September 27th, 2015

Styling the Seasons: September

Styling the Seasons September | Growing Spaces: Styling the Seasons, by Apartment Apothecary and Lotts and Lots :
“Reflect the change of seasons and show those changes in your own home, by styling any surface (shelf, dining table, mantelpiece) with something you like to reflect the new month and what it means to you”

My head’s a bit all over the place at the moment, so I gave up trying to succinctly sum up September in a single photo. One minute I’ve got the heating on, the next I’m basking in warm sunshine – I don’t really know whether I’m coming or going, and the days are whipping by in an absolute blur. Last week I wrote on a to-do list on Monday and by Friday I had managed to add to it rather than cross anything off – my productivity levels are at an all-time low.

I do know that I’ve got a strong hankering to hibernate, and that probably explains my sluggishness. I want to declutter and whip our house into shape, but then I find myself curled up in the armchair with a blanket, a book and a cup of coffee. Maybe I should just listen to my body and mind, and accept that I’m in need of slowing down for a bit. But then that to-do list can’t wait for ever.

Dried leaves | Growing Spaces

September Styling the Seasons | Growing Spaces

Summer treasures | Growing Spaces

September 25th, 2015

Just So Festival 2015: Our highlights

Just So Festival kids | Growing SpacesI can’t believe a whole month has gone since we had yet another magical weekend at the Just So Festival, but I guess at least that means there’s one less month to wait until next year. The end of the summer has been a whirlwind of holidays, festivals and parties, leaving my head spinning and my heart happy, but it does mean that this blog has fallen rather quiet. This is the first week for well over a month when I’ve had some time to potter and regroup. Today I’ve been going through the photographs from my camera, and reminiscing about the wonderful times we’ve had.

Just So Festival campfire | Growing SpacesThe Just So Festival is a firm fixture in our annual calendar now – this year was our third, and it doesn’t get any less special. As the twins get older, they experience the festival in a fresh way, finding new things that capture their imaginations and attention. With a packed programme of open-air theatre, music, workshops and performances, you can find yourself rushing from place to place, but we’ve learned to go with the flow, picking out a few must-see things, and taking some downtime in between.

Each year the kids are up for staying up a bit later, and this year it meant we could catch the night-time performance of the Marie Celestial – a mixture of aerial circus, acrobatics, dance, theatre both on board a moving metal ship, and on the ground. We were all mesmerised, and the jets of fire looked incredible in the darkness.

harpThis year the kids were more up for taking part in the workshops on offer – Ez adored playing a cardboard harp with Mary Dunsford, and Fonz learned ukelele basics, and enjoyed it so much that he wanted to do the same workshop the next day. I intended to get myself along to one of the relaxation workshops – yoga, tai chi, Indian head massage – but I didn’t manage it. Next year…

Just So Festival 2015  highlights | Growing SpacesPif-Paf’s show is something we never miss, and Planetary (an acrobatic performance centred around the giant hamster wheel you can see above)  didn’t disappoint. Last year’s show was quite dark, but this year there was a more upbeat, comic mood. Both were spectacular and full of energy, and Pif-Pif are a real favourite for us on the Just So programme.

While we were in this area of the festival we also made our lanterns ready for the lantern parade. I much preferred doing this in the open space, as we got really claustrophobic doing it in the dark tents in the forest last year. It was just a shame the torrential thunderstorm on the Saturday night meant that the lantern parade had to be cancelled. The twins were really gutted (and I was too, as this is often one of the most magical moments of the weekend), but it really couldn’t be helped – the rain was epic!

Just So Festival owls | Growing SpacesOne thing the twins really look forward to is getting dressed up in their tribal costumes (there are six tribes – owls, foxes, stags, frogs, fish and lions – and it’s totally optional whether you want to choose one and dress up). They don’t just do this for the Tribal Tournament on the last evening – they wear at least some part of their costumes all weekend. Ez was especially keen to have her face painted, and her owl feathers popped in her hat at all times. Fonz chose frogs this year, and we kept his costume simple with a green baseball hat, green face paint and some bargain steam punk goggles I picked up in a sale.

