Weekend in Norfolk - Ford House

We've had a pretty hectic 2016, mainly with the house move, and the stress that surrounded that, but also both holding down numerous work commitments as well as running after a two year old! So we didn't really have time to even think about a holiday let alone take one! We did have a lovely few days in Scotland for a family wedding in August - childfree - which was lots of fun, but we were keen to have a few nights away with Ruby too, as it's really important to me for her to experience other places too. So last week we took a few days away in Norfolk for a quick recharge of the batteries before Christmas is in full swing! 

Before we were parents, if we went away anywhere, the quality of the accommodation was never really top of our priorities, mainly because we'd usually be out and about all day, and then out for dinner in the evenings, so it was just a base to sleep. But now, I've found, particularly while Ruby is so young, that where we stay is as much a part of the trip as anything else. She's in bed for 7pm every night, which obviously means we are in too, so having a lovely place to relax once she's in bed feels so important. And to be honest, it was when I saw Ford House on Instagram that I decided we should take a few days away! I wanted to stay in the house so bad!  

Being greeted with this cosy scene after a long drive from Surrey instantly made me relax and feel at home. The house is two cottages knocked together, so while it has a country cottage feel, it has lots of space and has all the mod cons.

It's those thoughtful little touches that make a stay in a holiday cottage extra special, and as well as a hamper full of goodies for the adults, Amanda the owner, had left little Christmas gifts for the kids which was so sweet! Here is Ruby opening hers on the sheepskin rug in front of the Aga! What an idyllic scene eh?! :) (I also came home from here with the urge to put sheepskin rugs EVERYWHERE!) 

IMG_0465_700.jpg

Amanda has clearly put SO much love and attention to detail into creating the interior - there are so many lovely vintage finds dotted around, and little vases of flowers decorated every room - I certainly came home with lots of inspiration! I literally could've just stayed indoors for the entire weekend, but we did venture out occasionally! We took a walk on Wells-next-the-sea beach, which was stunning, had lunch and a wander in Burnham Market and made the trip to Stiffkey Stores, although I realised later that I'd completely missed the barn section! Gutted!

I honestly cannot recommend Ford House enough. Do pop over to their Instagram as they have a lovely feed! We will come back soon Norfolk! x

My Evolving Style and Harley & Lola

We are slowly beavering away at our new house, despite a bit of a setback when a drunk driver knocked my hubby of his bike a few weeks back. Luckily he is fine, but the injuries he did receive means he's not been able to do much manual work of late! But my dad has stepped in to help with a lot of decorating and sorting out the garden, so we're getting there slowly but surely. 

I'll admit that my focus has been on the sourcing side of things, which of course I love! A few years back my sourcing techniques would have mainly consisted of early mornings at flea markets and car boots and browsing eBay for bargains. While I still have a love of vintage and a good bargain, I feel a little like my style have evolved greatly of late, and I have found myself quite taken by the Scandi trend and mid-century look, particularly when it comes to furniture. Some of this evolution may be down to laziness and finding that getting things delivered to my door is much easier that rising at dawn to hit the markets! But whatever the reason, I'm spending lots of time online researching furniture, discovering new brands and building wishlists! 

Wycombe bed - £970

Wycombe bed - £970

One brand I've discovered is Harley & Lola, whose furniture and homeware is sourced ethically and they are committed to using recycled packaging wherever possible. I find that when I am not buying vintage - which feels like a form of recycling - that it is a bonus if a company selling 'new' products is willing to put the extra work into how and where they source their ranges from. 

Wycombe mirror - £367

They have a nice mix of styles, from the Wycombe range which is quite Scandinavian, to the Marlow range, which has a bit more of country farmhouse feel to contemporary style pieces in their Kielder collection. 

Kielder bench - £322

It's funny, I almost feel guilty for the evolution of my style, and what I am drawn to. I feel like I am 'cheating' on my vintage roots (!) or that I am being too easily influenced by current trends (which I previously always thought I avoided) But I've decided it's best to just go with it, and buy what I like, after all, tastes tend to change as you get older, and I think we are influenced by trends whether we like it or not! I know I certainly wouldn't dress in the same clothes I wore in my late teens, so my interiors preferences are bound to be different too! 

Anyway, I'm excited to see how our new house progresses and how different/similar it might end up to our last place. I hope you will follow along too! 

Do check out Harley & Lola for more of the above too. 

*This post was written in collaboration with Harley & Lola, but all views, thoughts and choices are my own.*

Sourcing: The Armchair edit

As we speak our living room ceiling is being plastered, then we will need to do a bit more painting and hopefully then the new floor can be laid. THEN it's time for shopping! As you can imagine this is my fave part, so I *may* have already started that bit, or at least browsing! Our plan is to have one sofa and two armchairs, so I've been scouring the web for both recently, and have bookmarked a fair few potential armchair options. I thought I'd share the shortlist with you, I'd love to hear your thoughts, it might just help me make a decision! ;) 

West Elm

Mid-century upholstered chair, West Elm, £699 (currently £559)

Swoon Editions
Merano Armchair, Blossom, Swoon Editions, £469

Vintage 1950's armchair, notonthehighstreet.com, £995

1958 Armchair, Oliver Bonas, £585

Ruby Armchair - Dark Grey, Cult Furniture, £249

Vintage Ercol 2-seater sofa, Lovely and Co, £599

Niels Wing Chair - Oatmeal, West Elm, £599 (currently £479)

Grey woven tub chair, Cox and Cox, £375

Vintage Ercol armchair, Winters Moon, £445

Gracie armchair, Made.com, £499

Vintage 1950's cocktail chair, notonthehighstreet.com, £625

Low rattan chair, Cox and Cox, £200

Grey Scandi Retro chair, Florrie and Bill, £675

Mimi armchair, Swoon Editions, £399

Bamboo chair, notonthehighstreet.com, £365

Aarhus Mid Century Armchair, Rose and Grey, £695

Restored G-Plan chair, Mustard Vintage, £595

Christmas gift wrapping tips

It's funny, each year, my interest and excitement about Christmas seems to vary. I'm not sure whether that depends on how busy I am in the run up to it, affecting the time I have to think about it, or whether it's what's happening in my life that year, but this year I'm already feeling really festive! It may be because this is the first year where Ruby seems aware of the whole Santa thing, so her excitement is building, even though she doesn't *really* understand it just yet. (all she knows is that she wants him to bring her a kitchen! Don't we all!)

