a few years ago we had a bad accident when stoking up the wood burner stove – which resulted in a wood ember falling onto our lovely rug – exactly in the part where there was a small section of white wool. fortunately we were recommended magic hand, a specialist company who will not only clean, restore and repair your rugs, but will pick it up and re deliver it and find the wool to match. it came back within a week and you cannot even notice where the burn was. it was not cheap, but considering the cost of good quality rugs, it was well worth it and a fraction of the price to buy another replacement. we have now learned to roll back the rug when using the wood burner!
all over andalucia there are beautiful floor tiles – geometric, moroccan, they are just stunning and seeing them really wants you to go home and put in some colourful floors. casa siesta (one of my favourite hotel in our area) is a beautiful example of how you can mix tiles with pattern together with the simplicity of antique furniture, but still keep it clean, simple and serene.
my favourite tile place is in darsham, suffolk, very close to my cottage – smoke and fire – i actually go in there, look at all the beautiful hand made tiles and then decide where they will go, which is a little bit back to front, but then you are using the tiles as art and decoration, rather than just practical solutions. i love my geometric tiles in my bathroom, which work beautifully in a somewhat neutral painted space.
in the kitchen, i used a mix of tiles from fired earth and crackle glaze tiles from stone tile company. one thing i didnt realise is that you need to seal the crackle glaze tiles before using.
you can simply add colour to a bathroom or kitchen by laying a beautiful floor with encaustic floor tiles. Encaustic floor tiles are coloured with oxides while the design is being formed, which gives a soft merging of colour, quite classical and antique in finish. The colours are muted, yet still give you lovely colours without being too bright. you can buy encaustic tiles from Fired Earth and Terra Firma tiles. This particular floor is locally bought in Spain and graces an otherwise white bathroom. fired earth have a new collection based on the original designs of the london underground -including beautiful edwardian tiles and signage tiles such as ‘mind the gap’. bert and may have a great selection too.
i love the simplicity of this geometric tile design used in babbington house.
the Majorelle gardens are painted with this amazing blue – it reminds me of the lovely casa polopa hotel with its beautiful stencilled walls and also of the frida kahlo house. you can try the majorelle blue paint from bristol paints – it would indeed be a bold statement to paint one of your walls or your garden this intense shade of blue. stencilling is another lovely idea to try – if it looks really terrible, paint it in and start again in another colour!
visit the beautiful jardin majorelle in marrakesh, originally landscaped by Jacques Majorelle, the gardens opened in 1947 to the public, but after his death in the 60’s, the gardens were acquired by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge who kept up its existence and enchanting condition. it truly is a tropical paradise with its water lily ponds, intense blue and exotic plants.
For an offbeat travel experience in the Mexico City area, you really must consider this visit to the Museo Frida Kahlo in Coyoacan. Hidden behind high cobalt blue walls at the corner of Londres and Allende in this charming southwestern suburb, the museo is where the surrealist artist Frida Kahlo was born, grew up and later lived with her muralist husband Diego Rivera, from 1941 until her death at age 47 in 1954. Fascinating not only for the collections and personal effects of the two great artists it contains, the museum also affords a window on the lifestyles of affluent Mexican bohemians during the first half of this century. its a long time since i have been back to mexico, but this will be high on my list again.
i love my double sink thats in my kitchen in spain, its carved out of marble. i am sure that you can get one made in england, but must cost a fortune – try venice marble, they made a quartz top for me in london, which looked like white marble, but in fact is much more hard wearing and wont chip. plain english have lovely kitchen ideas, simple, clean, but still modern – i say ideas, because they are definitely an investment!
if you are constantly sourcing ideas of how to change your house, update your kitchen, what colours to paint your hallway, or even what furniture to buy there are other options to buying interior magazines which is costly, trawling round the shops, trying to find things on the web – frustrating and tedious – then take a look at house locations sites, such as Light Locations, or 1st option – they are all beautifully done to a high standard, and allow you an insight to lots of different styles and looks. i also like looking at the site remodelista, which keeps you up to date with all aspects of design.
