Monday, 28 December 2015

Catching up with 2015

I can't believe how quickly the time is passing, a few weeks break from blogging quickly turned into a few months and suddenly before I know it Christmas is upon us and the end of the year mere days away.
One of the reasons I kept this blog was to keep a visual diary of our home improvements. But I find that I also like browsing through and remembering what I was up to a few years ago. It's easy to forget how much you have done during the course of the year and these past few months have been no exception.

August brought the excuse for a lovely sunny break in Suffolk, at our friends' new B&B the Round House. I've been back and forth a few times to Long Melford visiting one of my favourite shops Rosehip in the Country, but I am ashamed to say I never managed to get much further! This time we went all the way over to Holt in Norfolk as well as exploring Framlingham and Orford (which is home to the exceptional Pump Street Bakery!)

In September, inspired by my reading the book and watching "A Year in Provence" we managed to get away for a week-long break in the Luberon. It was beautiful and exactly what I had invisaged from reading the book. We went to many of the hill towns (Gordes, Bonnieux, Menerbes and Roussillon) that are rightfully famous for their quintessential French country charm.
After strolling around the brocante at Avignon (and making the rather unwise purchase of a bedside table which I had to lug back on the Eurostar!) we wandered round the atmospheric Palais des Papes, a trip to Chateau d'If was not to be missed and we wandered around the streets of Marseille.

I also finally bit the bullet and decided to paint our dining room fireplace which I had first mentioned back in April! It took me a while to decide as I am very conscious of not wanting to fall into the trap of painting everything. After the first coat of my chosen shade (Bath Stone by Autentico) I was convinced that I had made the wrong choice, but I carried on with a further 2 coats and after some gentle distressing and a very light coat of dark wax (which I rubbed in with beeswax furniture polish to mellow it down) I think that I now do like it. The good thing is that our neighbour and my Mum (who came to stay in November) didn't notice any difference. For me this is a good sign as I didn't want the change to be glaringly obvious, but just to look like it had always been that way. Not a brilliant photo below, it's the only one I have with me of the painted fireplace! Plus, I'm always worried that this blog represents a rather unrealistic view of my life, so the shot below cpntains a good dose of reality!

I'm now up in Scotland, enjoying a family Christmas in my Mum and Dad's lovely old stone farmhouse. I wish everyone who has been kind enough to read my blog a Happy New Year and a belated Merry Christmas!

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Our Garden

It's funny how easily you can forget the progress that you've made. It was only the other day when I was out in the garden looking despondently at my flower beds and feeling that I had not really prepared properly for the summer when I realised that I had actually achieved quite a lot with our little plot.

I can still remember that hot July, five years ago when we first got the keys to our house and I would excitedly go over there most evenings after work to try out paint colours or make a list of what work needed to be done before we could move in. The garden was mostly deck and gravel with a overgrown tree at the bottom under which lurked a shed and some uncared for shrubs.

The first garden jobs that I noted down were to trim back the tree and reclaim some of our garden and then to dig out the gravel that surrounded the decking so that I could gain more space for plants.

But I was still hankering after more growing space so after peering through the gaps in the decking and lifting a few boards to see what lay beneath, we took it up to reveal the paving underneath and then lined the beds with a few rows of bricks to match up with the curved corners.

Getting there! But then we decided to build our garden room which meant that I would lose those shady flower beds at the end of the garden. So to compensate, we enlarged the curved flower beds in the middle of the garden. We also lost the right-hand fence during some stormy weather while we were in the midst of the building project so we replaced it with a nicer one.

And here is the latest shot of the garden, the photo above was taken a year ago so things are starting to get more established now. It's funny to think that there is actually more available square-footage in the very first photo of the garden (before we did any work) yet to me it actually looks smaller!

But I still have plans, albeit on a much smaller scale! This time I'm going to tackle the part of the garden that I never photograph (and for good reason!) It's a little bit of a mess, I use it as a pot dumping ground and an area to store compost. Currently it's not an overly attractive spot but when I saw this photo I was inspired to recreate it as much as possible.

 There's no reason why my pot storage area could not be pretty and practical!

Monday, 6 July 2015

Summer Country Brocante

Saturday morning saw me up with the lark and on the M25 which was blissfully empty at 7am. In the boot I packed my hunter wellingtons (just in case!) and a large straw shopping basket - my destination? The Country Brocante organised by Lucy from Love Lane Vintage and her team of friends and family.
I wended my way along green leafy lanes and through sleepy little villages full of red brick and pantile cottages and finally got to Petworth Park where the fair was to take place; beautiful parkland landscaped by Capability Brown with the backdrop of Petworth House in the background - the perfect setting.

