Monday, 13 October 2014

Long Melford

A couple of weeks ago my husband and I took advantage of the lovely mild September weather and headed off for a day out to Suffolk. A friend of mine recently described the county as "creamy" and I can't think of a better word to describe this lovely corner of our Island. It looked beautiful and quintessentially English in the warm September sunlight with the tree leaves just starting to turn to their autumn colours.

We decided to go to Long Melford as although it is somewhere I have visited a few times, my visits have always been in much colder weather and when the beautiful Melford Hall was closed for the winter. This also allowed me to squeeze in a quick trip to my favourite shop in Suffolk, Rosehip in the Country. I bought a very pretty white metal chandelier with toleware rose rambling through it's arms destined for our dining room as well as a nicely detailed glass vinegar or oil decanter.

As we were walking back up the road towards Melford Hall we passed a little antique/vintage fair in the town hall opposite so we popped in for a quick look around. It was well worth it as I found two pretty Victorian lockets and a little hand painted dish in a pretty spriggy pattern.

After leaving the fair we turned up the road and walked towards Melford Hall, it is sheltered from the road by a high brick wall over which I could just see the tops of the towers. As we walked through the entrance and along the drive through the landscaped grounds we were presented with this beautiful view which looked particularly moody and atmospheric with the grey cloudy sky which the sun was trying to pierce through. I can't help but try to imagine how visitors from the period must have felt when approaching these grand homes. 

The grand and imposing entrance must have seemed very impressive for the gentry bumping along the drive in their wooden carriages, but rather awe-inspiring and foreboding for the humble peasant or farmer come to pay their due to their lord. The pretty gardens round the other side of the hall have the effect of softening this imposing building, I could imagine ladies from all eras walking around and taking the air outside in this feminine space.

In fact, one particular lady who enjoyed this past time very much was none other than Beatrix Potter who was a cousin of the family and regularly came to stay. Apparently she gained inspiration for the Jeremy Fisher tale from the pretty little pond in the gardens of Melford Hall and sketched various pieces of furniture and architectural details for use in her books. (One of the fireplaces features in the Tailor of Gloucester).

It was a lovely day out and reminded me that we have only seen the very tip of the iceberg with Lavenham, Bury St Edmunds, Framlingham and so many other tempting places left unexplored for another free weekend!

Friday, 3 October 2014

A day in Chelsea

I was lucky enough to win some tickets from the generous Kate at Oyster Bridge & Co for the Decorative Living Fair held once a year in the Old Chelsea Town Hall. It is a lovely setting on Kings Road in a rather grand town hall with marble columns, painted ceilings and chandeliers. The fair is expertly curated by Caroline Zoob who hand selects a mix of vintage and antique dealers with hand-crafted items.
Chloe Antiques was there with her pretty selection of handmade cushions, vintage items, scented lavender sachets and the loveliest pair of tole wall lights entwined with pretty French pears.

Walking around I also came across Emma whose stall was brimming with pretty china, as I was chatting to her she was quickly tying up fresh, crisp linens with pretty grey ribbon ready for their prospective purchaser.

Then I saw Teresa from Cherub Antiques, who I had bought my pretty silver watch fob charm from a year or so ago at one of Chloe's open house events. Her case of pretty trinkets and fripperies brought out the magpie in me. I spotted a little silver anchor charm which ended up coming home with me and she showed me a beautiful turquoise morning ring from the 1800s which is no doubt adorning some lucky lady's finger by now!

I finally found Simon from Rosehip in the Country with his daughter Kate - the very talented Oysterbridge & Co on their beautiful rustic French stand. Kate's hand drawn and embroidered pictures were so pretty, I almost couldn't stop taking photos of them!

I also met Jo from Hesta Nesta who I had not met face to face before. We had a nice chat and it was lovely to be able to put a face to the name! Heather from Hellish Designs was nearby also with her pretty handmade lampshades and French country antiques.

Hopefully I'll be meeting most of them again at the Midwinter Fair in Petworth - I'm very excited about this one as both my Mum and Dad will be staying with me so I'll be able to bring them along too!

Monday, 15 September 2014

Changing seasons

I noticed it yesterday, while brushing my teeth and looking out of the bathroom window. The tips of the leaves on the old lime tree at the bottom of our garden had a distinct toffee tinge. The blueberry bush is already flushed with crimson and the nights have started to draw in. I can feel my body clock slowly shifting gear to adjust for autumn as my weekly fare changes. I hardly notice as salads and sorbets are slowly replaced by hearty warming dishes like braised duck and pear and almond cobbler.

I feel sad about the end of summer as I pack pretty summer dresses to the back of the wardrobe but know that I will be greeting them again in a matter of months. Now I feel the need to start hunkering down to the autumnal rhythm. I look forward to the carved pumpkins and excited childrens' faces of Halloween, the crisp smell of bonfire smoke and sparklers of Guy Fawke's Night and the family gathering of yuletide.