Just So Festival fun | Growing Spaces

tightropeWe loved the Bullzini family’s imaginative tightrope show, and one of my top moments of the festival was getting to try tightrope walking for ourselves at their workshop. The twins’ joy and wonder at being able to do it made my day, and I couldn’t resist having a go myself, too. I’ve always wanted to go along to a circus skills class, and it’s moved its way up my bucket list after trying out the tightrope.

Just So Festival kids owl facepaint | Growing SpacesI think what makes the festival so special for us is sharing it with our festival friends. Some of these we only get to meet up with once a year at Just So, and the kids are often as excited about seeing their friends as they are about the festival itself. Each year, as the festival comes to a close, we make promises about camping trips and meet ups, but then life takes over, the months whizz by in a blur of school terms and all the usual commitments and suddenly it’s that time to message each other about pitching together in the festival campsite once again. Maybe next year we’ll have to carry on the Just So Festival vibe for the rest of the week with an after-party at a campsite nearby…

Early bird tickets are already on sale for next year’s Just So Festival (19, 20, 21 August 2016). For a kid-focused, laid-back festival that’s brimming with imagination and creativity, I just don’t think Just So can be beaten.

September 17th, 2015

Wild Boys & Girls: a striking new kids’ brand

Wild-Boys-And-Girls-Tribe-Washing-WebAnnie from Stylejuicer‘s bold new kids’ brand, Wild Boys & Girls, caught my eye as soon as it launched. Having admired Annie’s sense of style since meeting her at Blogtacular last year, I was struck by how well the products she has designed for her brand – t-shirts, posters, cushions – illustrate the simple, pared-back, graphic aesthetic that she so brilliantly curates on her blog.


I was gutted that the brand launched just too late for me to get a t-shirt each for the twins. They’ve just celebrated their 6th birthday, and the teepee design would have been perfect for them to wear to their camping-themed party.
Here are a few questions I put to Annie about Wild Boys & Girls…
How did Wild Boys & Girls come about?

WBG started off with an idea to design some hip t-shirts for my little guys, triggered by endless hours of browsing Pinterest and Instagram as well as reading about and meeting stylish and inspirational mamas in business. As I quickly realised when talking to other mums, there was potential to establish myself as a brand – and since I was already producing a small number of t-shirts, and with my background in graphic design and marketing, I decided to go the whole hog and add some posters and cushions to the range.
What were you aims?
My objectives for the brand are all based around my own needs as a mother of two pretty lively (wild!) boys, a graphic designer and a design-conscious parent.
Not only did I want my kids to look cool in the playground but I wanted the t-shirts to last. The designs needed to be timeless, the jersey had to be soft and comfortable to wear, the cut had to be just right and they had to wash well in a kind of getting-better-with-time way. The sort of t-shirt you hand down to younger siblings or pass on to other parents.
The designs play on the current interest in North American tribes. What is it that grabbed you?
I have great memories of my childhood growing up in Northern Germany, mostly hanging out on my grandparents farm and playing outdoors all day long. I had a teepee and Native American dressing up kit and loved to role play making use of anything I could find in the surrounding woods and fields. The history of the Native American tribes is well documented in books, movies, music etc and still captures people’s imaginations.
Wild-Boys-And-Girls-Logo-SquareHow did you come up with the high impact graphics?
I’m a graphic designer by trade, so my experience came in handy as did my love for creating logos and icons. I wanted some very reduced, clean and minimal graphics that are instantly recognisable. Drawing the graphics and refining them in illustrator was the easy bit, the hard part was narrowing down the selection. I’m passionate about detail and I made use of the (dissected) logo in three of the four designs. It sort of rewards the eye when you spy it, and it’s also a fun game to play with the kids. Can you spot the logo?
Why monochrome?
The Scandinavian design principle of form follows function really resonates with me, and like Mies van der Rohe I truly believe less is more. With WBG I’d like to introduce a back-to-basics approach with a modern twist.
Black and white, light and shadow are the first contrasts the eye distinguishes and there’s lots of visual stimulation for babies in monochrome. Monochrome to me is classic, clean and simple. It’s timeless and can be dressed up with pops of colour or kept as is for a more urban contemporary look. I find there’s too much visual *noise* for children, especially in fashion, with loud colours, patterns, superfluous details and cartoon characters (yuk). WBG sets the stage and gives children a backdrop to let their own wonderful imagination unfold.
August 15th, 2015

