If you are a regular interior blog reader, you may have come across the name Sweetpea & Willow before. The owner of the furniture and accessories boutique, Jacquie, runs the award-winning Sweetpea & Willow blog 'Willow's Wardrobe,' alongside running the business with her husband Matt. Even though I'd often perused all the beautiful products Sweetpea & Willow sell online, I'd never actually visited their much talked about showroom. When Jacquie invited me down to have a proper look at all their products on display last week, I was so not prepared for what I saw when I visited!
This week is Clerkenwell Design Week, a kind of urban festival if you will for lovers of interiors and design in general. The creative part of London that is Clerkenwell is host to CDW, which houses over 200 international brands within 7 exhibition venues, and more than 90 showrooms (generally furniture and design shops within the Clerkenwell grid).
This week I popped along to the Grand Designs Live exhibition at London's GIGANTIC ExCeL Convention Centre (seriously, I got lost in the building, wandering into another exhibition by mistake). Even though it would be amazing to build my own home, I'm quite happy in the already-built home I live in, so it was interiors rather than architecture that I was after at the show.
Next week (from May 3rd - 7th, 2017) is London Craft Week. Now in its third year, this annual event is all about celebrating creativity and craftsmanship, with 230 events happening over the space of the week in the city. Last week I attended one of these events, the launch party for Heal's Modern Craft Market, and instantly navigated towards the stand hosted by Shoreditch Design Rooms. Based in East London, Shoreditch Design Rooms are successful upholsterers who offer training classes to the public ranging from leisure classes (where you can work on your own piece of furniture), to accredited courses for a diploma qualification in upholstery.
Since starting this blog I've been able to do some seriously cool stuff. It has also opened up a number of opportunities for me career-wise that I would NEVER have been given without it. However, the email that dropped in my inbox on one of the last days of February really had me spluttering out my cup of tea. It was from the PR people behind the Ideal Home Show, asking me to give them a call in regards to doing a couple of presentations on the Interior Styling Stage at the event towards the end of March.
Do you find items piling up in your house? Need to make way for the new by storing away the old? Cupboards already bursting at the seams? With price per square metre of homes at a (lets face it, constant) high, you don't want to be paying out for lots of cupboard space. The solution? Being clever with storage. Be smart and savvy when purchasing furniture and make sure that bulky items come with added storage space.
It was my first ever visit to London's highly revered Design Week at the Design Centre in Chelsea Harbour this week. I'm an absolute interiors fanatic, but when it comes to design, I'm happy to admit that it is not my complete field of expertise. I have my favourite designers in the interiors world, and dip into design when it really catches my attention, but I would never claim to be a 'design expert'. I was therefore really excited to visit Design Week and be in the centre of so much creative innovation.
I know this blog is meant to be about getting a contemporary look on a budget, and Farrow & Ball tend to be considered as 'posh paint' due to its price point, but I just cannot stress enough how much of a Farrow & Ball fan I am. To me, its often a false economy buying a cheaper paint brand. For application, colour depth and range, Farrow & Ball really cannot be beaten. If you are going to spend money in one area when decorating, spend it on the paint. It's the foundation of the room and what everything else will be based around. With my Farrow & Ball fan-dom you can imagine I was excited to see what the key colours for spring 2017 were going to be for F&B. This season F&B have picked four hues - two dramatic, intense colours alongside two neutral shades.
For over a year, me and my husband had been in mattress hell. Our existing 10 year old mattress was a disaster (apparently you're only meant to have the same mattress for 8 years max anyway?) The springs were pushing out everywhere (no doubt not helped by a toddler who loved jumping on it multiple times a day). Obviously, it wasn't a dream to sleep on. You can see for yourself without even needing to lay down on it that the mattress had seen better days.....
If there is one thing I'm rather partial to, it's a jazzy wallpaper. I can't understand putting up a plain, boring, one colour wallpaper - what's the point? If I'm going to be putting up wallpaper in my home, then it has to be interesting, it has to be bright and it has to be good. When historic wallpaper company Cole & Son sent me some samples of their new 'Ardmore Collection' (launching this week at Paris Deco Off 2017) they immediately caught my eye.
Today I popped along to the spring edition of Top Drawer London, one of the UK’s leading trade shows. Basically every independent (and some big players) home, craft and gift products are on show to buyers (and press, and nosy people like me who like to spend their free time looking at pretty things). Held at Olympia, London, Top Drawer is massive. It took me hours to get through all the exhibitor stands. Yet I did it, and here is my pick of the best of the bunch! To make life easier I've even created a little shop at the bottom of the post where you can buy products from my fave exhibitors....
Happy New Year! The Christmas decorations are down and rooms are looking bare. At the same time festive and sale items are being moved aside in the shops to make way for Spring Summer 2017. If you are a decorating addict like me, it's this time of year that gets me all twitchy and wanting to completely revamp the house! Less 'New Year, New Me', more 'Same Old Me, New Room'.