My festive spirit was further fuelled recently when Marks and Spencer invited me along to a Christmas wrapping event, where a group of bloggers got together to help M&S wrap gifts for children (and their parents) who will be spending Christmas in Great Ormond Street hospital. I was particularly moved by the words of the GOSH representative who explained what it is like for kids there over Christmas, so it felt really lovely to be able to help out in this small way. 

With all those creative bloggers in one room, there were lots of great wrapping ideas and tips being passed around, particularly when it comes to wrapping up slightly awkward shaped items. So I wanted to share one easy way to parcel up an awkward gift as well as a few of my favourite gift wrapping tips and ideas. Above is the gift item from M&S which I choose to wrap up. 

I'm still obsessing over metallics at the moment, so this paper, plus some ribbons and bows from M&S were perfect. Below is a little tutorial for making a gift bag from wrapping paper... 

1. Cut a piece of paper large enough to wrap your item with a little bit to spare. Fold the two sides in to the middle, with one side overlapping the other.

TOP TIP:  use double sided tape when wrapping, so there is no unsightly sellotape on your seams. 

2. Fold up the bottom edge of your paper as above, this will be the base of your gift bag. 

3. Open it out and fold the sides inwards like in the above image. 

4. Then simply fold in the top and bottom flaps, overlapping slightly, and tape in place. You can also add some double sided tape underneath the folds for added support. 

5. Stand your bag up and push out the base so it becomes a little bag. You can now place your gift inside.

TOP TIP:  Wrap awkward shaped items in a layer of bubble wrap first to even out the shape. 

6. To close the bag, simply fold over the top. I tend to firstly make a small fold of about 1cm to make a nice clean edge, and then fold again with a deeper fold to finish. Again use double sided tape to seal along this edge. 

Now it's time to get creative and decorate your bag! I made two holes through the fold at the top to feed through some ribbon, then you can attach other decorative items to this. Here I've added one of M&S's amazing LED letter baubles. It's a nice touch to add an actual Christmas decoration onto a parcel as an extra little gift. Another nice idea is to add seasonal foliage like eucalyptus, a fir tree sprig or a small branch of berries - although it's generally best to add these just before delivering the gifts so that they look fresh.  

I must say, I am very much looking forward to an evening of wrapping gifts by the fire this year! It's nice to set aside some time, pour yourself some mulled wine, and to do it properly, rather than rushing it at the last minute. And of course it's a perfect opportunity to get a little bit creative! If you'd like some more gift wrapping ideas check out M&S's guide. Happy wrapping folks! x

*This post was written in collaboration with Marks and Spencer, but all ideas, choices and opinions are my own.*

Quick bedroom makeover

Since we moved into our new house about 5 weeks ago, we've been very busy, but it feels like we've been jumping from job to job - there's just so much to do, and we keep spotting or discovering things that need our attention, so it's hard to stay focused on one thing. But I really felt like I wanted to get at least one room 'done', so the smallest bedroom seemed like the place to start. Of course I forgot to take a proper 'before' shot - it originally had some carpet tiles (!) on the floor that were filthy, but thankfully very easy to get rid of, so this is what it looked like after these were removed.... 

Firstly my dad painted the walls and floor in white so this freshened up the space instantly. The bed on the left was actually left by the previous owners, and fits perfectly along that wall, so for now we've decided to keep it there until we find something else. So in the meantime, I decided to give it a lick of paint. I must admit, I am a bit of a lazy decorator. I wish I could click my fingers and everything was painted! So that is why Annie Sloan's chalk paint was so appealing. I didn't want to spend too long on this room, so the fact there is no need for prep before using Annie's paints got the thumbs up from me. 

I selected four paints from the Annie Sloan range - Paris Grey, Old WhiteScandinavian Pink and Antoinette. I painted the bottom panel Paris Grey, the top panel Old White and then for the drawers I did a little bit of mixing. The left drawer was Old White with a little bit of Antoinette mixed in, the middle drawer is Antoinette on it's own, and then the right drawer I added a little Scandinavian Pink in with the Antoinette. All finished off with a little bit of Clear Wax

I plan to make some new cushion covers and change the bedding as it was a quick fix as we had someone coming to stay, but the little rug is a new addition from Oliver Bonas. I didn't want the room to look overly pastel-y, so added this darker rug to contrast with the paler colours. 

It's such a teeny tiny room, that there isn't much space for furniture, but obviously we wanted something for our guests to put their clothes, so this gorgeous clothes rail from Cox and Cox was the perfect option. it's made from bamboo, which is a sustainable wood, and also looks beautiful. It literally took minutes to construct and I'm loving the simple design. I am tempted to steal it out of here for my own room! 

plant pots from Howkapow

plant pots from Howkapow

prints by Audrey Jeanne

prints by Audrey Jeanne

There's still a few bits and bobs to be added to this room - a bedside table and lamp, a window covering and maybe some shelves, but for now am happy that at least one room in the house feels like us rather than the previous owners! I'd love to hear what you think! 

