey cut flowers.

Foraged finds

Foraged finds

If you’re a plant killer, or they’re just not your thing, I suggest you go a-foraging. I’m sort of addicted to collecting things on walks, and as I get really attached to inanimate objects, my collectibles always make there way home. If you follow me on Instagram, you will have seen copious evidence to support this. My pockets are often full of pine cones and chestnuts or shells and pebbles, while my hands get cold carrying driftwood and particularly lovely leaves.

All these finds are perfect ways to bring the outside in, and provide really lovely seasonal decorations. Pots I’ve collected from travels have pebbles inside, a bare corner has a little nest of pine cones, and a structural piece of driftwood creates interest on the mantelpiece. The best thing about foraged finds is the memories they evoke – of Dan half-climbing half-jumping to get the biggest pine cones, of carrying the three big pebbles up the cliff from the beach, of skimming stones across a calm river.

Succulents

Succulents

Yes, yes, I know, every blogger’s current obsession is succulents. You’re bored of hearing about them, I get it. But, they really are ideal little houseplants that will perk your day up no end. They always look so happy and squishy, and they want nothing from you – I have a plant on my bookshelf that no matter how little I water it, it still never dries out.

If you’re not enamoured with the ‘traditional’ succulents, head to a garden centre. There are so many different types of hardwearing house plant that you’ll struggle not to find one you love. There’s more to succulents than cacti.

Potted plants

Mantelpiece Heather

If succulents really aren’t your thing, then go for something more floral. Almost any pot plant you can buy in a garden centre you can bring inside – I would recommend going for something quite hardy though, and one that won’t mind central heating. My pot of heather has been a particular surprise to me. Even when I bought it I fully expected to kill it fairly swiftly with my lackadaisical approach to plant care. However, it has thrived on our mantelpiece despite only being watered sporadically and our penchant for very high thermostat settings.

I love the texture and structure it’s brought to the room, especially as heather is particularly evocative of moorland and windswept adventures; it feels so much more wild and emotive than supermarket flowers. A pot plant is far better value too – cheaper than a bouquet it lasts for months (at least).

Dried plants

Dried eucalyptus

Do you remember flower pressing when you were younger? The agony of having to wait until they were ready? This is a nice winter craft and a great way to get more value out of your cut flowers. Arrange them in a box frame or photo frame for a lovely vintage-style decoration.

A great plant to dry (and one that is very in vogue) is eucalyptus. Dry it hanging upside down so the water can evaporate out of the cut ends, and you have your very own long-lasting winter greenery. Not only does eucalyptus have a lovely smell, but it adds a pop of silvery green and an element structure to a room – I’ll be putting one in empty vases with my foraged finds this winter.

Prints and books

Botanical print

Perhaps the simplest way to get some nature inside however is with prints. I’ve written before about finding cheap and unique art, so I’d recommend getting some tips from there. I have a botanical print which I bought from a market, and I’m really pleased with it – it means I always have flowers in the house. If you’re struggling to find a print, try using a greetings card, even as a temporary measure.

Another option is books. I’ve recently bought some really beautiful old books full of wildflower and bird illustrations, and just having these on the shelf is going to be a lovely reminder of the outdoors. Charity shops are a gold mine for second hand gardening books – it’s always their biggest section and you can find some gems. As much as it feels slightly sacrilegious to say it, you could cut your favourite pages from these books and frame them as prints – a whole book full of potential artworks is pretty good value for your £2.50.

 

How are you planning to bring the outside in this winter?

Interiors Simple Pleasures

Filling Your Home With Meaningful Things

November 1, 2016

If you’ve read my 4 Quotes of Inspiration, you’ll know I follow William Morris’ approach to home décor: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” I would, however, add one more criteria – useful, beautiful, and meaningful.

Whether you’ve just moved in or fancy a refresh, it’s very tempting to go on an almighty homeware shopping spree, swiping whole shelves with one arm as you charge your trolley around Ikea. And hey, it’s fun and Ikea is great and has brilliant design. But when you sit in your living room amidst all your shiny new stuff, there is nothing there which feels like, well, you.