Cushions, throws, books, art - all these objects are used to build a room. They stop it from looking bland and sterile, give the room depth and provide that much needed cosy feel. Perhaps the most essential part of this layering in any interior is a rug. Rugs, however, can be quite hard to get right. Too small and it looks silly and out of place. Too large then you'll most likely be catching the door on it, while most of it will be crumpled up under furniture than on show.
When Habitat invited me to an event to discover the art of sleep, I had to have a slight chuckle to myself. I have a toddler who seems to be permanently ill, a dog with a real snoring problem and a husband with a slight anxiety problem around sleeping. I knew the key for me to getting a good night sleep would be to remove these three factors, and sleep in a quite room alone at say, a Cotswold's retreat? Since that is not going to be happening anytime errr...ever? I decided to pop along to Habitats Sleepover and see what tips I could pick up to at least help myself get back to sleep after being woken for the fourth time each night.
Call me a bit bah humbug, but when I was told about a handmade London Xmas Market, I instantly thought of watered-down mulled wine and vastly overpriced decorated gingerbread biscuits. Yet further investigation into the E20 Christmas Makers Market revealed it to be completely homemade-Hackney-Hipster, rather than the usual tourist trapping Xmas markets you'll find in Hyde Park or the Southbank. Espresso martinis in plastic champagne saucers were the drink of choice from the chic Christmas cocktail cabin, while you could peruse the artisan stalls for a variety of one-of-a-kind homeware that would make excellent Xmas gifts (to yourself, obvs).
Two fun facts to start with - did you know that Habitat is now part of the Sainsbury's group? Did you also know that it will now have mini stores within larger Sainsbury's supermarkets? No? Neither did I! As Habitat's products will now be more readily accessible to consumers, I was interested in what Creative Director Polly Dickens and her team had up their sleeve for Habitat SS17, so popped along to their press show at the Kings Road store this week.
You know what it's like when you have an exact image in your head of a piece of furniture or homeware that you need in your home. You scour the shops to find something just right, and sometimes you get close to perfection, but it's the wrong size, or the wrong colour. So many times i've said 'oh that's perfect, but only if it was a bit bigger', or, 'i like it, but if only it came in blue'. Obviously I try and DIY lots of stuff in my home, but there is just some stuff that i'm not capable of making! Beds, cabinets, rugs or tables being some of them! But I'm super fussy and particular, and I often want a say in all the finishing touches of my furniture. That's why when I discovered Homeplaneur, a website that enables you to envision and totally create your furniture to your specification (from the colour to the actual design), I was intrigued. An online 'Do It Yourself' approach, with the end result being Italian branded, highly crafted, fully or pre-assembled furniture delivered right to your door, it sounded such a great concept for people who know exactly what they want, but they just don't know where to find it.
This week I was lucky enough to attend the press shows for both Marks and Spencer and Next Home, to get a sneak-peek at their new furniture and homeware collections for Spring & Summer 2017. If you are a regular reader you'll know I love scouring the High Street for interior pieces that look designer, but come with a High Street price tag!
First up was M&S. When I saw the invite to the Marks and Spencer show I knew it was going to be good:
If you've got a teenager, a student to kit out before you send them off to uni, or if you are just a fan of bright and trendy prints, then Kit Neale's collaboration with Ikea (on sale next March in the UK) might just be for you. Colourful, bold, and blatantly aimed at the yoof, the 28 year old East London-based fashion designer has worked with Ikea on a limited edition collection titled SPRIDD. The result is a riot of cartoon-like prints of mushrooms, facial features, volcanoes and punctuation marks, with a real early 90's influence. These prints are spread across a range of homeware items such as mugs, plates, cushions and bedlinen, as well as t-shirts, duffel bags and even tents (a first for Ikea).
Out of the decorating disasters that I've made in the past, there are three that have been reoccurring and incredibly frustrating. First, painting a room in a colour that ended up looking nothing like I had imagined it would in my head. Second, hanging shelves & pictures on the wonk and having to fill in the holes and start again. Lastly, wallpapering and realising that I didn't have enough paper, or I'd massively over-brought. Luckily, due to the wonder of technology, there are now a number of awesome free DIY apps available that can minimise making the mistakes I've just listed.
If you follow my social media feeds you may well have seen that on Thursday night, at the Ham Yard Hotel in London, I won an Amara Interior Blog Award for Best DIY & Crafts Blog!
Earlier in the year Amara opened up nominations for this annual celebration of interior bloggers, and this blog got nominated for the Best DIY & Crafts Blog Award, along with around 30 other blogs. The next part was the voting stage, so I campaigned furiously to try and get into the final 5 blogs that would be shortlisted to attend the ceremony, and be assessed by the very capable judges who are at the top of their game within the interiors industry. Completely and honesty I thought I had no chance of getting shortlisted as my blog had only been going a few months back then and I was still learning.
If I was a EuroMillions winner, my house would be kitted out in Jonathan Adler, Se Collections and Julian Chichester furniture and accessories in every room. Since i'm not a gambling person (too tight - 'money down the drain' etc) then the EuroMillions dream is definitely not happening any time soon. Instead, to obtain designer homeware and investment pieces that I love, I am always on the lookout for a sample sale.