*Thanks to Annie Sloan and Cox and Cox for helping me out with this makeover.*

Sourcing: 10 great wall lights

One of our next tasks in the new house is sorting out the lighting. When we moved in we realised quite a few of the lights and switches weren't working, and various things need replacing, so we've got an electrician booked in for early November. In the 'garden room' there are a couple of seriously ugly wall lights that don't work, so I've been on the hunt for something lovely to replace them, as well as a small entrance hall one.

I thought I'd share with you a few of my top finds, as, while there are lots of options out there, it's actually quite tricky to find nice wall lights. I wonder can you guess which of these we've went for? You might be surprised, I think my taste has evolved over the last year or so, and I'm going for quite a different look in this place.... 

Lightbearer sconce, £398, Anthropologie

Lightbearer sconce, £398, Anthropologie

Molecular wall light, £110, Rockett St George

Molecular wall light, £110, Rockett St George

Pewter extendable wall light, £260, Baileys

Pewter extendable wall light, £260, Baileys

Junction wall light, £109, Heals

Junction wall light, £109, Heals

Starky wall light, £59, made.com

Starky wall light, £59, made.com

Southwark wall light, £65, Graham and Green 

Southwark wall light, £65, Graham and Green 

Mariner light, £59.95, Notonthehighstreet.com

Mariner light, £59.95, Notonthehighstreet.com

Anglepoise Original 1227 Brass Wall Light, £125, John Lewis

Anglepoise Original 1227 Brass Wall Light, £125, John Lewis

The Party light, £525, Bag and Bones (for a statement piece!) 

The Party light, £525, Bag and Bones (for a statement piece!) 

Stable light, £55, Cox and Cox

Stable light, £55, Cox and Cox

What's your fave here? And do you find wall lights a tough one? Once we get our new ones up I'll share which we went for! 

Our new home... finally!

So, I know it's been pretty quiet around here of late, but as you may have read in recent posts, we have been waiting to move house for a whole year! We put our flat on the market in September 2015, expecting to have moved by Christmas. We found the house we wanted to buy in the October, but had to wait while the owner found her new home. In the meantime, we lost buyers left, right and centre due to the wait, but eventually got a dedicated couple I think around April. But then the legal problems commenced. I will never own a leasehold property again in my life! It is a nightmare! After months of thinking it might never happen we finally exchanged at the start of September, and completed on the 30th.

While we were desperate to move to a bigger house, it was still sad as we watched the removal guys take everything out of the flat we'd lived for 7 years. So many big events happened in our lives during that time - getting married, bringing our first child into the world and of course I launched 91 Magazine from here - and if you didn't know, this house inspired the magazine's name - as the address was no.91.

We look back and hope we managed to improve that flat while we were there, I particularly loved the kitchen which was our biggest project, and the room that most prospective buyers seemed to love. Here it is just before we left... and yes, we did leave the Smeg behind! :( 

Goodbye no.91, you will always have a special place in my heart! But it definitely felt like the right time for us to move on. We have now been in our new home for a week and it feels great! We have somehow managed to upgrade from a 2 bed flat to a 5 bed semi detached house! The day we viewed it last year I literally couldn't sleep that night thinking about it. The house was a bit of a mess in terms of decor and maintenance, but I loved the space and the flow and just knew we could bring it back to life. When we thought we might lose it, I realised that it would be very unlikely we'd find the same amount of space for the price we were paying. Particularly in an area we liked and that suited us in terms of future schools for Ruby. So we held on and did everything we could to make sure the chain didn't collapse. So, here we are, finally in, and WOW, there is a lot to do! 

Downstairs there is a large knocked through living room, a large conservatory (or 'garden room' as I like to call it!), the kitchen and a downstairs loo. We decided on our second night in the house it was time to start painting. We just couldn't bear to be surrounded by dark, dark blue walls for any longer than was necessary! Dark walls can look great if done well, but I personally find it super oppressive. The room also has a worn red/brown carpet throughout! oh and did I mention the gold fireplace feature walls?! 

We are half way through painting this huge room white (it's taking 3 coats to cover the blue!) and already it feels so much brighter and even more spacious. There's still lots more to do in here - rewiring, flooring, and skimming the artex on the ceiling, but really it's all cosmetic, so shouldn't take too long to transform. 

On through into the 'garden room', I've tried to do a touch of styling and sprucing it up with plants, but there is NO hiding those lime green walls! Oh and yep, they carry on right through into the kitchen.... 

I realised after we agreed to include our Smeg appliances with the sale of the flat that I'd made a big mistake! My husband suggested we just get a cheap fridge to tide us over until we do up the kitchen, but I literally couldn't bear it (I'm such a Smeg snob!!) - but luckily I managed to get this one at a great price as it has a bit of damage. But those lime walls just aren't doing it justice are they?! So I think they are next on our hit list! 

Upstairs isn't quite so bad in terms of colour schemes, except for the room I'm typing from now, which has a questionable mural painted on the dark blue (again!) walls! Above is a small bedroom which I've managed to make passable for now, although what you can't see is the carpet TILES on the floor! 

Ruby's little room isn't too bad either - it just needs decorating and to be rid of the stained carpet. I never thought I'd say this, but I think we may actually go for carpet in the bedrooms. Even though the current ones are a bit manky, we've been quite enjoying the softness under our feet after having hard, cold floorboards in our old place.

This is all I dare show you of the bathroom! It needs complete replacement but it is quite a big room, so lots of scope to make it lovely. For whatever reason this is the only room that's been left with exposed floorboards, everywhere else has been covered with carpet or lino! 

