Malmo & Moss is Moving House

We moved into the Malmo & Moss house on a scorching hot day in July almost exactly nine years ago. It was just me, my husband and two cats at that point. Although the cats were lucky to survive the move after they spent the entire journey around the South Circular emitting the kind of noise that I imagine would come out of Michael Gove’s mouth if he were to get his penis trapped in a lift door. Maybe they just had feline reservations about their owners moving from South to North London having only visited the area where our new house was located twice before. However, whilst they might have liked to remain #ClaphamCats we didn’t have a budget big enough to stretch to a family home in that part of the City.

house.jpg

Winchmore Hill, the area of North London we alighted upon, is probably most famous for once having played host (if that is the right word) to Augustus Pinochet who was briefly exiled here in 1998. However, before you get the impression that it is some sort of haven for war criminals I should balance that fact act out by telling you that it’s other famous ex resident is Lionel Ritchie (whose crimes are mainly perm and power ballad related).

Winchmore Hill Green the pretty heart of this lesser known part of North London

Winchmore Hill Green the pretty heart of this lesser known part of North London

We moved when I was 37 weeks pregnant with our first son who arrived just two short weeks later. Whilst the move to a little known area where we had no friends just as we were about to become first time parents was definitely risky, it is a gamble that has more than paid off. Unlike Pinochet we have stuck around, seduced by lots of green open space, great schools and a street so friendly we go on holiday with our neighbours (although not John at the end of the street who I once overheard in Tesco trying to return some chicken he had purchased in 1999) .

July 2010: just two weeks after moving in we welcomed our first son

July 2010: just two weeks after moving in we welcomed our first son

Two tired first time parents and a very proud (and very young looking!) uncle in the days before the front room went over to the dark side!

Two tired first time parents and a very proud (and very young looking!) uncle in the days before the front room went over to the dark side!

The house has slowly but sure been transformed from a #SanitaryPadPurplePalace with a conservatory #StraightOuttaBrookside to a light, bright modern rustic home. We have knocked through, extended and renovated the kitchen, enlarged and overhauled the family bathroom, reconfigured the loft space and breathed fresh life into the ensuite, tiled the hallway and installed crittal style dividing doors and added hygge to the living room by going over to the dark side and installing a woodburner.

You can get a glimpse in the background of the very off message Kermit the Frog green conservatory we inherited when we moved in

You can get a glimpse in the background of the very off message Kermit the Frog green conservatory we inherited when we moved in

A couple of years (and another son later) we said goodbye to #KermitsConservatory and replaced it with a modern extension. This is it just days after it was finished

A couple of years (and another son later) we said goodbye to #KermitsConservatory and replaced it with a modern extension. This is it just days after it was finished

6 years later we still love how it has transformed the house

6 years later we still love how it has transformed the house

My favourite view looking back into the kitchen from the garden

My favourite view looking back into the kitchen from the garden

Knocking through from the kitchen to the dining room has also been a gamechanger

Knocking through from the kitchen to the dining room has also been a gamechanger

However nine years and two further sons later we are on the move once more. This time there will fortunately be no need to subject ourselves to #CatCarTorture on the South Circular as we are actually only moving five minutes up the road!

Reasons for the Move

So why are we moving? The answer can be summed up in one word really: space. Or rather a growing realisation that we could do with a bit more of it. Our existing house, unlike me, is tall but comparatively narrow. Click here to see our floorplan. We have already extended the kitchen and the loft was converted before we moved in so we have no real options left to create extra square metres we are after.

We have maximised our existing space to create a kitchen/diner

We have maximised our existing space to create a kitchen/diner

Made over and reconfigured the loft

Made over and reconfigured the loft

But alas we cannot magic up enough space for another bedroom

But alas we cannot magic up enough space for another bedroom

Our two youngest currently happily share a room but we know there will come a time when that arrangement may become less harmonious. Possibly between the ages 11-16 judging by my relationship with my own sister. Apparently having your little sister pick up the phone whenever you are on the line to your first boyfriend and sing “Let’s Talk About Sex” is not as funny as I thought it was at the time.

One day we anticipate all of the boys will want a (Scandi Forest Chic) room of their own

One day we anticipate all of the boys will want a (Scandi Forest Chic) room of their own

So when I saw a girthier house on a street we have always loved come up for sale 4 months ago with a floorplan that made heart flutter we decided to go for it.