still stuck indoors for most of the day, makes you totally aware of your grubby walls and cobwebbed corners; some mornings, I have a mad frenzy of spring cleaning – thought this is slowly disappearing. you do however look around wondering what little changes you can do, and now that spring has definitely arrived, a bit of colour and even pattern makes you want to jazz up those plain walls. I have not used wallpapers myself, but have always looked at them. wallpapers can totally change your room, you don’t even have to paper the whole room, just one wall can be effective. I have done this to several rooms, painting either a contrast colour or a darker shade on one wall. there are so many different types of wallpapers available at the moment, some are hand made, such as the ones made by Tim Butcher and Lizzie Deshayes, with their company Fromental – a beautiful selection of embroidered and hand painted papers. i just love the chinoiserie range. For lovely muted colours and simple classic patterns, see Paint and Paper library. Farrow and Ball also have a classic range of papers, perfect to combine with their already popular paint colours. Erdem MOralioglu has collaborated with the historic interiors brand de Gournay to produce a hand painted, silk panelled wallpaper featuring colourful flora and birds; I am sure its pricey, but if you only do say one wall it could be beautiful. Designers Guild has an unusual, bold and colourful selection of papers. Cole and Son has an impressive range of papers, including designs by Vivien Westwood and Fornasetti. you can find gold damask wallpapers from Fabrics and Papers. John Lewis has an interesting choice too and includes some designs from all the other brands, so gives you a wider choice. many years ago, my friend Elli used this beautiful gold wallpaper on her wall, very striking and luxurious.
when you are stuck at home, its easy to stay in your pyjamas or tracksuits all day – they are after all comfort clothes, they say relax, they don’t have irritating waistbands or zips, neither do they crease and nor does it matter if you end up crawling on the floor to wipe up that mess from the cooking….. but there is something about staying at home day after day, week after week, that affects your whole mind and body; its not just the physical having to stay put, but the mental awareness that the world is changing around you, the future is not foreseeable, your diary is empty, you cannot plan even the next birthday or family event. life is somewhat out of your hands, which is a very strange and disconcerting place to be.
but being able to choose what to wear is still your choice and after all, if you have to pass a mirror now and again, why not catch a glimpse of yourself looking half decent, it definitely makes you feel good if you like the way you look. confidence is low at the moment for everyone and simple things like posture and dress can all help. I find that actually being dressed and washed and combing my hair before 9.30am makes me feel ready to tackle the day. its a chance to finally go through your wardrobe and try on all those things that you have had for years to decide whether you like them or not. I have very sensitive skin, and find that labels, seams, fastenings can irritate me, so I am used to layering with cotton and silk layers. in winter, I will put on wool, but its the final layer and doesn’t touch my skin – I have been known to wear 7 layers during the cold spell. cotton is the perfect ‘stay at home’ fabric, its soft, machine washable, durable and easy to iron. I have very few clothes in my wardrobe that you cannot wash and I recently learned from Robert’s posh tailors that dry cleaning your clothes, is not only harsh, but shortens the life of your item and they suggest every now and again soft sponging the items with mild washing detergents. I even use ecover washing up liquid on some of my stains, especially grease marks. I always put a thin T shirt layer under dresses, which protects the underarms from marks and am a big believer in silk slips, that not only allow your clothes to hang well, but also protects your clothes from your body lotions or oils. I am a big fan of white clothes, and if I put them on for the day, but then have to do a really messy job, I will swap into a patterned dress or denim skirt that will easily hide the dirt. I definitely wear an apron if cooking or even washing up in a dress that I really don’t want to mess up. mix and match summer dresses with long sleeved t shirts, cardigans, shirts – put longer skirts under shorter dresses to add interest and length, its time to experiment.
I have put together some selfies I have taken during the last month of outfits that I have worn for home and going for my daily walk. (they all look a bit alike, but I am not a selfie expert and its actually more difficult than when you are looking through a camera and can see what you are doing) I definitely have a diverse set of clothes, anything from vintage, designer and high street brands – my favourite clothes for looking stylish, but practical and affordable are mainly from Gap, Muji and Uniqulo – but I always buy in the sales from brands like Toast and Tidystreet Store. what I do is look at what I like at the beginning of a new season and keep an eye for the sale, even in places like the high street. Gap and Uniqulo always sale their things and there always seems like plenty of sizes. with vintage clothes, I. don’t wear them all day, as they are more fragile and the seams tend to split, but some of the 50’s cotton skirts are very hardwearing. my family sometimes think I am a bit mad with the way I dress, but personally I think you can do whatever you desire in your own home and most of the time when you go out, you tend to cover it with a coat!