So that's the first peek into our new home. I know it's all going to take a while, so I need to make my peace with that and endure living with things as they are for a while. But I am looking forward to the journey, and making the space lovely again. I hope you'll enjoy following along with me! :) 

Visit: Dean Street Cafe

Last Saturday I bundled myself out of the house early to catch the train into London for a breakfast event at the soon-to-be-opened Dean Street Cafe. I love weekend mornings in London, the streets are slowly waking up, deliveries are arriving, businesses are opening up for the day, yet there is still a relaxed weekend vibe, as both Londoners and visitors emerge to enjoy the city, explore different neighbourhoods and discover new things. That's my number one thing about London- there are always new things happening, no matter how long you live here, it's constantly changing, evolving.and surprising.

So, it was wonderful to get introduced to this new space in Soho by Tiffany and Annie of Function and Form. The two ladies host events focusing on the work of a designer, giving like minded folk - who usually connect virtually - the chance to get together 'in the real world' in a cool, 'instagramable' venue!

But Dean Street Cafe is more than just a cool venue. It is run by Centrepoint, a charity who provide accommodation and support to young homeless people. The cafe is actually housed in the very building where Centrepoint was founded in 1969, and the multifunctional space is not only opening to offer refreshment to Soho's weekend visitors, but to also provide training and qualifications to many of London's young homeless people. 

Centrepoint enlisted the help of Nina+Co to design the flexible space, and we listened to Nina's story on Saturday, which was hugely inspiring. She described her creative journey from being an assistant in a design firm through to starting her own company, then gave us an insight into her day to day life (currently in Amsterdam) and achieving a good work/life balance. She finally explained the challenges involved in this particular project and how she overcame them. 

With the space being used during the week for training, workshops and private events, the cafe element pretty much has to be 'packed away' so these wall panels are actually cupboards where the tables and chairs can be stored. The peg board feature also gives flexibility to how the wall itself is used. 

Nina's design studio has a strong focus on sustainability, so this is a notable feature at Dean Street Cafe. The wood they've used is a fast growing wood, fabrics were locally sourced and upholstery done by The Hackney Draper, and she used eco paints, and much of the freestanding furniture is second hand. 

You can see more images of the space on Nina's website and be sure to check out her ceramics range too (above), it is beautiful - she is a talented lady! Thanks again to Function and Form and everyone involved in this event. It was truly lovely to discover this little cafe, and I'm sure I'll be popping back soon! 

*Dean Street Cafe opens to the public in September and will be open weekends only from 10am-6pm. It is just near the junction of Dean Street and Shaftesbury Avenue.*

Sofa Inspiration - The Lounge Co

With our house move (finally!) imminent, searching for and buying furniture is now at the forefront of my mind, despite knowing that there are lots of 'boring' jobs to be done before purchasing the fun bits! But hey, my interior obsessed brain can not stop itself! 

So here I am surrounded by fabric swatches and poring over brochures which I just received from The Lounge Co! 

The Lounge Co are a newly launched British brand with a lovely, fresh website which I've just spent some time on using their Configurator to try out styles, colours and fabrics. While they are essentially an online brand, they do have a number of 'galleries' situated in retail stores around the UK, including a flagship store in Chiswick, London, where you can go and try out the sofas in person. 

They've got some great shapes like the Florence -  this retro design above, and its really making me think about the option of going for a bright colour. In fact, I've found myself coveting various pink sofas on Pinterest of late... (view my boards) I'm not sure I could do it though, as it means keeping everything else pared back, which I'm not sure I'm capable of! They do look great against a white or grey wall and wooden floor though don't they? 

I think subconsciously though, I'm usually swayed to more neutral colours - and I realised that the majority of The Lounge Co images I selected here feature grey sofas... It's just so much easier to accessorise with bright cushions! Or perhaps a colourful armchair is the way to go.... ?

It's such a big decision, with so many aspects to consider - the space it will go in, the style, the colour, how comfy it is, whether it's child friendly, and of course how much you love it. I feel like I really want to get it right, so it's been useful to browse The Lounge Co site and play around with the different options, as well as know that I could pop to their Chiswick store for a test drive! 

It'll be a little while yet before we finally make that new sofa purchase I suspect, but I'll be sure to keep you posted! What would you do? Stay safe with grey or go bold and pick pink?! 

This post is in collaboration with The Lounge Co. but all words and views are my own. You can compile your own free swatch pack here or browse their sofas and chairs at The Lounge Co. 

Utilitarian downstairs loo

Last Friday we FINALLY exchanged on our house, (a year since putting our flat on the market - that must be a record!) So we've spent much of the week chatting about plans for the new house and debating what we will do with the FIVE bedrooms! I'm excited about living in a house where I will go up the stairs to bed at night - I've only ever lived in a bungalow or in flats - and I'm also weirdly excited about having more than one loo! :) We have the main bathroom and a downstairs loo at the moment, and plan to turn a small room in the loft conversion into a en-suite. We have LOTS to do in the house, the whole place needs an overhaul, so I will share some ideas and inspiration for different areas over the coming weeks. If anything, I find it really helps me to work out what I want, by sharing my thoughts on here! 

Photo via: The Ana Mum Diary

The downstairs loo is always a tricky one. Such a small space, but one that the majority of your visiting guests will get a peek of at some point, so you don't want it to be dull! Wall mounted or corner sinks are usually the only option, although I do love these bucket sinks from Labour and Wait, but there just wouldn't be the space. (maybe for the en-suite?!) 

Photo via Pinterest (no source) 

Photo via Pinterest (no source) 

In such a small space my preference is to go relatively simple but perhaps with one or two unexpected elements. I'm thinking a bit of a utilitarian vibe - industrial lighting, tiles on the floor and tiles halfway on the walls, but then with some fun art on the wall and a small mirror. I would love to find a salvaged door, with frosted glass and perhaps some text on it, which would add interest and also let in a little more natural light. Something like this.  