Print corner

So how do you marry your need for change with your need for cosy?

I use the new to enhance the meaningful. All the shells and pebbles I’ve collected on our travels are displayed in a cute scalloped dish from Ikea, and the Kallax shelving unit is home to prints, pots from Iceland (the country), and a handmade china penguin from my dad.

I’ve also never really been one for having photos around the place – that’s the Facebook generation for you. I can see friends and family with the touch of a button and have never felt the need to have them on the wall. They are represented in other ways though. I found an old bottle in a junk shop with Dan’s birthplace on, and a print at a fair of Oxford, my birthplace. We bought a 1950s map of North Wales, a special place for Dan’s family, from an old man at a cricket pitch. Our families and pasts are in these things, rather than in frames.

Travels past, and travels future (saving for them anyway)...

Travels past, and travels future (saving for them anyway)…

Especially when you rent these things are so important. You’re in somebody else’s house, and there’s very little you can do to make it yours. You can’t re-plaster the peeling walls or knock through that wall into the kitchen, you can’t have any say over the colour scheme or even the type of boiler you have. Meaningful things, more than just beautiful things, make your house a home.

My one take away? Take your time filling your home – don’t feel it has to be perfectly styled straight from the off. If you can’t wait to get Instagramming, style and shoot little corners or the mantelpiece like I did. Don’t rush your home-making. Build it organically, authentically, and it won’t be long before you have a beautiful, meaningful space you love.

 

What meaningful things do you have in your home? Also, did you spot my unintentional selfie?!

Interiors Simple Pleasures

Getting Our Home A/W Ready

October 3, 2016

It’s that time of year where it gets dark really quickly and you have to remember where all the light switches are.

The blogger buzzword for autumn seems to be ‘hygge’, and I think it’s because it’s a concept everyone can get fully on board with. Who doesn’t love cosiness, soft light, blankets and love? It’s clearly a word we’ve been lacking in our own dictionary.

Now I’m thinking about getting our home all ready for Autumn/Winter, I’m not exactly following the Hygge rulebook – largely because I’ve not chosen the book I want to buy yet. These are the things that I am naturally drawn to in this nesting time – an English Hygge.

 

Textiles

I’m kind of obsessed with texture. I’m very tactile, so love things you can stroke and that feel lovely and soft next to the skin. Plus, when you rent, layering up fabrics is one of the best things you can do to personalise and cosy up your space.

I’ve been using some light Ikea blankets for summer and to protect our stone-coloured sofa against muddy paws. For Autumn/Winter though I’m looking to refresh our blanket situation with thicker materials and chunky knits.

Kicking us off is this blanket from Koeka which I found in our showroom at work. Even though it’s designed for children it just about covers me (and I’m not exactly petite) and has a lovely fleecey lining – plus it is completely dog claw proof.

Blankets and textures

Greenery

As lovely as autumn is, this is the time of year where the natural world dies off and goes to sleep. I have natural things (pebbles, driftwood) in the house anyway, but as the outside becomes more bleak I like to bring something living into my home.

I have evergreen (and crucially, easy to care for) succulents to add low maintenance pops of green and life, and recently invested in a pot of heather for the mantlepiece. As much as I love cut flowers, they are a pricey habit and many are cut outside of their natural seasons. My lovely heather feels rustic and autumnal and brings life to my home.

Mantelpiece Heather

Smells

During the summer we have all the windows and doors open for about 20 hours of the day, so we get a constant flow of fresh air and the scents of the summer breeze. Now it’s chilling off the windows are clamped shut and the air inside can grow stale.

The obligatory candles have come back out, with some being Christmas gifts I hadn’t got round to burning. I also hate ‘wasting’ candles so I have quite a few dotted around with little black wicks, half full with wax. I’ve also got a fresh-smelling plug in by the back door so we can waft the smell through without it overpowering the living room. Come December 1st I shall also be sticking a lovely Christmassy scent in there too.