The New House

OK brace yourself, this is the back of the new house which looks like it started a fight with pebbledash and lost. Inside it is less Scandi Rustic and more Sharps Showroom circa 1996 when fitted wardrobes were all the rage. But when I saw the floorplan I was sold. It actually currently has less space upstairs than our existing house but there is scope to add a generous loft and the downstairs space, after a reconfiguration and possible further extension, will offer us the big open plan kitchen/diner we have always wanted. And, of course, most importantly of all, I will finally be able to realise my greatest dream: a separate utility room.

My new rear end is decidedly bigger. It is the width of this house that really sold us on it

My new rear end is decidedly bigger. It is the width of this house that really sold us on it

As well as the lovely big garden complete with apple tree

As well as the lovely big garden complete with apple tree

For the boys there is a bigger garden with plenty of Wembley and Hide and Seek possibilities . Whereas the clincher for Mr Malmo was the prospect of a garage of his own. Not because he is a car nut (our family car is more likely to be quarantined by DEFRA than appear at Goodwood) but rather because he has an ever growing collection of impulse purchased power tools which will now have a home of their own. I am slightly worried I am going to come downstairs and find him jigsawing wood in his pants at 2am down there!

First on my hit list: transforming the fitted wardrobes . Decor wise everything is actually pretty neutral though and has been well cared for so it is definitely liveable if not immediately instagrammable!

First on my hit list: transforming the fitted wardrobes . Decor wise everything is actually pretty neutral though and has been well cared for so it is definitely liveable if not immediately instagrammable!

We move a week tomorrow so the next seven days are going to be spent in a haze of cardboard boxes, trips to the tip and snotty hankies as I reminisce about about all the memories we have made together in this house. We arrived as a couple and will leave as a family of five. This is the house is where our son’s first steps were taken, first words spoken and first poos on the potty (and floor) were completed. We have ticked off so many milestones, celebrating birthdays, christenings, christmases, and surviving a brush with Brian the misogynist bathroom tiler. It’s going to be emotional, not least as I have to say goodbye to my greatest ever E-Bay bargain: our £25 roll top bath.

Moving will be sweet sweet sorrow in that I will have to bid farewell to my roll top bath

Moving will be sweet sweet sorrow in that I will have to bid farewell to my roll top bath

And my copper taps

And my copper taps

So are you ready for Malmo & Moss: The Renovation Years?! My head is already spinning with ideas so over the coming weeks/months/possibly decades I am looking forward to sharing more pictures of the new place with you and my ideas for transforming it one fitted wardrobe at a time! I hope you enjoy coming along with me for the renovation ride.

movng.jpg

Secrets of a Successful Loft Conversion

When we first bought our house nine years ago one of the main attractions was the fact that it already had the loft converted saving us the expense and hassle of doing so. Thanks to six big VELUX windows it was flooded with light and had beautiful views out over the blossom trees on our street. However, after living in the space for a couple of years, we came to realise that whilst it was light, bright and spacious, it had about as much character as Keanu Reeves. Sorry Keanu but I have seen beige carpets with more dramatic impact that your performance in The Lake House.

The bright, bright loft conversion was one of the factors that sold our house to us

The bright, bright loft conversion was one of the factors that sold our house to us

Over the last few years we have made a series of changes to the space to de-Keanu it and it is now one of my favourite rooms in the house. So I was delighted when VELUX asked me if I would like to team up with them to share my top five tips for designing a successful and stylish loft conversion. VELUX started out by installing their first roof window in a Danish school house 75 years ago and now sell their products in over 40 countries so working with them is a Scandi dream come true for me!

We have made a series of changes to add character, warmth and texture to it

We have made a series of changes to add character, warmth and texture to it

My favourite of which has to be the addition of a scaffold plank wall

My favourite of which has to be the addition of a scaffold plank wall

I hope my tips will help anyone planning a loft conversion or struggling to inject some character into their existing space to #BeLessKeanu. I have included in my tips advice shared with me by my Instagram followers who have some pretty stunning loft conversions of their own and have some cautionary tales of misplaced internal walls, incorrectly spaced skylights and awful attics!