At 9 o'clock the doors opened and those who had decided to come for the early bird entry were ushered in. With over 80 stall holders, this was one of Lucy's largest events and was set out in 2 large marquees and with 2 outdoor areas surrounded by individual marquee "shops". It was beautifully arranged and I'm ashamed to say that I didn't take many photos as I was too busy shopping! By the time I did try to take a few there were so many people milling around that it made it difficult to take a nice picture, but there are lots on the Love Lane Vintage Facebook page.

My basket soon started to fill up; pretty little French ceramic heart dishes and a decorative metal robin stake from Wood Pigeon, a plain white mug from Caroline Zoob, hand painted pots from Suitably Vintage, a dress made out of vintage white embroidered lawn from Dotty Blue, an old French chicory canister and my favourite buy of the day - a pretty Art Nouveau pendant from Cherub Antiques.

After going around the fair a few times, I headed over to Petworth House to take advantage of the free entry that was included with the Country Brocante ticket. It is a beautiful building with so much to see, although I think my favourite room was probably the kitchen with all of the gleaming copper! Not sure what that says about me!

After mooching around Petworth House I headed back to the fair for one last look and a chat with Emma from Velvet Ribbon, Jo from Hesta Nesta, Chloe from Chloe Antiques, Madeline from Weathered and Worn and Emma from Little Wren Vintage. I love that Lucy's fairs are as much a social occasion as they are a shopping event! Coming back with my final purchase; an old border spade with a lovely wooden handle (I find old tools to be much better than new ones) I packed up the car and headed back home to London.

I now can't wait for the other Love Lane fairs, especially the Winter Brocante when I will hopefully be able bring along my Mum as well!

Monday, 1 June 2015


The fireplace painting has been put on hold for now, while I search for the perfect shade - I'll update you all when I make some progress! In the meantime, I have been settling back into my day-to-day routine after a lovely trip to Andalucía in May. My hard-working husband had just finished his Masters in Business Administration (which he completed while holding down a full-time job) and really felt the need to recharge his batteries and I felt the need to spend some time with him again since he had been away for most weekends for the past 2 years while working on his degree!

We decided on Andalucía as our destination as we were only going away for a week and didn't want to spend too much of the holiday travelling, and it turned out to be the perfect choice. We stayed at a lovely little villa called La Bolina in the hills outside of the pretty village of Frigiliana. The location was quite remote, and despite having a look at the location on Google satellite maps the state of the roads was a bit of a shock, despite growing up in the Highlands of Scotland it has been quite a while since I have had to deal with single-track and it was quite a challenge to get to grips with especially when there were sheer drops and no crash barriers!
Although having our own infinity pool overlooking the valley with views of Frigiliana and beyond that the sea more than made up for it!

After a few trips to Frigiliana and Malaga we had developed our "mountain goat" driving skills we started feeling confident enough to venture further afield and headed out early one morning to visit the Alhambra palace in Granada. For me the best part of this visit were the beautiful gardens and fountains as well as the views which from the Generalife part were spectacular. I'm glad the we saw inside the Nasrid palaces, and although the tiling and vistas were beautiful I would have preferred to see a room set up with furniture to give you more of an idea as to how the rooms would have been used. I would also have loved to see the silk hangings that would have swayed gently in the breeze from the numerous arches that surround the walkways around the fountains.

We also managed to fit in a quick trip to Seville and even though we only saw a very small part of the city it was exactly as I had expected. As we walked through the labyrinth of streets and lanes that make up the Barrio Santa Cruz (the old Jewish quarter) we came across squares dotted with orange trees and lined with enticing cafes and restaurants. We also visited the Alcazar which did not disappoint and even had a peacock roaming the rooms inside (I think he was supposed to be outside but he did look very at home within the airy, beautifully tiled rooms!)

We also managed to fit in a visit to Nerja and enjoy a promenade along the Balcón de Europa which traverses the edge of the cliff and gives wonderful views down to the sea and beaches below. We are already looking forward to our next visit and there is still so much of Seville to see as well as breathtaking towns like Ronda to explore!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Painted or natural?

It's started again. My annual urge to get the paint brush out has begun, clamouring to be heard. Last year I repainted the second bedroom and the year before that the garden furniture. For a while, I have been wanting to make a change in the dining room. For a room we spend a lot of time in (it is next to the kitchen and opens onto the garden so often acts as an extension of both spaces) it has always struck me a a little wood-heavy.