Vote for Growing Spaces in the Amara Interior Blog Awards

whistleImage: Thyme is Honey

Just a quick note to ask you for a favour. Growing Spaces has been nominated in the Amara Interior Blog Awards, in the Best Interior Designer or Stylist category. I am so blooming chuffed to have received a nomination, and this is where I need your help. The five blogs with the most votes will make it onto the shortlist and get an invite to the awards ceremony. I’m up against some incredibly talented bloggers so it’s a bit of a long shot , but as a (very wise) blog friend pointed out recently, if I don’t I ask you guys for votes then I’ve got no chance at all. You’ve got to be in it to win it, as they say.

So if you enjoy my blog, please do follow this link to vote for Growing Spaces, and ask your friends, family and the dog to do the same.

Thankyou x


August 14th, 2015

Wafting around in my dressing gown

Kimono from Verry Kerry | Growing SpacesWe’re off camping tomorrow, and my new kimono from Verry Kerry is most definitely coming with me. Instead of doing the morning walk to the toilet block in my pyjamas, I’m looking foward to wafting across the field in my gown. And my wellies. And probably an umbrella, but hey, in my mind I’ll still look all goddess-like.

The kimono arrived a couple of weeks ago, just before we headed off for a gorgeous weekend up in a house in Derbyshire with extended family. The weather was a bit hit and miss but we were gifted a couple of absolutely gorgeous evenings, saturated in that magical golden light.

Now, I am extremely uncomfortable having my photo taken. For some reason the same discomfort doesn’t seem to apply to making videos (always handy when you’ve launched a YouTube channel), but posing for still photographs is not my thing at all.

I couldn’t really write a post about this stunning kimono and not show me in it, so, buoyed by how great I feel wearing the kimono (and how many people that weekend commented on how lovely it was), I decided to call out my inner diva and head out in the golden hour to get some photographs.

Please believe me now when I tell you that I am not fishing for compliments – in fact saying anything nice about how I look will make me feel as uncomfortable as posing for these pictures in the first place. Focus instead on the Geisha long kimono, ethically made from pure cotton with sangallo embroidered cotton trim, with its gorgeous soft colours and delicate floral pattern.

Geisha kimono from Verry Kerry | Growing Spaces

Pattern and colour | Growing Spaces

Cotton kimono from Verry Kerry | Growing Spaces

Pretty floral print | Growing Spaces

Verry Kerry kimono | Growing SpacesKerry’s (Verry Kerry‘s founder) passion for colour and fabric is obvious when you browse her site. “Although there are some predominant components in the patterns of my collections, the most important is that prints have to be stunning, smile evoking, be a joy to look at…literally they have to make me squeal with delight,” says Kerry. “Whether it’s dainty or bold floral, funky 70’s geometric shapes or ethnic tribal prints, my fabric are all colourful, with a strong bohemian flavour.”