Photo via The House Directory 

I LOVE these London Underground inspired tiles which Fired Earth did in collaboration with Transport for London, but it was a few years ago and they don't have them anymore. But we could at least recreate the two tone tiles which looks great, or at perhaps have a darker skirting board like in the top image. 

Hooks: Baileys / Hand wash: Southwood Stores / Hanging planter: Ro-Co / Towel: The Future Kept

Hooks: Baileys / Hand wash: Southwood Stores / Hanging planter: Ro-Co / Towel: The Future Kept

And then of course, not to forget those finishing touches - some hooks, a luxurious hand wash, a plant (or two!), either hanging or potted, and a lovely hand towel. A small space, but yet still so much to think about! ;) 

Decorating brands I'm loving...

If you are a regular reader (of my not so regular posts! sorry!) then you might know that we have been going through a very long drawn out process of selling our flat and buying a new property. In September, it will be a whole YEAR since we put our flat on the market! BUT we are finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel and are just waiting to agree dates for exchange and completion. (fingers still firmly crossed!) 

I've literally spent the last 12 months imagining what I am going to do to the house we were buying, and have even started looking at paint colours and wallpapers in preparation! So now that our wait is *nearly* over, I am gradually gathering samples together, so I thought I'd share with you a couple of really great decorating brands that I've fallen in love with. 

I came across Bert and May a while ago, and blogged about their barge boat which you can stay in on the Thames. I have fallen in love with their tiles, wood flooring and cladding and their paint range. Above are a few sample pots I have tested out, and I love the soft, muted tones and the chalky matt finish. The palette is inspired by their stunning range of tiles, so naturally they go perfectly together. And I am totally loving the idea of a tiled headboard! 

I am a big wallpaper fan, but I am quite fussy about it. I feel like it is quite a bit of effort to hang and I want longevity from it, so I really want to make sure I truly love the wallpapers I choose. 

So, I am always really excited to find a wallpaper brand that has lots of designs I love, and I can safely say that about Sandberg Wallpapers. I've admired their work for a while, and recently received a selection of samples from their Familj range, which is launching this month - and there really is too many lovely designs to choose from! 

I'm also planning a little bit of furniture painting with some pieces I already own, that are a bit tired and either need to go or could be transformed with a lick of paint. So I'm delving into books like this one from founders of interiors brand Grand Illusions to give me a few ideas! 

Once we get into the new house, I'm sure I will have lots of projects to share on here, just keep your fingers crossed for us that we get things signed and sealed soon! ;) 

Two books to quietly inspire

Being a working mum of a toddler severely affects your free time in general, but I've found it particularly diminishes the time I have to read.. So when I can steal an hour or two, whether it's on a solo train journey, or a rare moment when my 'to do' list has become blank (pretty much never!) I do enjoy to spend that time either with a gripping novel or an inspiring creative book. 

I'm often asked as an editor and blogger who I am inspired by, and I always say, without a doubt - other creatives. And when asked where I find inspiration, my answer is usually - from the books, blogs, homes and lives of said creative people. So these two books I recently treated myself to, absolutely hit the nail on the head for me as truly inspiring reads. Both are penned by creative women who started blogging as a means of expression, and it was this activity that later led them to many great adventures and projects. Very similar to my own experience. 

I read Fine Little Day by Elisabeth Dunker in one sitting during a train journey and was blown away by her openness and her effortless creativity. She talks of her childhood obsession with her camera and taking what we now call 'selfies' as well as her slightly haphazard and spontaneous approach to blogging. I felt a real affinity with Elisabeth's story, and how she has got to where she is today - no solid plan, just going with the flow and following the creative path as it unfolds in front of her. 

The book itself is mainly photographs, interspersed with narrative from Elisabeth, explaining her love of collecting certain items, snippets from her home, simple craft projects and moments from family life. Heart warming and endearing, both through Elisabeth's honest words and beautiful photographs, it made me yearn to step into her shoes for a day to experience what seems a very free way of living creatively. 

The other book is A Year of Mornings. This book was actually published in 2008, so I am VERY late to the party on this one! In fact, authors Maria Alexandra Vettese and Stephanie Congdon Barnes, are soon to publish another book entitled Year Between Friends: 3191 Miles Apart (*quick;ly adds to wish list!) 

3191 Miles Apart is the name of the blog the two ladies set up as a collaborative photography project at the end of 2006. Separated by 3191 miles, Maria in Portland, Maine and Stephanie in Portland, Oregon, the two found they had a creative connection that surpassed the distance between them. A love of early mornings and for capturing the simplicity and beauty of daily life, they embarked on a project to snap and share one photo every morning for a year. 

Apart from the foreword and introduction, this book is purely a photographic essay of the two woman's respective lives on opposite sides of the US. But no words are required, as the narrative that runs through the images, categorised by the seasons, is enough to tell the story. It takes me back to my time studying photography at university when I was highly influenced by photographers who captured those mundane moments in life, yet made them beautiful. After an evening absorbing the imagery, I felt lighter and happier in myself. It is a reminder that even with all the tragedy and sadness in the world today, it is those tiny magical moments of every day life that we must notice and cherish. Whether that is a shaft of bright sunshine streaming across your kitchen table, a sweet handwritten note left by a child or hearing a favourite song on the radio, these simple pleasures must be treasured - and Maria and Stephanie have expressed this perfectly through their project. I can't wait for their next book. 

Are there any books that have quietly inspired you and left you reflecting on it weeks after reading it? I'd love to hear your suggestions - I definitely need more of these moments in my life! 