Most top designers do a sample sale at least once a year as it gives them an opportunity to shift ex-display, discontinued, sample, excess and returned stock over the space of a few days. Expect heavily discounted items at around 80% off their recommended retail price. If someone brought a lamp that was £800 and returned it because it had a light scuff on the bottom, it could be yours for around £100.
I think it is always the greatest DIY dilemma - what colour should we paint the room? I know myself I 'ummm' and 'ahhh' for weeks, buying tester pot after tester pot of virtually the same colour, until I am completely confused. Then, I often pick a colour completely different to what I had in mind originally, cross my fingers and hope for the best. If there is one thing that I do know about paint, it's that Farrow & Ball are the best in the business. I know so many people who have used this paint and then just can't ever conceive of using another paint brand again. That's why when Red Magazine invited me to their Smart Women week of workshops to hear Farrow & Ball's International Colour Consultant Joa Studholme talk about how to choose the right paint colour in your home, I jumped at the chance to lap up all of Joa's expert advice.
If you follow me on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter, you may have already seen me campaigning the past few weeks to get you to vote for me in the Amara Interior Blog Awards 2016. I was absolutely honoured to be nominated in this years awards under the DIY category, especially as this little blog has only been going for 5 months, and I'm still tweaking and building the site every day! The thing is, now I've been nominated, I've got a taste for it and I REALLY BLOODY WANT to get onto the shortlist and have my blog assessed by the judges! To do that, I need to get enough votes from YOU, my lovely readers. Looking at the other 30 blogs in my category, they are flippin' amazing, have been going for ages, have a huge number of followers and some even have book deals!?!? As you can imagine, I don't expect I'll have a hope in hells chance of getting anywhere unless I plead for your votes! So, here is my grovelly plea (are you ready?) This is my case as to why I'd love you to take two seconds out to vote for me in the Best DIY & Crafts Blog....
As far as window treatments go, shutters are the clear winner for me. Curtains can look overly fussy and fade; blinds often look cheap and remind me of being in an office. Shutters can really block out the light, are easy to clean and should last you a lifetime. They also look GORGEOUS! If you have a period property or pretty sash windows, shutters will really compliment the windows detailing.
When we moved into our current home, I was hellbent on having shutters on the vast majority of the windows. We had solid, Victorian-style shutters fitted on a difficult hallway window in our old house, and they were literally one of my favourite things in that house. We got solid shutters installed again on the bedroom windows and the living room windows, but that really blew the budget. We left the bathroom window as it was, as it had a blind installed and that would do for the time-being.
A year and a half on, I was hating the bloody bathroom blind. It was this crummy brown blind that got so dusty, but was impossible to clean. It left awful watermarks, and I was petrified with the cord hangings around my toddler son as he loved to play with them. Our bathroom window is lovely in the afternoons as the sun streams in, so I would always pull it up out the way and out of sight. Trouble was it was too much hassle to keep putting down every time someone wanted the loo (and the bathroom faces the street!)
A double blog entry for me this week as I was lucky enough to attend the premiere of the Absolutely Fabulous movie last night! To be honest I'm still buzzing today about drinking bolly in the same room as Kylie Minogue, Kelly Hoppen, Kate moss, Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley, but I did get over being star-struck enough to lap up all the key interior pieces featured in Eddie's home for 2016.
I'm a huge Ab Fab fan, growing up I dreamed about one day having a beautiful London pad like Eddie as a base to come home to after a drunken party. In the film the layout of the house is still the same but grander, where Eddie has bled ex-husband Mitchell dry for a huge basement excavation....
A few months ago after having an internal door replaced, I went into Homebase to buy some eggshell paint to paint the new door with. Needing to buy an eggshell that matched my already existing heritage cream skirting, I begrudgingly headed over to the Farrow & Ball paint section. Even though I'm all about doing up your home on a tiny budget, I LOVE posh paint. I'm a die-hard Farrow & Ball fan. I have a box with about 60 sample tins of Farrow & Ball paint in under the stairs. There is no contest for me when it comes to choosing F&B over cheaper brands such as Dulux or Crown. F&B paint gives a beautiful depth of colour due to its high pigmentation and the chalky matt finish looks expensive and elegant. Cheaper paints do not have this depth of colour, they fade over time and glossy paint looks cheap. F&B do a wide range of interesting colours (132 to be exact - check out 'Charlotte's Locks', an intense orange, and 'Vardo', a 50's style teal). You can get any of these colours in different finishes such as eggshell and floor paint rather than just emulsion. The paint is thick, creamy and easy to apply. It is water based and has low VOC's, so it does not smell nor pollute your house with chemicals and it's simple to clean your brushes. It is made in England.
For me, when styling a room the two most important base elements are the colour and the lighting. Statement lighting can transform a room and is the key focal point that often pulls the room together.
Interesting, contemporary lighting has been popular for a while now, and in recent years the high street has been absolutely killing it with their own ranges. Alongside their usual middle-of-the-road pieces have been collections inspired by current lighting trends and high end designers...