And there’s a new launch on the horizon – Verry Kerry will soon feature a children’s collection, too. And it sounds like it’ll be right up my street. “I am fundamentally against this ‘pink for girls – blue for boys’ colour stereotyping and social brainwashing that has become somewhat of an epidemic,” Kerry says (hurrah!).  “I do not see why children’s clothes cannot incorporate lots of colours and be worn by both sexes. With that in mind, I plan to do funky little reversible soft cardigan-like jackets, reversible hippy harem trousers with a shirt that can be worn as pyjamas in a set or separately in the day, some little dresses and Asian style tops and blouses for girls. There will also be some very sweet patchwork blankets.”

Thanks Verry Kerry for my proper grown-up dressing gown that I don’t mind being seen in public in. I am one happy camper.



Disclosure: I was given the Geisha kimono by Verry Kerry to review for this post


August 12th, 2015

Making space at home to create

It’s all about the She Shed on my YouTube channel this week, as I give my humble potting shed a desperately-needed update to turn it from a dingy dumping ground into a usable shed that will hopefully encourage me to get creative in the garden. My shed was piled high with junk – old buggies, kids’ garden toys, old bags of compost and even craft bits that I couldn’t fit into my craft cupboard indoors. So I had a whole heap of stuff to clear out, most of which is now sat in a pile on my lawn, covered with a tarp, while I try to muster the energy to deal with it.

Which is what got me thinking – wouldn’t it be nice to be able to clear a space without having to go through the painful process of finding new homes for all the displaced stuff? I spend way too many hours imagining my ultimate studio space at home – a lovely clear room with white floors and white walls where I can photograph things for the blog without having to clear all the clutter first. I’d love a proper purpose-built garden office (Twig Hutchinson’s summerhouse is the stuff dreams are made of), but our garden isn’t big enough and my budget is too tight, so if I ever created something, it would have to be within the space we already have.

Apartment Apothecary home office | Growing SpacesI have loved Katy from Apartment Apothecary’s home office since she shared her makeover last year (and may have to admit it being my main source of inspiration when I gave my own office an update a few months ago). Katy turned her guest bedroom into an office, reasoning that the bed didn’t get used nearly enough to justify all the space it took up in the room. Makes sense, doesn’t it? And this is where the idea of a storage unit suddenly seems like a very appealing solution. If you have a guest room that’s hardly used, then you could pack all that bulky furniture into storage and use the space however you want – a snug, an office, a studio, a sewing room. Somewhere purely for enjoyment where you can create or relax. But you’re not burning your bridges because you still have the furniture so you can reinstate the room as a bedroom whenever you want (if your needs change or you’re selling your home) .

Unfortunately, we use our guest bedroom enough that I couldn’t do without it, so that isn’t the answer to my studio problem. I’ve always thought that we don’t need extra storage because we have a garage which acts like our own personal storage unit, but imagine if I could sort out the stuff, get rid of what’s not needed (using the KonMarie method, of course – and I’m delighted to have passed on my KonMarie passion to Katy, too), and put the rest into storage. Shurgard, the storage expert, has units that go from 10 to 240 square feet and with 23 stores across London and the Thames Valley there’s actually a store just over 5 miles from our house. So. Very. Tempting.

Or could I move my gardening things into the garage (once I’ve decluttered), replace my potting shed with something a tad bigger, and turn it into the She Shed of my dreams? One of these would do nicely, thankyou…

bloodandchampagneImage: Blood & Champagne

remodelista2Image (from Twig Hutchinson’s amazing summerhouse): Remodelista housetohome

Follow Heather Young’s board for a garden retreat on Pinterest.

Disclaimer: This post was written in collaboration with Shurgard, but all ideas and content are my own.

August 6th, 2015

Furniture Hacks book review and blog tour

Furniture Hacks blog book tour | Growing SpacesI’m super-excited to be today’s host of Hester van Overbeek (from craft blog Hester’s Handmade Home)‘s blog tour to celebrate the launch of her new craft book, Furniture Hacks. Released on August 13th, this book is full of projects that mix crafts and DIY to make new pieces from bits you might find lying around the house. It’s upcycling with a modern edge.