Hygge candles

Going outside

Cosy nests filled with red wine and the smells of cinnamon-y baking are 100% better when you’re coming back to them from a chilly Autumnal walk. What is more English than tramping through the rain in wellies with hair stuck to your face and a huge smile? What is more Hygge than coming home, shedding layers and curling up under a blanket with a bowl of soup while your socks steam on the radiator?

Succulents

What else would you include in English Hygge?

Interiors Simple Pleasures

Where To Find Unique Cheap Art

September 16, 2016

I love a home filled with art. I’ve never really been one for having photos up all over the place – even when at uni when that sort of decoration was de rigeur, I didn’t see the point of having faces on my bedroom wall I could see up to date versions of on Facebook. I guess for me having art displays personality and loves in a more introverted way.

All the art I have in my house means something – it is also all under £20 (excluding the wildly expensive £40 print that was a Christmas present). It feels like there’s been an explosion in affordable art and prints over the last few years, but to me it’s all very samey. You can flick through three or four interiors blogs and they all have exactly the same prints on the wall. Rifle Paper Co. is the new Ikea of wall decoration.

So where do you find art that isn’t generic but also doesn’t cost the world?

Seascape Painting

1. Visit fairs

I don’t just mean events like the Affordable Art Fair (which I’ve yet to go to because I always forget it’s on – however I imagine that it’s probably pretty ‘trendy’, i.e., samey stuff). If you’re London-based I’d recommend looking outside of the capital because, as all we country bumpkins know, everything is expensive there.

Out here in the sticks we have lots of fairs in the grounds of stately homes that 50-somethings walk around in their cropped trousers and sandals – quite my spiritual home. Here you find crafters and artists that sell across a variety of price points and there are some real gems. If you can’t make it to a fair they usually list their stall-holders online, so you can research and order direct.

Two of my favourite pieces were sourced from such an art fair. They’re by the artist Peter Hodson, and I especially love the big one on our mantelpiece (above) – it’s so atmospheric and full of texture. How much did it cost me? £25, framed. I know, ridiculous. This little one was £3. Really.

Little Painting

2. Use greetings cards

There are so many reasons why cards are awesome to use as art. 1) They cost like £2.50, max. 2) A standard size greetings card will always fit a standard size photo frame. 3) Even if it doesn’t, did I mention that they only cost £2.50 so it’s completely fine to chop them up. 4) If you buy postcards from a gallery you can literally have priceless classic art in your house. 5) You can swap them in and out as the season/redecoration/mood takes you to transform your room. 6)…But they can also be meaningful if it’s a card you’ve sent or received.

This is one we have in our house. It’s a birthday card I bought for Dan about two years ago, so I’ve had great 2 for 1 value from it as both a gift and a decoration.

Greetings Card Art

3) Exploit your network

The chances are you know someone who knows someone who produces art, so use your daily Facebook-stalking session productively to discover that person. The benefits of this method far outweigh the potential social awkwardness. By and large young creatives are cheap because they’re just happy to get paid (sweeping generalisation alert), and you can probably get something bespoke and exactly how you want it.

I’d been looking for a print of a new favourite poem, and although there were quite a few on Etsy none were quite right – I wanted to emphasise certain lines, you see. As luck would have it a friend of a friend chose that week to launch a new design venture et voila – a bespoke, unique, exactly what I wanted, original artwork, all for £15. Check out CF Designs and Artworks for similar.

Desiderata Print     Desiderata Print and Succulent

4) Make your own!

If your desire for prints is as uncontrollable as mine, then the most cost-effective option may be to learn to make your own. Check out my post on learning calligraphy if you like typographic prints, or if you’re not of an artistic bent there are tons of quote generators online, or simply create one in a nice font in a document and get it printed (try printed.com or your office printer). You can also try stamps or paper cutting, or press your favourite flowers for a feminine, vintage feel.

Have you got any arty bargains you’re particularly proud of? Where do you go to find art?