Monday 24 July 2017


It's been a while! I lost my blogging mojo for a bit, I think the fact that this blog was really supposed to be about our cottage renovations meant that when the majority of those were done I pretty much ran out of steam. That, combined with starting a new job meant that I just had less and less time for blogging and when I did have time I couldn't really think of anything to write. I'm a perfectionist (a trait I share with my Dad who trained to be a chef, amongst his many other talents and trades!) and I would often compare my writing to other people's blogs and just think - "uggh, why isn't my writing more interesting/engaging/funny?!"

Anyway, service is hopefully resuming but it will be a little bit ad-hoc. The reason for this is that I am starting a business! I know, probably not the best timing - did I mention mention that I am back studying as well? They say good things come in threes, so let's hope that's the case for me!

Back in March this year, my husband and I visited Essaouria in Morocco. We had visited Marrakech back when we were first married, and to be honest I wasn't overly keen on the thought of going back. Marrakech is beautiful, but it was so busy and the constant hassling from traders and tourist touts got quite wearing after a few days.

But Essaouria was completely different, for a start it's right by the sea so you get a cooling breeze all year round. It is much smaller and so when we visited in March it was very quiet, no jostling along the narrow and winding passages and bazaars! It has a much more laid back attitude and although there isn't a huge amount to see we were just happy to wander around and soak up the atmosphere. The old part of Essaouria is surrounded by centuries-old fortified ramparts and has a long history as a trading post with Portguese and French influences.

One of my goals while we were there was to procure a Beni Ouarain rug for our sitting room. I had seen a few photos of them in very stylish settings and in a few eyewateringly expensive shops, so I was hoping that they might be more reasonably priced in Morocco. I was very concerned about being ripped off, so I made sure that I did my research and after wandering around for a bit, we managed to find one that fitted our room and our wallets! Here's a photo of it in situ - I moved the old carpenters chest that we use for a coffee table from the middle of the carpet to take this shot.

And that would be the end of the story... but after being back in the UK for a week or so I decided that I was going to set up a business selling Moroccan carpets and accessories. I had enjoyed learning about the different types of carpets so much and dipping in and out of the labyrinth of passages and bazaars finding them that I decided to give it a try. After some thought I came up with a name (Berberouche - which as far as I know doesn't mean anything, I liked the word Berber and Babouche and when I put them together that is what I came up with!), sourced my stock, got postcards and business cards printed, set up some social media accounts and booked a stand at the Summer Country Brocante in June.

The response I got was the encouragement I needed to set up a website which will be launching this week! This post is a bit of a whistle-stop tour of what I've been up to in the year and a bit I've been away. Thanks to those who were kind enough to say you missed my posts! I hope you will stick with me! Please do stop by to have a look at my new website and if you are on Instagram and interested to keep track of my progress with this, please follow me @berberouche

Monday 18 April 2016

Seat squabs

"Squab" is such a strange word, it always makes me think of "squaw" which is a different thing altogether! Anyway, according to the Oxford English dictionary a squab is "a thick, stuffed cushion, especially one covering the seat of a chair or sofa" which is something that has been occupying my mind a lot lately! As our original seat cushions in the dining room are starting to look decidedly tatty, I have started to look for other alternatives. It probably won't come as a surprise to anyone who has been following this blog for a while, that I am rather pernickety when it comes to household furnishings (or most things for that matter! I am on an epic hunt for the perfect handbag which may just take me enough to time to render handbags obsolete!) Anyway, back to the point in hand...

Here's an old photo from before I painted the fireplace, but you can see the cushions. I had made these from old art nouveau fabric of which I didn't have quite enough so I made my seam allowances very mean and as a result the fabric is pulling and fraying along the edges where I sewed in the zip. They are also slightly too large which make them a bit cumbersome to sit on and they often slide off when you stand up. So, I have been exploring several options, 

Image from Pinterest

Fitted seat squabs, made out of foam and covered in a neutral washable fabric like these. Although for these to perfectly fit our chairs, I would probably have to make these myself. Or sheepskin seat pads like these...

Or an actual sheepskin draped over the chair (I'm actually trying one of these out just now, but it doesn't give quite as much padding as a cushion and I'm not sure how practical this is.

Maybe I could try buying or making smaller loose cushions for the chairs instead?

Or maybe just have no cushions at all (I think I like this option the least!)

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?