Furniture Hacks book review | Growing SpacesThe 35 step-by-step projects Hester shares in the book are grouped by room – living room, kitchen and dining room, bedroom, home office, and outdoor space. They range from larger pieces such as a modular bookcase, kitchen island (made from an old cabinet, this project is genius) or four-poster bed, to Hester’s ‘Instant Updates’, one of which is her garden candles which I had a go at making myself following the easy-to-follow instructions in the book (p132). At the back of the book there’s a very handy ‘Tools and Techniques’ section which is full of great information if you’re not a DIY-pro.

Project from Furniture Hacks | Growing SpacesAs a big fan of junk shops and car boot sales, Furniture Hacks is right up my street. I’ve always loved mixing old and new in our home, and Hester’s hack ideas are creative and achievable (both from a DIY and a financial point of view). I’ve definitely got some things I’ll be looking out for on my next junk shop visit with an eye to tackling more of her projects – an apple crate is top of my wish-list to make myself an apple crate coffee table (p120). And if we ever get our garden sorted, I want to build Hester’s outdoor bench, made from decking boards (p128).

Furniture Hacks and other creative updates for a unique and stylish home by Hester Van Overbeek is published by Cico Books, priced £14.99.

To read more reviews of Furniture Hacks, follow the blog tour…

Furniture Hacks blog book tour | Growing Spaces

July 31st, 2015

Styling the Seasons: July

Styling the seasons july | Growing SpacesThere’s nothing like leaving things until the last minute, and I’m absolutely squeaking in under the wire on the last day of the month with my post for July’s Styling the Seasons. One of these days I’ll post on the first of the month (unlikely).

: Styling the Seasons, by Apartment Apothecary and Lotts and Lots :
“Reflect the change of seasons and show those changes in your own home, by styling any surface (shelf, dining table, mantelpiece) with something you like to reflect the new month and what it means to you”

styling the seasons for summer | Growing SpacesWhen we finally made it to the end of the term we were all on our knees (first year of school lesson #3,047: the summer term is busier than Christmas. Who knew?). It’s taken us a while to find our summer holiday vibe, but this last week has worked some magic. The out-of-office is off (well, almost. At least it would be if I could actually finish off all these outstanding bits of work), and although the weather might not be totally on our side, we are getting out in the fresh air and finding some breathing space.

A favourite childhood book | Growing Spaces I’ve got vivid memories of reading this special little book as a child (it was my mum’s before me and has her name scrawled in childish writing on the front page) – it’s about a day on the beach and sandcastles and rock-pooling. It’s definitely going in our bag to read on the beach when we head to Wales for our holiday in a couple of weeks.

Shelf for July | Growing SpacesThis week we had our first beach trip (on a lovely stay with Sarah-Lou). We were buffeted with the wind, and it was far from warm, but the kids immediately started collecting treasures and Ez literally danced with joy at the edge of the sea. I think those beach vibes have had a big impact on how I’ve styled my guest room shelf this month – muted, sandy colours and natural textures. When I need a quiet moment in the summer holiday madness I’m going to settle myself in the guest room and read that book again.

July 31st, 2015

Treehouse dreams with Canopy & Stars

The walled garden at Harptree Court | Growing SpacesAs if my wanderlust wasn’t bad enough, I can now add a stay in a luxury treehouse to my travel bucket list.

Harptree Court, Somerset | Growing SpacesLast week I spent an idyllic day in the stunning surroundings at Harptree Court in Somerset with Canopy & Stars and a handful of lovely bloggers. Harptree Court wowed us with its splendour and history, and the grounds were just beautiful – wonderfully peaceful and the walled garden so full of blooms, it took your breath away. But the thing that got my heart racing was their treehouse – imagining a night there up in the trees had me totally hooked. There was even a copper bath with a view out over the treetops for goodness sake! How much more magical can you get?

