Knick knacks and what nots

So I promised a blog on decorating the top of the Mexican chest. I now it’s been a while, but my real job has been somewhat hectic this last week or two, meaning that I’ve not been able to spare much thought to much else. Likely to continue for a while as well, I’m afraid. But I’ll do what I can to keep updated!


So with the new chest, we knew we wanted it to look nice on top (and not just be another shelf for books. Though we do need one….). Some time before, we had bought a rather nice table runner in Malta. It had a pattern of orange butterflies on cream material, and we had always felt that it would be good in the loft room. And lo and behold – it does look good! And it was a good size for the chest too. Sometimes it’s just fate.


Our little stereo vignette

Our little stereo vignette

But that’s just a base. We also knew we wanted the stereo on the chest, and angled so that the sound would reach into the whole room. The black of the stereo looks really good against the walls and with the black metal on the chest, so that worked out well too. To soften the lines a little, I added a black metal candlestick, that stands out well against the wall.


I’d previously bought a dark purple faux rose (from the ever fabulous Abigail Ahern’s store). I’d hoped it would work in the hallway, but it wasn’t right there. However it was the perfect colour for the loft room – that purple matched the trim really well. And I may say now that against the wall it positively glows with warmth. So it got added to the candlestick, in a beautiful single stem cut glass vase my brother bought me for my 18th birthday. Added to the bottom is a little tag that was part of a present I bought my lady.


You can see some of the philosophy I bring to decorating shelves etc. It’s important that what you put out looks good. And it should match the room in some way. But if you’ve bought or been given something, it comes with a story and with memories and associations and affection. And that’s what a home is all about. It’s about memories and love and all the things that make up YOU and if what you put out doesn’t say that to you (I don’t care about visitors – you live there, you see it every day) then you’ve failed.


Which is a distinct link to the other main feature of the chest’s decoration. The thimble collection. As it turns out, the dark wood of the official thimble collection holder is lovely against the wall. But they overflow out onto the little book collection (it’s Beatrix Potter, which none of us read, but the collection in a box case is too lovely not to have out) and even on to the cake stand. And isn’t that cake stand lovely? I’m a fan of using cake stands to put other things on instead of hiding them away in cupboards. Cake stands can be so lovely in themselves and are clearly designed to display things too.


The white rabbits are a nod to our obsession with bunnies (as mentioned in the cushion blog), and look rather fun away in the corner. In fact, all the things you can see have some personal memory attached.


All our bits and pieces looking lovely

All our bits and pieces looking lovely

Which is why (or one reason anyway!) that I’m starting to love spending time up in the loft room….


Going to the dark side

One of my favourite interior designers at the moment is Abigail Ahern. Interestingly, I agree with almost everything she says, but actually don’t like some of the finished products.

Anyway, her big point of difference in terms of design is her enthusiasm for the dark side – or at least dark paints. She’s been enthusiastically pointing out how dark paint doesn’t actually make a space feel smaller (if it’s small, it’s small!) and that it does make it warmer and all the items in front of it look infinitely more glamorous. As a credo, it makes sense to me. Not least because I’ve never been in love with the white ‘spacious’ look. I think it too often looks clinical. Not to mention that my way of life would never work with that look. I’m messy and white would scuff too easily…

So, all in all, I’ve been pretty keen to try it out in one of our rooms. So far though, the closest was the loft room. And while that orange/red has a lot of the same qualities, it’s not really a dark colour. But with the blue tiles in the kitchen, it seemed like an excellent opportunity to see if we could match that colour and paint the space that dark blue.

It’s a little bit cheating (or safe perhaps might be a better way of saying it), seeing as the room is open plan with the living room so you wouldn’t get the full effect of the dark paint, and also seeing as the cabinets cover a lot of the walls. But, if playing it safe at first meant I got agreement, no worries there.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we had some real struggles finding the right blue. Endless navy blues. Endless lighter blues. Nothing that worked with the glorious tiles. In the end Little Greene Thai Sapphire was the closest. We were slightly worried as it was a perfect match with one coat, but a bit dark with two – and we’d need two coats to get it even a little bit even. But I went for it.

Two coats later, and I’m in love. The finish is a touch messy – I should have used the masking tape my lady thoughtfully provided me with – but the colour is wonderful. The dark blue really shows up the cabinets so they look like a more glowing wood, and makes the whole space look that bit more glamorous and finished. Even the enclosed corner doesn’t look too dark, but just rich and luxurious. Like walking into a temple of lapis lazuli. Shame that’s the washing corner and we currently store the ironing board there. (Anyone know where to get glamorous ironing board covers?)

Our blue corner

Also, just look at this sweet little snowflake print we hang in the kitchen. On a white wall….and on the blue wall. On the white wall, it looks nice enough. On the blue wall, the frame gleams. The flowers stand out and overall I think it looks about ten times better.

