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.
We’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.
Kerry’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
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.
I 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…
I’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.
The 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.
As 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…
There’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”
When 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.
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.
This 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.
As if my wanderlust wasn’t bad enough, I can now add a stay in a luxury treehouse to my travel bucket list.
Last 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?
Since 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..
It’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.
This 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.
Fonz 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.
If 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!
For 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!
I almost got rid of a load of plain white pillowcases in my recent decluttering drive, but instead I bought myself some black fabric paint, with a printing project in the back of mind. Then the pillowcases and the paint got put aside and have been cluttering up my craft cupboard ever since. In the hope of kick-starting my crafting mojo again, here are a few DIY pillowcase crafts that inspire me. Now where did I put that paint again…
1. Striking geometric design that is simple yet really effective.
2. Made by dripping ink onto the fabric – I wonder if fabric dye would work in the same way? I’m a messy worker so this is right up my street!
3. Very simple cross design made with an eraser – the symmetry and repetition really appeals.
4. A great way to celebrate the beauty of autumn leaves – paint on the ink/dye and press onto the fabric.
5. The sponge stamp leaves a wonderful pattern on the fabric, giving a different look to classic triangles
6. A kid-friendly potato printing craft – I think the twins would love this.
View from the private beach at Camping Europa A typical pitch at Camping Europa Exploring the promenade in Bellagio Picture-perfect Bellagio Public beach at Acquaseria
LOCARNO, SWITZERLAND – MENAGGIO, LAKE COMO, ITALY 65.8km
We stayed: At Camping Europa right in the centre of Menaggio on the waterfront of Lake Como. We stayed at this site for it’s location, which was easy walking distance into the centre of Menaggio with its shops, cafes and restaurants. The site also has its own private beach (a rarity in the area), although it was pretty dirty. Apart from that, the site doesn’t have a lot of plus points (unless you’re a fan of the 1970s, because I’m not sure this place has been updated since then!). You need to pay for hot water if you want a hot shower, there were only a couple of washing up sinks that had hot water, and everywhere was extremely run-down. The pitches were tiny and you were hemmed in by ancient static caravans (most of which appeared to be vacant and were actually quite spooky). Stuck in a time-warp, it’s only redeeming feature was all the photo opportunities the 70s decor offered!
We visited: We tried to spend the day at the lido di menaggio (right next door to the campsite) as the kids were desperate to use the pool, but it was closed for maintenance both times that we tried. It looked invited though! We took the ferry across the lake to see the gorgeous waterfront villages – unmarket Bellagio was stunning, and great for people-spotting, but I preferred Varenna with its quieter vibe. The twins scooted along the lakeside path, and we had delicious gelato by the lake.
Finding a free beach (one nicer than at Camping Europa) was a challenge. We drove about 5km north from Menaggio along the lake road where we found a little village called Acquaseria with a small public beach. It was pretty quiet, and had gorgeous views across Lake Como.
We ate: One of the main reasons for choosing a site walking distance from the centre of Menaggio was so that we could easily go out for a evening meal with the kids. We went to Pizzeria Lugano for pizzas – the food was excellent and they were brilliant with the kids. In Varenna, we loved the Gelateria Riva. Great ice-cream and they made me an affogato (which wasn’t on their standard menu).
Click here to read more from our Europe road trip last summer – 30 days of camping, covering France, Switzerland and Italy.
Open shelving can be a real challenge when it comes to styling, but these examples of perfectly-styled open shelving units show how you can nail it to create a striking display that looks great and feels balanced. The great thing about open shelving (as long as you can keep it tidy) is the amount of storage and display space that it offers without being too overbearing, as wall-to-wall cupboards can sometimes be.
There are definitely some ideas that I’d like to steal from these examples (I’m constantly faffing with my own open shelving in our living room, that I shared recently) – I’m really keen to add some gorgeous baskets to my shelves (the ones in the photograph above are so stunning) – not only would they offer a practical place to store smaller bits and bobs, but they would add interesting texture to my display, too.
I know it’s a bit ‘style over practicality’, but I love seeing books displayed spine in rather than out (as seen above). You get the character of books, without the distracting colours and designs of the spines.
The earthy tones and natural textures of the different objects displayed on the shelves above pull the whole arrangement together, and this is a perfect example of the interest created by choosing objects of varying heights. These shelves also show how practical objects can be given display value when styled well.
I’m finding our home is heading back to a more monochrome look at the moment, so it’s refreshing to see some colour used above. Painting the shelves (or just the wall behind) a bright shade, and then restricting the colour palette of the objects on display is a great way to inject colour, but keep the overall look clean and modern.
My String shelving in my home office is one of my favourite purchases this year, and I dream of investing in some more. These ones above have been styled to perfection – leaving plenty of space around each grouping of objects creates a resting place for the eye, and elevates the visual impact of each individual arrangement.
I need more trailing plants in my life! I love how the plants above blur the lines between each separate shelf.
Here are a few extra styling tips for open shelves:
Create a variety of smaller groups of objects to act as mini curated displays. When grouping your items, use the pyramid principle – forming a triangular shape by staggering the heights of objects is a common trick stylists use to create a sense of balance that’s pleasing to the eye. Layer objects to pull a grouping together – don’t just line them up.
Make use of baskets and boxes to hide away smaller items that otherwise risk making your shelves look too busy and cluttered. Choosing beautiful storage containers will make a design feature of the containers themselves.
Mix up the materials to add visual interest – different textures and finishes will add depth to your display. It’s a good idea to include artwork – a framed print or photograph or even a small card propped against the wall will introduce an extra element.
Leave space around groups of objects – the negative space will frame them and balance out your arrangement.
Have fun – play with scale or include something unexpected to create a focal point that will grab the eye.
My ‘for display’ Pinterest board is one of my favourites – I’m endlessly pinning display ideas and beautiful ways to display objects of artwork so head over there for more inspiration.