The following months are always harder, but pretty Spring is not far away and after she has greeted us with bouquets of snowdrops and daffodils Summer begins her dance again. I look forward meeting those warm endless nights filled with honeysuckle and laughter again next year.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Crocus Open Day

Last Saturday, my good friend Caroline and I jumped in the car and set off to Windlesham in Surrey to go to the last Crocus Open Day of the year. Crocus are an on-line nursery, they offer a huge selection of plants (up to 4,000 varieties) and they also grow plants for the show gardens at the Chelsea Flower every year. They have a couple of open days a year based at their massive nursery site, there are always lots of great bargains and it is lovely walking around and looking at the great variety and quality of plants on offer.

One of my favourite things about these days is just seeing so many plants all grouped together. It's almost worth the journey alone just to look at the huge swathes of Echinachea and Rudbeckia. I always make sure that I make a list when I go to these events as it is so easy to get distracted. This year is the first year I managed to stick to it (although I was sorely tempted by their offer of 3 roses for £10)!

We wandered around the whole site, looking at all the different plants on offer picking up pots of Echinacea, Japanese Anemone and Campanula on our way. Then after we had seen everything and made our plant selections we made a beeline for the tea caravan ordering cups of tea, lemon drizzle and walnut cake and sat out in the September sunshine chatting and eating our tea and cake before driving home with a mini garden in our car boot.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Dahlia delights

Earlier this year I made a New Year's resolution I knew I would be able to keep. After seeing Sharon from My French Country Home's swoon-worthy photographs of the peachy bloomed Dahlia Cafe au Lait, I decided to put aside my various preconceptions about dahlias and have a go.

I'd always steered away from growing dahlias previously as the varieties I saw were always seemed so garish and artificial looking. I have to admit that there was probably an element of garden snobbery about them as well, although now I have to admit I'm at a loss as to why! Perhaps it's because I think of myself as much more of a billowy gardener and preferring pastel hues to traffic stoppers! But the more I looked around the more I saw that dahlias were beginning to shed their "only for male gardeners of a certain age" reputation and were starting to pop up all over the place.

And I'm very glad they did! I have been out in the garden every evening after work, patiently waiting as the button sized buds swell and became the size of cherry tomatoes, imagining the Mille-feuille-like layers of pastely, peachy pink stuffed into that tiny space - like a ballerina's tutu stuffed into a hat box!

This foray into the world of dahlias has certainly whetted my appetite and I know for sure that there are definitely more tubers on the horizon for my garden!

Monday, 4 August 2014


It was lovely having my Mum and sister down, even though it was only a very short visit. They arrived on Wednesday and were back up to Scotland on Friday! My sister reported that the sleigh bed was very comfortable and Mum was nice and cosy in the garden room with her en suite! They both had eiderdowns and quilts on their beds, but I don't think either ended up staying on for very long as it was so hot while they were visiting!

A couple of days before my visitors arrived I had a phone call from Colin at Crystal Corner to let me know that the antique French chandelier I bought unwired from Rosehip in the Country back in March was ready. The above photo shows it in its unwired, unrestored state. After picking it up from the lovely Rosehip shop in Long Melford, the chandelier languished in a box from March-July while I tried to figure out if I could re-wire it myself. But the more I looked into it the more complicated it seemed to get so I decided it was a much better idea to pay someone else who knew who knew what they were doing!

After getting in touch with Colin via his wife who runs Crystal Corner, he very kindly offered to collect, restore, deliver and hang it for me. Later on that day he arrived on his motor bike, carefully packed the chandelier up and whisked it away to his workshop in Marlow. Now, restored to its former glory, it hangs in our sitting room, rewired and with the missing crystals added back onto the frame. We need to replace the bulbs for some others that are slightly less tall (we might go for some pygmie bulbs but I am not sure if they would be too tiny?) But we are really pleased with the result which is so much nicer than the plain black B&Q 3-arm chandelier that we had inherited from the previous owners and had swinging arms!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Sleigh bed

Once we had moved the metal bed and computer desk out of the second bedroom I started to think about what I would like to replace it with. I knew that I definitely wanted the room to still be a bedroom so I started looking around for a bed. I had seen a few pictures of sleigh beds recently and thought that one of these would look just right in the freshly painted second bedroom.

After scouring eBay for a few weeks, I had a couple that I was interested in. After ruling a few really lovely ones out due the head and foot board size (some were almost two metres high which would have dwarfed the room). I came across this lovely pine Scandinavian sleigh bed.
I really liked the turned finals and the simple style of this bed.


The only thing was that it the brackets fixing the side boards to the head board were broken, after consulting with my Dad (he can fix anything!) over whether it could be easily fixed or not I managed to haggle the price down and in a couple of days my husband and I were manoeuvring the pieces into the back of our car and driving down the motorway. It then languished in the second bedroom for a few weeks while we waited for our builder (who is also a carpenter) to come over and fix it for us. After that my husband installed some bed slats and the job was finished!

It still needs some large squashy cushions to make it more inviting as a sofa/day bed when we don't have guests and I need to decide how I am going to cover the mattress when it is not in use but for now I'm pleased with how it looks. It will be getting it's first road test in a matter of days when my sister and Mum come down to stay. I think Mum has already said she will be staying in the garden room so my sister will be in the sleigh bed so it'll soon be made up with a pillows and quilts. I hope she finds it comfy!