The treehouse at Harptree Court | Growing SpacesSince my visit, I’m to be found most evenings trawling Canopy & Stars’ 500+ collection of ‘glamping’-style properties. Glamping isn’t quite the right word – the unusual places to stay range from shepherd’s huts to cabins to yurts – all with a healthy dose of comfort and sustainability thrown in for good measure. There’s a fun quiz you can take called What’s In Your Bag that promises to help you narrow down your options, as the choice is pretty overwhelming.

And as for my treehouse fix? Well these are some of the spots I’ve been lusting over. Just don’t you dare beat me to them..

cabanes-de-salagnac_treehouse-from-below_cs_gallery_previewCabane de Salagnac, France

pen-y-bryn-in-bluebells-living-room-treehouses_cs_gallery_previewTy Mawr, Powys

treetops-treehouse_exterior_cs_gallery_previewTreetops, Devon

b-b-chateau-gauthie_side-view_cs_gallery_previewGauthie Treehouse, Dordogne

July 26th, 2015

Just So Festival 2015 tribe reveal and some face paint ideas

Owl facepaint for the Just So Festival | Growing SpacesIt’s less than four weeks until the Just So Festival 2015, and a rainy day today gave us the opportunity to practice some tribal face paint in readiness for the big weekend. At Just So you can choose to join one of the tribes – owls, foxes, lions, fish, frogs, stags. Dressing up is optional, but lots of people do bring costumes and you can score points for your tribe in the big Tribal Tournament, with the winners announced after the tribes march in the Wild Rumpus on the Sunday evening.

Owl facepaint for the Just So Festival | Growing SpacesThis year Ez and I will be staying loyal to the owl tribe! We’ve been owls since our first year at Just So in 2013, and we don’t intend to switch our allegiance now. However, having worn the same costume two years running, Ez has declared that she needs a new costume for 2015, and she has some strong ideas on the design, so watch this space. She was exceedingly happy with her owl face paint, although a couple of hours later she decided that she needed more feathers on her face so we may need to adapt our design slightly on the festival weekend.

Frog facepaint for the Just So Festival | Growing SpacesFonz has developed a habit of switching tribes. An owl in 2013, he was a fox last year (he has a knack for picking the winning tribe) and this year he wants to be a frog. He was most impressed with this frog face paint, but he is considerably less obliging when it comes to sitting still than his sister, so I suspect that at the festival he will probably just have a green face.

Owl facepaint step-by-step | Growing SpacesIf you fancying creating either of these looks yourself, they are pretty straightfoward – I’m no expert artiste. For the owl face paint, follow these steps (illustrated above)..
1. Use a sponge to apply white paint across the eyes (so it looks like a white eyemask).
2. Emphasise the eyebrows with dark brown paint (using a brush), and then use light, feathery lines to create the impression of feathers. Add in some white lights as highlights, and finish with some glitter (Ez is a big fan of glitter).
3. Bring out the eyes with a big sweep of dark brown across each one (I also added a sweep under each eye).
4. Finish with feathery white lines under each eye create the effect of more feathers, and a white beak on the nose. Oh, and plenty more glitter!

frog facepaint step-by-step | Growing SpacesFor the frog face paint..
1. Apply green paint all over the face with a sponge, leaving a bare circle around each eye.
2. Draw a large yellow circle around each eye, and then fill it with red, blending the red and yellow where they meet to avoid a really harsh line.
3. Get your subject to close their eyes (tricky when your small child needs to know what is going on around them at all times), and draw the black pupils vertically down the eyes.
4. Extend the mouth on each side using a sweep of green paint, and accentuate the top lip. I added spots of yellow and white across his face to give his skin a textured look.

To read more about our previous adventures with Just So click here. It’s become a firm fixture in our year, and it’s something that the whole family looks forward to, so we’re so excited that the time has almost come for us to set up camp in the beautiful Rode Hall grounds once again. Make sure you’re following me on Instagram, so you don’t miss any of the action!

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