I spent a day this week touching up all the scuffed areas in the house – its a mad thing that I occasionally do. I am not very professional about it, I literally get the paint pots, which I now mark with a label stating the room and area, so that I don’t mix up the many pots sitting in my cellar. you have to sometimes question whether the slight difference in shade due to age of wall and paint mixture is better than seeing the dirty marks. I learned my lesson a long time ago that wiping with a cloth is not a good idea, you start and then spread all the dirt all of the walls, making it look worse, especially if you have had candles burning. anyhow, I am sure that lots of you are sitting in staring at the walls wondering how you can change or liven up your spaces.
I have never tried this myself, but I have always loved this stencilled wall, it has been sponged to give it an old worn look. looks very impressive in a hallway, or on just one wall of a room. stencilled wallpaper was very popular in the 18 century, you can recreate the look by buying ready made stencils from henry donavan motifs– i thought the blossom stencils very pretty.
these were more subtle, but very beautiful. I think that these were from an old Palacio in seville.
so we had an eventful xmas – on xmas eve Robert and I went to the charles dickens museum – its a fun insight into the writer’s life, especially if you are interested by the writer. there are portraits of the family, the writing desk that dickens used to create his famous novels, his personal book collection – and even personal artefacts such as jewellery. there are characters from the book that keep you entertained as you walk around the house, making it more fun and engaging for children. after reading his biography by Claire Tomalin my interest in dickens was born – not only does it tell the story of the author, but it vividly describes a london of that era. not only is it a great educational eye opener, but an opportunity to see the inside of these wonderful london historic houses.
on xmas morning, whilst Robert was cooking, the kids and I took a walk to the top of Primrose Hill – it had finally stopped raining and was actually a bright sunny crisp day. the view from the top of the hill is always a stunning picture of London. we must make use of the wonderful parks that London has – they are our treasures.
on Boxing Day, I went to see Little Women with a girlfriend – its one of my favourite books that I read as a young girl and this new version by Greta Gerwig, is so enjoyable, as it interplays with the story of the writer as she is writing the book, but also telling the story of the book; in fact at times its hard to realise what is the authors life or whether she is telling the story that she has written. its beautifully shot, but the clothes are just to die for. I now want to dress in those victorian layers. definitely worth seeing .
i know i tell you every year, but its always a lovely xmas treat and could be an idea for a gift, but for a great insight into 17C london life, you must visit the fascinating dennis severs house in spitalfields. they have a special ‘spirit for the christmas’ season for this time of year. Robert and I went again today and it never fails to please you.
the 17C silkweavers house ,which has been lovingly restored as a working house – is an insight into life of that period and it certainly keeps your mind wondering. since Severs has passed away the house has been beautifully maintained and continues to show in all its glory what life would have been like. – the grandeur of the wealthy, the darkness of the poor. its a museum, cum drama, cum personal collection – its just breathtaking – your eyes dart from corner to corner of each of the rooms on the 5 floors – absorbing the different scenarios, the different smells, the crackling of the open fires , the flickering of the candles- it really is a must visit. why not buy a visit for a friend – they would just love it. think of art crossed with drama.
did you know that hummingbirds tend to feed from flowers which hang down vertically even though this costs them more energy than feeding on more accessible blooms? hummingbirds are crucial pollinators of flowering plants across the Americas. apparently they choose the downward facing flowers because their nectar is less diluted by rain and thus contains the most sugar.
i love any items with birds on them, so it was lovely to see liberty still sell lots of items emblazened with birds. when birds are used on everyday things there is something calming about seeing them on familiar objects. found this little nest hidden in my wisteria. Jane Clayton has a lovely selection of wallpapers including birds too.
for another exquisite gift idea, these beautiful porcelain plates with little birds on are made by fliff carr.