Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Progress: Garden // Spring loveliness

The weather here is amazing for this time of year - 24C tomorrow! I must say it's a treat to be staring wistfully out of this arctic-air-conditioned office at all that warm golden sunshine pouring over London. People are probably having BBQ's somewhere.

Our living room/office re-dec is almost complete. The main furniture (coffee table, tv unit, sideboard and bookcase) shutters (SHUTTERS!) and sofa are all on order so we're just waiting for those to arrive. The finishing touches - floor lamp and new rug - I'm on the lookout for. I finally did the math of what these two rooms have cost us in total and it is eye watering, but we have justified it because this is our 'forever house'. We wanted the decorating done to a good standard and I hope I've done a good job on the styling, I'm just so excited for the moment everything is finally in place and I can step back and see it complete.

We have been spending the last few weekends sorting the garden and we're really starting to enjoy our outside space now. We have a shorter garden than before but this is a more manageable size and I love how we can step out of the kitchen right onto the patio, our previous garden had a narrow side entry area which was aggressively ruled by large ugly spiders waiting in their webs, and easily overlooked by the neighbours so I didn't go out there too often, but now I potter about as much as I can.

The garage in January (terrible quality)

This weekend 

In January we had the garage re-furbished (new doors, windows and roof) as Mr. wanted a weathertight outdoor area for weekends. We've also cleared lots of bramble around the apple tree (discovered the tree must have fell at one point and was left to grow from there?!), removed a couple shrubs to open the area up, and re-arranged under the garage window. I was a little sad to get rid of all the rose bushes there because I do like roses, but the bushes are quite ugly and messy for the rest of the year. We're after a clean and easily maintained space so out went a couple spreading shrubs too. I'm excited to be enjoying gardening all of a sudden, I now know the names of most of the plants in our garden: we have three camellias, a hydrangea, a little bay tree which was planted directly under a Californian lilac so I want to move it into it's own place, two red robins (my favourites), six baby leyland trees, that wonky old apple tree and a big forsythia at the front of our house.


This weekend (fancier furniture this summer!)

Friday, 6 February 2015

Progress: Living Room/Study

On Tuesday, works began to completely redecorate our living room and study! I am so excited because we totally trust our decorator and I just know the finish is going to be amazing. He repaired a damp wall for us at our old place, but when he first visited to quote for this work he got exactly what I meant - he was even finishing my sentances. He has a small team and in both rooms he is removing built in shelves/cupboards, stripping walls/ceilings, sanding woodwork, then skimming, lining and painting.

I've been looking forward to decorating these rooms for months, but like most things, it came round so quickly in the end I was flapping about with multiple lists and tens of safari tabs and completely stressing myself out. In the end I found an old notebook I had that has four sections to it, each with little transparent pockets, so I use it to make my 'mother lists' - a section per room eventually - and then store receipts and cut out snippets of inspiration in the pockets, life saver!

I'll focus on the changing face of the living room today and save the study for another post.

Previous owners (we moved here in September):

Last week:


I've been really impressed by how clean and tidy everything is, all the floors and the few surfaces left are properly protected, the windows have privacy sheets and the hallway carpet is covered too, and I can't seem to find a spec of dust anywhere! We gave the decorator a key so we didn't need to take time off work and when we get home in the evening its fun to see what's been done each day. Before he got started we updated the plastic switches and plug sockets with brushed chrome ones and replaced the living room pendant after it decided to stop working one afternoon!

Hopefully in a couple weeks the rooms will be finished and I can take more photographs, but this project won't be fully complete until S/S - we can't buy furniture for a couple months as this is taking up most of our savings, and if we go with shutters for the windows they take up to 10 weeks to make anyway.

I almost had a full blown melt down about how to dress the windows. Blinds are too 'faffy' for bay windows, I'm a curtain girl but I don't like plastic tracks and putting a pole across the bay in this room would look awkward as there's no wall space from the ceiling, nor did I want to risk bay poles as they're not always highly reviewed. So I'm arranging to get some quotes in for shutters as they seem to be the most practical option here: they can be opened completely during the day in the same way curtains can, and close like blinds but without all the string and multiple sets we'd need. I have two worries with shutters though: 1) The expense, although they do offer cheaper MDF versions now, and 2) How they sit when open; not keen on the thought of them poking out too much from the window, but I wouldn't want them sitting against the side windows of the bay as that would prevent light from coming in.
Decisions! I'm looking forward to having a look at the options and seeing everything come together!

Zoe x

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Favourite Five || Autumnal Recipes

I'll admit, I needed a little push into Autumn this year. It's the best season by far: the orange and reds, the chilly nights and frosty mornings, the dark TV dramas of times gone by, cinnamon hot chocolate and leaves piling up around my driveway. It just felt very sudden this time round. One morning a few weeks ago I woke up at my usual time to get ready for work, and it was dark outside. Bam! Just like that, and Summer was gone.

I've spent a few evenings searching for perfect cold-weather recipes to try, snuggled under blankets with lemon-ginger tea, the cat snoozing by my side. When Hubbles is out after work I like to set up camp in the living room, turn the TV off, light a candle and settle down with some cookbooks and magazines. And Pinterest, of course.