Snowdrops on white wall Snowdrops against blue wall

The same can be said of these flowers we have on the windowsill. Against white – a nice, maybe a bit stark, colour pop. Against blue – a glowing warm feature.

Flowers against blue Flowers against white

With the lights on, the blue walls look expensive and warm and the kitchen looks amazing. In daylight, the effect isn’t quite as dramatic, but it still looks finished beyond anything you could have imagined when we moved in.

Amazing what a lick of paint can do!

Ceilings – underused areas

Honestly – who thinks much about ceilings except as something to hang lights from? A huge, flat space in our rooms that we basically ignore…

I love going round stately homes and one of the first things I do in each room is look up. I love those grand old ceilings with mouldings and patterns. And often murals and paintings too. They really used the space. But when I look around rooms of most people, they do nothing with the ceiling. So here are some options that I think look stunning and a bit more modern than murals of goddesses and fat cherubs!

Well there’s this lovely gold ceiling. I think this would be a really good way of reflecting light in a small space, while also looking really glamorous. Might be a bit overpowering in a big room perhaps.

Gold ceiling in a small vanity sink areaa

Gold ceiling in a small vanity sink area

Next this lovely study with a map ceiling. I’m actually genuinely slightly tempted by putting this in our (much smaller) study. It’s just so cool! And all the cream background means it still feels high and spacious.

Map ceiling

Or you could just go bold and colourful. This look probably does go best with a white or pale wall (so a bit unlike my standard approach). I love how in this room the ceiling is echoed in the rug too.

Teal ceiling

And finally, back to that old school moulding? Well, here’s a modern take on it. I absolutely adore this ceiling. Doesn’t it look special? Would be amazing in my bedroom with it’s bower theme or the hallway (which will be a winter woodland when it’s finally done)

Vine ceiling

Kitchen planning update

I never updated after the kitchen planner visit!

Well, we ended up having four kitchen planning sessions. Two were disappointing and one was a waste of time. One, however was brilliant. The companies were: John Lewis, Wickes, Homebase and a local independent contractor. I wonder if you can guess who fell in each category? (Disclaimer – in all cases I think that the service was largely dependent on the individual we worked with and may well not be representative of the company as a whole)

John Lewis in store were a bit pushy and didn’t understand that we were coming at it as newbies – limited patience for us not understanding the terminology. To be fair, the actual kitchen planner who came to visit was extremely professional. He measured, chatted, and was generally fine. He explained his thinking while he measured, and generally helped with our learning curve. He sent through his pictures and quote on time. Moderately expensive, but within budget. Missing a feature we wanted – the dishwasher – but we’d expected that. However the design overall was just blah. It didn’t make us want that kitchen – even given how desperate we were for a new one. Upgrading any of the features would have cost more than we could afford. It wasn’t great. As our first appointment, we were back in the space of wondering if we even wanted to do this.

Homebase were appalling. Genuinely awful. We went in with some suggestions of what we wanted. The planner was excessively pushy and effectively told us what we wanted without even listening to us. With some people maybe this would be helpful – but we’d put a lot of thought in to this and I didn’t appreciate that not counting. We then told her our budget…..and the plan she put together cost nearly 50% more! (she’d used our budget as the cost of materials and then added installation on top). When we pointed this out, she got stressed, as if it was our fault that we couldn’t afford some of the things she thought every kitchen should have. She then came and measured our kitchen. Again, when things didn’t quite add up, we were made to feel as if the imperfections of the space were our fault, that it was a huge drag to have to re-plan the kitchen. Maybe it is a hassle, but it’s the job! Between that and an exorbitant cost for the real planner to come out, we very quickly discarded them as an option.

The independent contractor was the waste of time. He didn’t come up with anything the big stores didn’t, the cost wasn’t that different, and I’d have had to put a lot more work in to sourcing materials and managing the job. No criticism of him, or that approach at all, but it didn’t work for us. (as an aside, my boss at work is using a local independent contractor to do her kitchen and is getting an incredible deal on bespoke units that match her needs better than anyone larger could do and will look incredible. It all depends on what’s local to you as well as your circumstances and pickiness).

So we’re left with Wickes. Who were outstanding from start to finish. When we went in, we were allowed to browse for a bit, and then a very friendly consultant sat us down to talk to us and give us coffee. Actually, that’s a good point. The coffee wasn’t great – massively over brewed and so strong that it nearly caused my partner to faint. However, as we sipped the coffee, Ameesh took plenty of time to listen to us and what we wanted, and acted like he genuinely cared what we wanted from a kitchen, not just fitting some off the shelf solution into our space. He came, measured up, and planned. When he found he couldn’t fit everything we wanted in using the cheapest range, he did a second plan in a more expensive range and let us choose between them. Given that even that option was within budget, we chose to get everything fitted in… We kept adding requirements, and he kept meeting them. One thing he couldn’t fit in, but we were sitting with him at the time and could see that he made quite literally every effort to do what we wanted and was genuinely disappointed when he couldn’t make it work. Given that we’d expected our list of requirements (washing machine, tumble dryer AND dishwasher) to have something crossed off, missing a glass fronted display cabinet for glasses seemed like a relatively minor problem. Not to Ameesh though!