Tip One: Perfect Your Floorplan

There are essentially three main types of loft conversion: a simple VELUX loft conversion where the roof slope is not altered; a dormer loft conversion which allows for vertical windows and doors; or a mansard loft conversion which is less boxy in appearance than a dormer (although there are multiple possible variations on each design and VELUX windows can easily be combined with mansard and dormer style conversions as well).

Our conversion is a dormer which is a popular choice as it is often the design which best maximises available space and does not, typically, need planning permission. Although click here for more detailed Government Guidance about when planning permission might be required (my inner lawyer is still strong!). If I was to tackle another renovation and convert a loft from scratch I would be tempted to go for a Mansard conversion (budget allowing) as they are less boxy in appearance than a dormer.

Seen here from the outside our loft extension is a dormer conversion

Seen here from the outside our loft extension is a dormer conversion

Once you have decided on the best option for your space start work early on your floor plan and how you will actually use the space. Loft conversions are often full of awkward spaces and getting the most out of them often relies upon embracing and finding clever uses for them. Think, in particular, about how you will use any space under the eaves. Ours was predominantly dedicated to storage but there was a large space tucked around a corner that was left empty in which I originally had my dressing table .

Once I realised that post children I had about as much chance of sitting on Brad Pitt’s lap as I did sitting at a dressing table we converted that corner into a walk in wardrobe which has made much better use of the space. It also allowed us to get rid of a large bulky wardrobe that sat in front of one of the windows blocking the view through to the outside.

Don’t be afraid to change your mind as you go along either. @Sodia _ Haddassi _ Amma shared with me that she would regularly go up and check on her loft as it was being built even if it meant balancing on scaffold boards and as she saw how the space actually looked made several decisions to change internal walls that infuriated her builders at the time but left her much happier with the end result!

Loft conversion with reclaimed scaffold plank wall

Tip Two: Let the Light In

Did you know that according to the World Health Organisation we spend a whopping 70% of our lives indoors? When you have small children and 70% of that 70% is also spent in the company of Mr Tumble that can feel like a long long time! Sunlight is actually a natural anti-depressant so in the absence of it (and in the near constant company of Mr Tumble) it is easy to become glum! It turns out that people need daylight to help control the most basic metabolic processes, just as they need food and water. So getting the design of your loft right in terms of the number, size and position of windows can actually improve your mood, reduce your risk of obesity (although not if you , like me, keep an emergency packet of wotsits by the bed) help you get more restful sleep and boost your immunity to diseases and infections! 

Our bed is position underneath our Velux windows to take advantage of the natural daylight and fresh air

Our bed is position underneath our Velux windows to take advantage of the natural daylight and fresh air

We have six large VELUX roof windows in the front sloping side of our loft and as a general rule you should aim for glazing to take up to 15-20% of your room’s floorspace to maximise the amount of natural light. We have top-hung VELUX roof windows because they open at the bottom making them a within arms reach and gives us a great view out of the windows to the blossom trees beyond.

upload.jpg

@KBro1979 asked what VELUX options are available if your windows are out of reach? Because of your roof height rather than you being the size of a Borrower. Fear not the answer does not involve a trapeze. VELUX has an INTEGRA® range of electric and solar powered windows that open remotely with the touch of a button. They have blinds that can be controlled this way too!

Our windows are within easy reach but it is possible to automated opening systems if yours are a little further up

Our windows are within easy reach but it is possible to automated opening systems if yours are a little further up

The position of your roof windows will likely be dictated by the shape of the roof; for example, a long, shallow room will benefit from windows spaced evenly along its length, whereas a narrow, deeper room might benefit better from fewer larger windows.  However in terms of reaping those sleep enhancing benefits consider positioning your bed close to your windows to soak up as much daylight as possible and speed up your metabolism when you have raided that emergency packet of Wotsits.

Tip Three: Create Character

Some of the loft conversions I love most on Instagram are actually the VELUX rooflight type where the shape of the roof has not been altered and cosy spaces have been created with original features such as exposed brick walls left in place.