All photos: Caroline Rowland

Medicine Garden, Cobham

Now that we have a toddler, we tend to do a lot more 'days out' and visiting of places than we used to. A leisurely wander round the shops on a Sunday afternoon, is not sufficient entertainment for an excitable toddler! Saying that, at the moment, we can pretty much take Ruby anywhere and she will find it fun (as long as she's able to get out of the buggy!) so we aren't quite at the stage of spending our weekends at places like Legoland! But it means that we are getting out and about and discovering some great places that are actually right on our doorstep! 

The other thing that toddlers don't care about is whether it's raining or not! They'd much rather get outside than stay indoors, so last Sunday, we donned our raincoats and headed for the Medicine Garden in Cobham. I actually came across this place on Instagram (the source of all new discoveries!) and realised it's only a short drive away from us. 

We headed straight for the cafe when we arrived as the rain was coming down pretty heavily. They actually have 2 cafes on site, but we went for the Hot House, as they enticed my hubby with the hot breakfasts! The decor inside is lovely and the food was pretty delicious too.  

Once fed, we ventured outside again, and Ruby had a look at the chickens and we wandered amongst the various plant displays. It's not exactly a garden centre, but it has a small, but decent range of plants and containers in the courtyard. 

There are a few little shops dotted around the courtyard: a flower shop, a little gallery and a gift shop which are all worth popping your head in. But for some reason, I was drawn to this old potting shed (?), which I'm not even sure if you were supposed to go in! I think it might have been more of a store room, but the collections of succulents and old pots and things were too good not to grab a few snaps of! 

Before leaving, we had a (slightly soggy) wander around the walled garden, which is really lovely. There is a bit of a wild flower theme  to the planting, which looks beautiful against the weathered brickwork. There is also a kids play area which Ruby was loving, as it was basically just a huge sandpit! 

We really enjoyed our visit despite the rain! I would say it is really only a morning or afternoon visit, not a whole day thing, although I imagine with the sun out you could spend a lot more time enjoying the garden and sitting outside!  

Find out more on their website: www.themedicinegarden.com

The history of my home

A few months go I had the most intriguing of emails. It came from a woman who had lived in my house nearly 20 years ago. She had come across pictures of our kitchen/dining room online, and spotted the fireplace which she had purchased in an antiques shop in Glasgow in the 1980's - apparently it was bright orange when she found it! She cleaned it up and brought back to Kingston to install in the house. Shona emailed me to let me know of this crazy coincidence and we began chatting about the house and what it was like when she lived here. It really is incredible the connections that can be made via the world wide web right?! 

It feels particularly poignant to be looking back on the history of our home, as we prepare to move on from it ourselves after nearly seven years of living here. (that's if we EVER exchange, it's been the longest process). Shona sent me a few pictures of the interior when she was living here which was SO interesting, so I thought it would be fun to show the comparisons (which also includes some shots from when we bought it in 2009) and I did a little interview with Shona, to find out about her time living here... 

Now image by Cathy Pyle

Now image by Cathy Pyle

Patchwork Harmony: When did you live in the flat?
Shona: 1989-1997

Patchwork Harmony: What was the house like when you bought it? 
Shona: Not great, it needed totally refurbished - it was in a real mess. It needed a new bathroom, kitchen and it didn't have any central heating so that had to go in too. Before buying the flat we looked at one of the top floor flats next door, which was immaculate but I think about 25k more (!) - that gives you an idea of how much work needed to be done on it. I think the purchase price was around 72k.

Now image by Cathy Pyle

Now image by Cathy Pyle

Now image by Martina O'Shea

Now image by Martina O'Shea

Patchwork Harmony: Do you know any history of the house prior to you living there? 
Shona: I think it had been rented, although for some reason I think I was told squatters had been living there before we moved in!

Patchwork Harmony: What are your memories of living here?
Shona: I had an interesting time there. It was exciting in the early years as I had moved down from Scotland and just started my career. It was my first step on the property ladder. I got married when I was living there and then divorced just after I left the house so it's a place of real mixed memories and emotions. I also got two cats when I was there: Pyramus and Thisbe and my fondest memories seem to be of them as kittens!! I asked my friend if she had any interesting memories of the house and she said she remembered dancing a lot!

Now image by Cathy Pyle

Now image by Cathy Pyle

Patchwork Harmony: Did you make many changes to the house in terms of layout etc? 
Shona: The kitchen was made slightly bigger. The only other thing was the garden was really small and as we got on well with our neighbour we decided to make it one large shared garden instead of two smaller ones.

Patchwork Harmony: Things are very different now from when you lived here in terms of where homeowners find inspiration for decor - how did you go about it back then? Where did you find ideas? Where did you shop for home furnishings etc? 
Shona: If I remember correctly I loved Habitat, Laura Ashley and Designers Guild. I must have got inspiration from magazines and my brother is a designer so he was a great help. I remember I had to learn how to make soft furnishings as it was too expensive to buy them all - curtains, cushions etc. Festoon blinds were all the rage in the 80s :)

Patchwork Harmony: How long did you live here for and why did you decide to move on? 
Shona: From 1989-1997 then we moved about fifty metres up the road until 2006!

Thank you Shona for getting in touch and giving this little insight into the history of our home! I don't know if this is interesting to anyone else, but I felt the need to document on here even if it just for myself. 

I guess when you are about to move on from a home that has been so important in your life, it is a nice time to reflect on and look back on your time there. It was our first home we purchased together, we became a married couple while living here, and we brought our first child into the world here, not to mention that the magazine I founded is named after this place! It's funny how there are some similarities in the life events Shona experienced while living here too. Her email definitely wins the prize for the most intriguing of the year! 