You can guess who we picked. And I do not regret it. The Wickes installers were really friendly, helpful and professional, and although the fitting took a while (a week! Without either kitchen or front room) we quite enjoyed camping out in the half finished loft room….

A little bit of upcycling…

Well, maybe it’s not really upcycling. The chandelier in the front room was the one that came with the flat. It’s quite pretty, in it’s way. Or was. A sort of pale green, distressed to see the brassy metal beneath.

I’m not a fan of shabby chic anyway – I think that distressed stuff tends to look uncared for, almost dirty and messy. It’s worse with wood, which I always think looks mouldy and like the paint is peeling. But what felt bad for the chandelier is that it really rather blended in to the walls. Surely the whole point of a chandelier is that it’s a statement? And of course the pale green/brass didn’t go with the proposed yellow and teal theme for the front room.

So I bought a teal enamel paint and set to work.

Of course, I did it the wrong way. I didn’t properly detach the chandelier so I was painting over my head. And, being stupid, I did the first coat at night so I was staring at the lit bulbs. Yes, stupid stupid! I got teal paint on the table, the remote control and my hair.

Worth it though. I think the result looks stunning. Hope you agree!

Now just wondering what to do with the rest of the tin of paint….

Rugs – they really make a difference

I’d heard a lot about how much of a difference rugs can make, but I don’t think I really understood it. Perhaps it’s the kind of thing you don’t properly get until you try it out.

But the carpets in our house are pretty grim – thin, poorly fitted and ugly brown. We’ve got enough on our plates without trying to replace carpets too, so rugs seemed like a place to start. We had a couple – old and a bit the worse for wear. A quick wash, and one cream rug was in place. It lifted the room to a quite incredible degree. Brighter, more elegant, more loved.

So I decided to take the plunge and buy a really nice, different looking rug for the living room. Rugs can be ridiculously expensive, but once I got myself into stubborn Google mode, it turned out there were actually a few options. I found a fun abstract yellow and white rug, that might have been a bit jazzy for the room. And a lovely teal and yellow poppy pattern that looked lovely, but I wasn’t sure about as a rug – I felt it might dominate – or look odd when half of it was hidden by a table or an ironing board.

And then there was this one. Beautifully matching teal, interesting and yet abstract, and picking up the wood/neutral colours that the room has alongside the yellow. I put it down and immediately I love it. It makes the room feel more together, more part of a scheme. It makes the small kitchen diner look grand and somewhere you really want to spend time. Amazing!

Just look at how great it looks with the sofa – like they were meant to be together…

Rug with the sofa

It does bring into focus how bare the walls are, but that’s an ongoing project….

The overall effect

Busy life – and orange rooms

Things are pretty hectic for me at the moment. I’m changing jobs – this is my last week in my current one – and there’s lots of loose ends to be tied, as well as leaving drinks to arrange! New job starts next week, so that might take up a lot of time as well.

There’s one room I haven’t mentioned much so far – the loft room. It’s incredibly awkward as a space – the ceiling is very low even at the highest point, and all of the widest part of the room is under the sloping ceiling. At the lowest point the ceiling is about 3 foot off the floor, so there really isn’t much you can fit under there. Though that ‘wall’ also has the two doors to the loft storage in it, so you wouldn’t want to cover it anyway.

I’d originally wanted to have the main bedroom upstairs, but you could barely fit a bed in, and certainly not a wardrobe. Remember how much wardrobe space we installed in the bedroom? Yes, well, that would have been impossible. So we wanted a cosy, second sitting room – a sort of library almost – but with a sofa bed for guests.

Most of the colours we’ve chosen so far are a little on the cold side, though quite bright. I wanted to try a dark colour, that would say ‘cosy’ and ‘warm’ and studyish. So we looked at reds and oranges. We did try a few similar to the Colour Of The Year (Marsala), but they were too flat and brown. I loved some deep, almost purple blood reds, but got vetoed in that they were too red.

So in the end we chose a fiery orange red. It’s Cinnabar Red from Fired Earth, and the colour matches the name – spicy and exotic, orangey but still red. In fact it kind of matches a coat of mine…

Close up of the paint colour

Close up of the paint colour

Its a bit brighter than I envisioned originally, but in the sunshine, or with just a side light on it, it absolutely glows and does actually convey the image I wanted of the room – so all’s well that ends well!

Painting in progress - really shows how the sunshine makes it glow

Painting in progress – really shows how the sunshine makes it glow