The challenge with our dormer was that it felt very much like a new build in the worse sense of those two words. It was spacious and bright but had no distinguishing features and it often felt like we were echoing around in it. I had a couple of attempts at injecting a bit character in using “feature wallpaper” both in the dressing table nook and then also behind our bed to break up the space and create some drama. Whilst Lawrence Lwellyn Bowen may have been proud of my paste and paper efforts it wasn’t until we added the scaffold plank wall behind our bed that the space really started to come together for me. The rough sawn wood creates warmth, texture and character and I would really recommend thinking about how you can bring rougher less “perfect” finishes into your loft conversion. It might be be asking your builder to leave a wall unplastered, or by using brick slips to create the same effect or using lime wash or concrete effect paint but try and get some texture in if you can.

It cost about £250 in materials and labour but the reclaimed scaffold plank is worth every penny

It cost about £250 in materials and labour but the reclaimed scaffold plank is worth every penny

I love how cosy it makes the loft space feel at night

I love how cosy it makes the loft space feel at night

Tip Four: Glaze to Amaze

When our dormer loft conversion was carried out over 10-15 years ago white uPVC doors in dormers were as ubiquitous as Noel Edmonds. Their popularity has since gone the same way as Noel’s TV career and thankfully a host of much more visually pleasing glazing options are now emerging. When we were renovating our loft ensuite we had a little bit of budget left over a decided to say sionara to our uPVC doors, the chunky frames of which obscured our view to the garden beyond. If money had been no object I would have loved to go with either crittall style doors like those in the loft of @FallowGrey or for a sleek sliding door system like in this conversion by Mulroy Architects. 

Replacing the white UpVC doors with a picture window has transformed our loft space

Replacing the white UpVC doors with a picture window has transformed our loft space

I love sitting in this corner looking out over the garden

I love sitting in this corner looking out over the garden

Picture widnow loft.jpg

However we came up with a compromise that overall I am pretty pleased with which was to replace the doors with one large fixed picture window.  The frame is still uPVC but because it is dark grey instead of white it is not as noticeable and to be honest the difference in price didn’t justify going for aluminium on basis probably only I would notice the thinner frames. We retained the smaller opening window to the left hand side so that we still had ventilation and through draft.  The cost of doing this was approximately £1000 including labour which I consider to have been money well spent.

upload.jpg
Yes we did run out of floor paint ……

Yes we did run out of floor paint ……

So when you are planning your loft conversion think really carefully about your glazing options and don’t just go with what builders and loft conversion companies fit as standard.  There lots of still cost effective options out there which offer much better wow factor.

VELUX, for example, have a really cool pop out balcony window product called CABRIO ® which I discovered through this collaboration that I would love to incorporate into any future renovation I take on! When shut it sits flush to the roof like a normal window and when open it pops out to create a mini balcony , have a watch of this little video to see what I mean, is so clever!

A window that can become a balcony!

A window that can become a balcony!

Velux balcony window.JPG

Tip Five: Zone it Like Beckham

Sadly I do not have any pictures for this section of David Beckham reclining in my loft.  The tip I want to pass on here is about how to break up your loft space into mini sections.  Our loft has a fairly large footprint overall at 21sqm but because we are semi detached it is a long but relatively narrow space at 7m by 3m. The challenge is, therefore, how to stop it feeling like a big spacious corridor. We have always had our bed positioned underneath the Velux windows because I love going to bed able to see the stars, lying back listening to the rain falling on them in colder months (and the Summer months based on this June) and opening them up for a breeze on stuffier nights. However the second section of the room originally didn’t really work for us at all. We had a massive double wardrobe on one side and then a double set of chest of drawers on the other side both of which blocked the view out of the back windows and made it feel a bit being inside a storage locker at BIg Yellow Storage.

I added a monochrome gallery wall and armchair to this corner to create a separate sitting area within the room

I added a monochrome gallery wall and armchair to this corner to create a separate sitting area within the room

Loft Conversion Room.jpg
Hopefully this picture gives you a feel for how the space fits together

Hopefully this picture gives you a feel for how the space fits together

I am one picture short of a full gallery wall!

I am one picture short of a full gallery wall!

Loft extension 1.jpg
Ideas for loft conversion velux windows

Making the alcove into a walk in wardrobe meant we were able to get rid of the bulky wardrobe, move the radiator that had been under the window to that wall instead and then put the chest of drawers where the radiator had been (still with me?!) On the side of the room where the chest of drawers used to be I have now created a seating area with a vintage armchair and side table and made this area distinct from the sleeping area by painting it a different colour and adding a gallery wall. It makes it feel as if there are two rooms within a room so if you have a large loft space or large and awkward footprint think about the different ways in which you can use the space and how you can decorate to subtly create different zones.

upload.jpg
Velux Loft windows 2.jpg

So there you have it my five top tips for creating a truly instagrammable loft conversion in collaboration with VELUX as part of my paid partnership with them. Thanks to everyone who shared their loft conversion stories and questions with me to help me write this post.