A favourite Vintage event - Decorative Living Fair

Well, it's been a super busy few weeks as I've been immersed in getting the first ever print edition of 91 Magazine in to print. It's been stressful yet joyful as well as knackering yet hugely rewarding! if you would like to see the results of months of work bringing the publication together, you can pop over and order a copy via the 91 Magazine website. I really hope you might enjoy it the same as so many others have already. You can see lots of readers pics over on Instagram via the #my91magazine hashtag. 

To give myself a little break and get away from it all last weekend, we took ourselves down to Kent to visit the Decorative Living Fair. This is only the 2nd time I've been to the event at Eridge Park, although I've been to the London one a few times, but this Kent based fair is definitely one of my favourite ones to make the effort to travel to.

Set in the grounds of a beautiful private house, overlooking a stunning view of the Kent countryside, the fair has a real feel of a French brocante or flea market yet is beautifully curated; firstly by Caroline Zoob and Hetty Purbrick who carefully select the vendors, and then each stall is impeccably styled by each individual. 

Chatting with some of the regular sellers, I find out that they only bring their very best stock to the Decorative Living Fair. The quality of stalls means that everyone makes sure they up their game and they all spend lots of time planning and preparing how their stand will look. 

Not only is the quality of stands and products top notch, Caroline & Hetty pay extra attention to every detail. Their food tent is full of seriously delicious lunch options, you can even have a glass of wine or fizz if you so wish! And this may sound silly - but, posh portaloos! I'm sorry, but it does make a difference! (to me anyway!) :) 

While all the stands are great, I do have a few favourites that I look forward to rummaging at! The first is Goose Home and Garden (pics above). Sarah and Paul are talented vintage buyers, and always have the perfect mix of interesting finds - from painted furniture (which they've often restored themselves) to architectural salvage items down to delicate china, cutlery and glassware.  I had to stop myself from bagging this enamel bucket (loved the colour!) as I've put a bit of a shopping ban on myself until we move house! 

The other fave is The Old Haberdashery (pics above). If you've got my book, you may have spotted Sonia's gorgeous shop and home in there, and her stand at the fair is like a mini version of her store - so many beautiful and unique finds and LOTS of haberdashery items you never knew you needed to rummage through. I did cave at this point, and purchased two pairs of scissors! You can never have enough scissors in these days of Instagram photo styling right?! 

Here's a few more shots of lovely stalls and some things I could have easily bought but held back due to the house move!

It was just what I needed after a hectic few weeks (months in fact!) - happily strolling around taking in all the vintage beauty, plus I get a weird thrill from photographing vintage things even though I can't buy anything! :) 

Put the date in your diaries for next year peeps! It's well worth it! More info here: Decorative Living Fair

Becoming brave with colour

Whenever I watch programmes like The Great Interior Design Challenge and they say 'be brave with colour' and then the contestants proceed to paint a room in deep red or lime green, I find myself shouting at the telly with cries of 'noooo!' and 'why??!'. For me, being brave with colour is not about going over the top with something you probably wouldn't normally go for, just to prove you're 'being brave' - it's simply about introducing colour naturally, choosing shades that you know you will love to look at and that will complement the rest of your decor. If I'm honest, I haven't been brave in our current home when it comes to paint colours - every room is white, except the bedroom which is Pale Cirrus from Fired Earth, a very pale blue grey. I've added colour in other ways, through accessories and art work, as these are easy to change. 

We've also already agreed that when we (finally) move into our new place, we will paint everywhere in white to start with (there are some pretty ghastly colours and one mural (!) to cover over!!) and then work around each room decorating properly. But I do wonder if I may try to be more brave this time? These images which I received from Dulux this week have instigated these thoughts, as while they are still fresh and mainly white, the use of colour really is inspiring...

I particularly love the use of colour on the sloping roof, and it's something I'll keep in mind for the loft room. These shades look so fresh together and not at all sugary despite being on the pastel spectrum. Using two shades of blue in the below image also works fabulously... (side note; I'm also loving these polished concrete floors!) 

If you simply can't stray from all white walls, then this last shot is a great way to add a few pops of colour in a subtle yet 'brave' way... the challenge would be getting all those circles perfectly lined up! 

What do you think? Are you brave with colour or are you like me, and find it hard to commit to painting with anything stronger than chalky pastels? 

What to do with a 'sort-of' conservatory

So in case you were wondering... no, we still have not moved house! After putting our house on the market in September and having an offer accepted on the place we are buying in October, it does seem to be taking an AWFULLY long time! There was mention of an exchange date today though, so perhaps the end is in sight.

But when it's been this long since you saw the place you about to move into, your brain does start to play tricks on you about what said house actually looks like. Our new house has what I would call a 'sort-of' conservatory. It had a sloped glass roof, but it has solid walls and only a slim envelope window along the top of the wall. In my mind, it looks (or could look) a lot like some of these images, but in reality it is VERY far from looking anything like this! 

While I KNOW it definitely won't ever look this fabulous, I do think it's possible to work with what you've got (at least to start off with until you can afford big transformations) so these images can at least spark some decorating ideas if nothing else. I am also assuming that with the presence of a garden room in my life, I will automatically be transformed into a green-fingered guru, and that my house plants (the ones that are still alive) will now flourish in this light-filled space! That will happen right?! 

I like the idea of an exposed brick wall, either painted or bare, and a tiled floor. The two images below have both of these elements but in very different ways, and both very lovely. It would be nice to have an almost Mediterranean terrace feel mixed with a bit of a Petersham Nurseries vibe I'm thinking...!

L: via Pinterest R: via Pinterest

L: via Pinterest R: via Pinterest

There is SO much work to do to the whole house when we move in, it is a HUGE project but hopefully one day we will have a lovely little sunny room similar to these (even a little bit!) to curl up with a book and a glass of wine! Watch this space to see how we get on! :) 

Pre order 91 Magazine print edition

I have 'bloggers guilt' at the moment! I am working at a rate of knots every moment I can, but I still can't manage to find much time to dedicate to my first and original little blog space! :( 

I imagine once we move house I will start sharing a lot more on here about the transformations we will be doing there, but for now, please do bear with me as I wrangle with my other work commitments. 