1) Chicken with figs and grapes by Dash and Bella.
I love the increased use of fruit with usual dinner stuff this time of year. To be honest my curiosity so far in this practice hasn't been much more exotic than pineapple on pizza, but figs are a new found favourite of mine and pairing it with chicken seems like a safe way to make a subtle change.

2) Bulghar wheat, date + clementine salad from Good Food.
I have salads most days during the week for lunch so it's nice to find ways to change them up from summer to winter produce. It's refreshing anyway to take a break from all that rich, stodgy food that's around now too, I would happily make this for dinner for myself with the leftovers for lunch the next day. This has lots of flavour, texture, and could be offered as a side for dinner, in fact it would be brilliant to serve alongside some cold meat cuts and bread if you're in for buffets at parties!

3) Slow roasted marmalade pork found in Sainsburys magazine from December 2010, but also posted at 3 Clean Plates.
Usually pork finds itself lumped with apple sauce. Apple sauce is divine, but if you've got a bunch of friends/family over for Sunday dinner soon try something a little different. Just shove it in the oven and leave it be for a few hours, I would serve with mashed potato and some roasted carrots as that won't keep you in the kitchen and away from guests for too long.

4) Cranberry, butternut + sprout nachos by Half Baked Harvest.
Movie night? Leftovers sitting in the fridge? Want something more interesting than just a bowl of sad crisps for a gathering? At first I grimaced a bit at the thought of sprouts with nachos, but with brie and cranberries and butternut?! These truly sound like the best nachos ever, a perfect joining of flavours, sweet and savoury and nacho-y.

5) Incredible mulled cider by Jamie Oliver.
Confession: I'm not overly keen on mulled wine. I don't think many people are, really. People, myself included, drink it because it's 'A Thing' at this time. I think the idea of mulled wine is more enjoyable than the drink itself, it evokes images of standing in the corner of a market in the cold, laughing with friends, hands wrapped around a glass of some lovely flavoursome warm drink, cheeks pink and snow settling in your hair. In reality it's always a bit disappointing. It's just weird. A bit too acidy and burnt-spice on the throat, and no one wants to say it but we all wish we'd ordered the hot chocolate instead. But mulled cider is something different, pairing warmed adults-only apple juice with ingredients you would usually use with apples just makes more sense than putting it with wine.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Favourite Five || Bedrooms

We're not close enough to moving that I should be thinking about this, but I can't help myself. I love thinking about how to decorate a space, how I want a room to feel, picking out decorative accessories and finding the perfect window dressings.

This week I can't stop thinking about bedrooms. I recently posted about our current room, it's light green and pale wood-ness. I don't like it really. The colour was my husbands choice and as it went with the fake wood furniture we have in there, I went with it. (One day, I will own real wood furniture.)

Anyway, I'm finding it hard to be brave and challenge myself with decorating a room in darker, moody colours. What if it ends up feeling like a tomb? What if it's flat and depressing and looks sad and sombre all the time?! What if what if.
It started because we have a black divan bed base, which we're taking with us in the move, so I need something that can work around that. I originally liked the idea of putting black and yellow together, but there was something not quite right about it, something… wishy-washy and twee. On Pinterest (where else) I found some images of black with gold, which is a more grown up and luxurious look in comparison. So black and gold. But I don't know if I want a black wall or four, or dark grey walls, or what. All I do know is that I'm fed up of cream walls and I don't like the monochrome look; I want varying textures and shades. Something sensuous and adult but welcoming and cosy too. How do people decide these things? How are some people so well able to put a room together, to incorporate all their ideas and make it work?

There's no point stressing out too much about this until we have actually moved and I can sit in our new bedroom and get the feel of it, but for now, I am obsessing over these images:

:: One :: 

This is my favourite and I can't leave it till last. I love that print above the bed - I'm thinking a mirror above mine - bringing the white and black together, and that cosy faux fur throw on the bed. The colours are all quite neutral which helps the black to not feel too suffocating. 

:: Two :: 

I'm not in the market for feature wallpaper - makes a colour scheme more difficult to change - but the light bounces off these gold accents, so it doesn't feel like a gloomy space. If I use black paint behind my bed, I would definitely put up a large mirror to open the wall up. 

:: Three :: 

I do love a fairy light. They pop against the black and make this space feel more fun. I've always thought of black bedsheets being reserved for rebel grunger teenagers, but the gold detailing gives it a more sophisticated look. Plus black would be great for dirty cat paws. 

:: Four :: 

The fight starts here. There is black and gold, but the light grey walls makes such a difference. It's the safe option, and I don't know if I prefer this look to the others above. It's beautiful, but missing all that sultry darkness about it. I love the matching lights and empty frames. 

:: Five :: 

This is magnificent. I want to take a running jump at that bed. I like the idea of using mirrors behind the lamps with the reflective furniture and light fixture, this pushes the light out from the dark wall. As my bed frame is black, I think that's a useful idea to stop everything looking so black-on-black.