Creating My Dream Bathroom with Geberit

When I started using Instagram two years ago I wasn’t actually posting pictures of interiors.  Shoes yes, random day trips to National Trust Properties yes, pictures of my pudding yes but interiors no.  The mists of time and mum brain mean I can’t actually pinpoint why I switched from posting cakes to kitchens but I do remember that it was a picture of my bathroom which first got likes other than from my long suffering friends who were probably tempted to block me if I posted another picture of a profiterole by that point.

One of the first shots of my bathroom I ever posted to Instagram. Yes I did like the Valencia filter a lot back in 2016!!

One of the first shots of my bathroom I ever posted to Instagram. Yes I did like the Valencia filter a lot back in 2016!!

Having finally got my head around hashtags a picture of my bathroom was included in a midweek montage for #MyHomeVibe and it turned out that people rather liked the curve of my copper pipe taps and cut of my metro tiles.  And whilst I do feature other rooms in my house on my account (to avoid people feeling like they are trapped in some sort of Suburban Bathroom Groundhog Day) it is always pictures of my bathroom that do the best.  In fact this photo of it, when regrammed by Apartment Therapy garnered over 70K likes and was in the top ten most liked pictures on their feed last year.  Not bad for an e-bay bargain bath and a slightly dodgy 3am paint job.

The picture that got regrammed on Apartment Therapy

The picture that got regrammed on Apartment Therapy

Aside from its Instagram popularity it is also my favourite room in the house because a) it is the only room with a lock (a not to be underrated feature when you have three boys) and b) I am pretty sure I share DNA (and a waistline) with a Walrus in that I could happily spend 23 out of 24hrs submerged in warm water.

Designing My Dream Bathroom With Geberit

So when Geberit got in touch asking if I would like to design and style my dream bathroom using their Xeno²range I didn’t need asking twice.  In fact I don’t think I even needed asking once as I said yes before they had even got to the end of the sentence!  They had me at vanity unit of my choice. 

In case you have not heard of Geberit before they are a Swiss company with a long pedigree in designing and producing innovative, high quality, long lasting bathroom products.  To use a Swiss sporting analogy, they are to bathrooms what Roger Federer is to Tennis: stylish, refined, durable and always ahead of the rest of the pack.  The only difference is they are serving up sanitary ware rather than aces.

A basin and vanity unit from the  Xeno²  range

A basin and vanity unit from the Xeno² range

The crisp, clean design aesthetic of the Xeno² range obviously tickles my Scandinavian sensibilities but what I loved about the brief was the challenge of bringing some of my signature Modern Rustic/Industrial Vintage style into play to create a bathroom which mixes Geberit products with my personality.

My Design

The building blocks of my fantasy bathroom chosen from the Xeno² range were a double vanity unit with built in basin, sleek intelligent sensor mirror, tallboy storage cupboard and a super intelligent AquaClean shower toilet.  Intelligent in the sense of its ability to leave your bits as shiny as a whistle rather than out score Steven Hawking in a Mensa test sense that is. 

The AquaClean Shower Toilet that will save you a trip to Japan

The AquaClean Shower Toilet that will save you a trip to Japan

I don’t know if you have found this but if you talk to friends and family who have visited Japan the number one thing they rave about is not the splendour of the cherry blossoms or the speed of the bullet trains but the technology the Japanese use in their toilets which come with heated seats, varying wash modes and just generally more of a brain than our standard British Bogs.  Thanks to Geberit there is no need to trek to Toyko for your derriere to experience that kind of dream experience. 

More information on all of the products featured in my dream bathroom from the Xeno² bathroom range is available here. 

I actually initially found having totally freedom to design my dream bathroom left me a little stumped!  Not in the sense of having no inspiration but more in that my inspiration cup was overflowing and my mind was boggling at all the possibilities.  To marshall my inner runaway rustic I used Canva to create a mood board for my room.  This really helped me to focus on how everything would look together and create a cohesive vision for the room (without wishing to sound too  Llewelyn Bowen).