I have already discounted painting the wooden dresser, an idea I flirted with a few years ago before deciding that to cover up the honey-toned, satin smooth Victorian pine would really be a shame and something that I might come to regret later. I like the idea of a painted staircase, but dislike the maintenance of cleaning pale coloured stair treads every time one of our cats pads upstairs. So my eye has now lighted on the large, varnished wooden fireplace. I know that although the fireplace is original, the surround is not and is in fact cobbled together from bits of wooden moulding by one of the earlier owners of our cottage. This makes me feel less guilty about subjecting it to my brandished paint brush.
The dining room is north-facing, and as a result is one of the darker rooms in the house, I also have an idea that painting the fireplace would help to lighten this room as well. This photo from my Pinterest account is probably the closest photo I could find to what I think our fireplace could look like once painted.

Since we have repainted the dining room walls a nice warm white "Linen Wash" but Little Greene which we did last year after all the work on our garden room, I was thinking that painting the fireplace surround white might have the effect of making it disappear too much into the wall so I have been looking at very pale taupe/beige shades like "Bath Stone" or "Almond" by Autentico. Using a chalk paint would also mean that I don't have to sand the varnish off before painting. More Pinterest inspiration below, this time featuring a painted dining room fireplace.

But I'm still not 100% sure, that's the one drawback with painting, once it's on it's not so easy to take off! What is your preference? Do you prefer natural wood or painted?

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Weekend gardening

Finally Spring has arrived! I've managed to spend a few hours each weekend in the garden and as it is now light when I come home after work I can get a few jobs done when I get home too. I love coming home to my garden, I can literally feel my shoulders drop and un-knot as I open the dining room door and crunch along the gravel. It's always exciting to see what has happened while I've been at work, I like the think of the small white fibrous roots slowly pushing their way through the earth and the little green shoots gradually working their way through the top soil while I'm tapping away on my keyboard at work.

I've already got quite a few projects on the go, I was seduced into buying a few globe thistle tubers from B&Q while I was collecting compost a few weeks ago and I also couldn't pass up a bare-root Sarah Bernhardt Peony for £3. We'll see if my bargains deliver their glossy promises later on this year.

I'm really pleased with my little trooper of a plant, Erysimum 'Bowles's Mauve' a lovely bushy perennial wallflower. Last year it was skeletal after being dug up and transplanted into a pot for the building work, it literally looked like a tumble weed! So I cut it back and kept my fingers crossed, but I have to say I expected it to be off the compost heap, but it rallied and now looks better than ever and even had buds in November. I took some cuttings last year which are all doing marvellously as well so hopefully soon I'll have a little battalion!

At the end of last year I placed an order with dahlia specialists Rose Cottage Plants and then forgot about it and placed another order in February. So I had a bumper delivery arrive at the beginning of March! I went for a mix of Offshore Dream, Wizard of Oz and Myama Fubuki. They don't look like much just now, but I'm looking forward to being able to cut armfuls of flowers for the house with this lot and the Cafe au Lait dahlias that I have brought out of the shed from over-wintering.

Sunday, 22 February 2015


I always have a list of things to look out for when I am out and about going to vintage markets or antique fairs and one of the items that is always on my list is old paintings. I love the timeworn patina on these old pictures and am always on the hunt for a pretty still-life although I do like landscapes too.
One of the first ones I found was at the Love Lane Summer Brocante a few years ago in Plumpton Racecourse. It is a lovely pastel of a bunch of flowers in a jug, it is not pristine but for me that is all part of the charm. I find I am always drawn to blues and pinks and I think the relaxed informal-ness of these paintings really delightful.

My next find was a lovely painting of pears in a dish by the very talented Penny German. I actually saw her paintings on Charlotte Supple's stall at the Country Living fair a few years ago, but someone else bought the picture that I was after. Later on, I contacted Penny German and she very kindly agreed to paint a similar picture for me. I love the pink rimmed dish, sprigged wallpaper and delicious greenness of the pears.

For Christmas, I was lucky enough to receive this pretty little oil painting from my husband of a little jar of stocks or maybe they are sweet williams. It is French and is a lovely little size, I love the colours and that they artist has included some little blooms at the base of the jar which had fallen off their stems.

My latest purchase almost didn't happen. I spied it on French eBay about 30 minutes before the end of the auction and ummed and ahhed over it for a while and then decided I would go for it. I put in my maximum bid, but didn't get it. I tried not to be too disappointed as I knew I wouldn't have wanted to pay too much for it but was a bit sad that I had missed out. A day or so later I received an email from the seller offering me the painting - the buyer had decided that they didn't want it. I took it as a sign that it was meant to be and soon it was winging it's way from Paris over to London.

It is a departure from my usual pink and blue! When it arrived it was in a gilt frame which didn't quite fit, so I gently eased out the tacks holding the canvas into the frame and removed it. I think it looks much better without. I have propped it up on our dining room mantle piece, I really like the simple white blossom with apples and pears and the faded aqua background. So there you have it, my painting purchases so far. It's funny how most of my purchases have followed a theme without my really being aware of it but no doubt there will be a few more additions to come!