One of them of course being 91 Magazine! Our team has been beavering away for the last few months, and now we don't have long to go until our deadline, so with the issue nearing completion, we have opened up pre-orders. As it's our first issue, we need to have a rough guide on the size of print run we will do, so while we will order more than we need, ideally it is best to pre-order if you would like one, as our stock will be limited post print run. 

The first 200 pre orders we receive will get a gorgeous Lollipop Designs notebook free, although these are nearly all gone, so do be quick! 

The first 200 pre orders of 91 Magazine print issue will receive one notebook. 

The first 200 pre orders of 91 Magazine print issue will receive one notebook. 

While things are quiet over here on Patchwork Harmony, the 91 Magazine blog is busy, where we are posting a couple of times a week, so do follow us over there and on Instagram for regular updates. I've also set up a new Patchwork Harmony Instagram account, which will continue to be my personal feed, with the 91 feed being more focussed on the magazine. 

I do hope you might like to support our little indie magazine and pre order a copy, it means so much to see people getting excited to see it, and our team are so proud of how it is looking! It really is a treat for the eyes, that I promise you will want on your coffee table, but also snuggled in your lap with a cuppa! 

Pre order 91 Magazine print edition now. 

WIN! My book PLUS Oh Hello Friend goodies!

As so many of you entered my Shopkeepers Home bumper giveaway before Christmas, I thought I'd give you another chance to win a copy of my book as well as some other lovely goodies! I'm afraid it's not quite as bumper as the last time, but still, it's a bag full of beautiful goodies nonetheless, all courtesy of Oh Hello Friend - a gorgeous shop, featured in the book - based in the sunny state of California! 

Owner Danni, has such great style, her home is full of beautiful vintage finds and like me, (and I'm sure a lot of you guys!) she is a big stationery fan! She has sent me this little bundle of goodies for one lucky Patchwork Harmony reader to win! Here's a closer look at some of the things included... 

And of course you will also win a copy of The Shopkeepers Home. So, how can you enter?! All you have to do is read all the details below, including the terms and conditions, to find out! 

HOW TO ENTER

To be in with a great chance of winning you can enter in a few different ways, one entry per method per person, so you basically you have 4 chances of winning: 

Comment on this blog post, telling me why you'd love to win The Shopkeepers Home book. Please leave your email address so you can be contacted if you win (or leave your comment here then email me at info@patchworkharmony.co.uk with your contact details with the subject line WIN SHOPKEEPERS HOME - BLOG ENTRY)

- Follow me on Instagram and regram the giveaway image - please include @patchworkhrmy and #winshopkeepershome in your caption.

Like The Shopkeepers Home Facebook page and share the giveaway post, ensuring you tag in 'The Shopkeepers Home' page too. 

Follow @patchworkhrmy on Twitter and tweet your entry using this link.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS

- Giveaway closing date is 4th April 2016 at 23:59pm. Entries after this are not counted. 

- The giveaway is open to worldwide readers. 

- Entries can be submitted via the four options listed above, giving each person four chances to win, but only one entry per method will be accepted per person.

- The giveaway image on Instagram & Facebook should not be changed, edited or defaced when regramming or sharing. Entrants who do so will be disqualified. 

- Failure to follow entry guidelines as above will result in that entry not being accepted.      

- All prizes are non-transferable, non refundable and non negotiable. No cash alternative is available for any prize.

- The winner and runners up will be chosen at random on the 6th April 2016, and will be notified shortly after this date. If the winner has not provided an email address or can not be contacted through social media or via email by 15th April 2016, we reserve the right to select another winner at random.

- Prizes will be shipped from the UK by 30th April 2016, using the most affordable shipping method available. 

- The decision in respect of all matters to do with the giveaway will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.

- By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.

- The giveaway and these terms and conditions will be governed by English law and any disputes will be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England.

From nursery to toddler room

So it seems I am now officially the mum to a toddler, not a baby. I honestly don't know where the time goes. One minute they are sleeping in a tiny moses basket next to you, next they are scrambling all over your furniture like a excited puppy! Ruby is 19 months now, and is of course still sleeping in a cot, but I've been thinking recently about giving it a little update as she gets older, and will very soon have grown out of her sleeping bag. So whenever Silentnight got in touch to ask me to take part in their 'Room for a little one' campaign, it seemed like a good opportunity to give her sleeping quarters a mini update! 

I choose some lovely bedding from Olli Ella, whose designs I've admired for a while. I went for a fitted sheet and pillow in their confetti pattern, and a blanket in Terra and Tartine. 

It makes such a difference to the cot, as before there was just a plain white sheet on the mattress, so it looks much more 'grown up' and part of the room decor. Plus the bedding goes perfectly with the existing wallpaper.

The other thing with a growing toddler is the ever increasing accumulation of 'stuff'. I've talked about storage for kids before, so you'll know I'm always on the look out for lovely baskets, boxes or bags to incorporate, so I also ordered one of their lovely belly baskets to help with the expanding toy collection! (I may have had my eye on one of these for some time!) Ruby's comment when she saw the new basket in her room was simply 'what's that?!' I'm sure she'll appreciate its beauty one day! 

I think new bedding is to a bed, what new cushions are to a sofa. It can make such a huge difference and generally for very little expenditure. It's a transformation that literally only takes a few moments! The next thing will be when she is ready for the cot to be turned into a bed! That really will bring home how fast she is growing up! 

This post was created in collaboration with Silentnight. All product choices and views are my own.