Geberit moodboard.jpg
Geberit Moodboard 2.jpg
Geberit moodboard 3.jpg

With my moodboard complete it was time to take things off the page and into the back of a sweaty battered Audi A6 estate and head up the motorway to a photographic studio in Warwick where a bathroom set, photographer, videographer and make up artist with her work cut out were awaiting me!  I was more than a little relieved to arrive without being pulled over by the police as am not sure how I would have gone about explaining the contents of the car to the boys in blue.  Yes officer that is an enormous dried flower cloud in the passenger seat and a rustic Hungarian milking stool you can see gracing the parcel shelf. 

Luckily I was not pulled over with this amount of pampa grass in the passenger seat

Luckily I was not pulled over with this amount of pampa grass in the passenger seat

Having never done anything as exciting as this before I thought it would be fun to share some behind the scenes footage with you from the day so that you can get a feel for what I was up to in a Warwickshire warehouse and to then talk you through the different elements of my dream room.  Spoiler alert soft neutral colours, warm natural textures and materials will feature rather than bright colours, clashing patterns and glitzy metallic finishes!

The Day

What initially threw me when I arrived was the fact that it was not a “bathroom” in the traditional sense that was awaiting me.  It was a bathroom within a roomset (so far so Truman Show) which meant there was no ceiling and half of the room had no walls! The next thing to get my head (and generous eye bags around) was the fact that it would be me as well as my dream bathroom captured on camera because as well as photographing the bathroom, the Geberit team have also made a clever video about my roomset to help you get a better sense of the look.   Click here to take a look at the video

upload.jpg
Eyebag and brow miracles worked ready to roll (looking a little like I am wearing my pyjamas)

Eyebag and brow miracles worked ready to roll (looking a little like I am wearing my pyjamas)

So it was actually quite a busy and buzzy set with a photographer and a great videography team there to capture all the action.

upload.jpg

As someone who has, to date, largely taken pictures on my phone, I learnt so much that day about all the tricks that professional photographers use to get the very best out of a room and space.  The positioning and strength of lighting in particular plays a huge role in how a finished photo looks.  Consequently, it will be a giant light reflecting umbrella and stage lighting rig rather than bubble bath and some new hair straighteners that will be on my Christmas list this year!  I loved seeing the shots come through on the photographer’s computer as we went along. 

upload.jpg
upload.jpg

So having seen glimpses are you now ready to see the end result?  I hope so because here it is!

My Rustic Scandi Dream Bathroom scheme

My Rustic Scandi Dream Bathroom scheme

Creating a Cosy Corner

This may make me strange but I love a bit of company when I am in the bath. Not in the actual bath itself just someone to sit and chat to me in the bathroom as I bathe.  Although my three year old frequently misinterprets this bit and climbs in to join me in the actual bath with a large toy boat/collection of aged flannels/a whole toilet roll.

I loved how this corner worked out with the flower cloud

I loved how this corner worked out with the flower cloud

Having an armchair in my dream bathroom was, therefore, an essential item. The chair of my bathroom dreams is actually from Ikea.  I am a huge fan of their Soderhamn range of seating.  It has simple clean lines and a great price point whilst looking easily more expensive.  It has a lovely wide back and deep seat meaning your companion can be as relaxed on the chair as you are in the bath.  To be honest even if I wasn’t having a bath I would be tempted to sneak in and sit on it curled up with a magazine

Adding Stylish Storage

Whilst the vanity unit and tallboy cupboard from the Xeno² offer great storage (with clever features like soft close doors) I also added in some additional storage options under the sink for stowing away bulkier items like toilet rolls and towels.  To contrast with the sleek lines of the Xeno² unit I chose rougher textures such as wood and rattan to bring some warmth and texture into the room scheme.  One of my favourite places to source baskets like the ones used in these photographs is from French Brand Maisons Du Monde.  The Candian Dry box is a vintage find which I paid £10 for at Ardingly Antiques Market 3 years ago and which I could, in the interim, have sold 10 ten times over for ten times the price.  I cannot, however, bring myself to part with it!  If you are not able to find a vintage equivalent H&M Home often have a great range of vintage style/rustic storage boxes to choose from.

The Canda Dry box that is one of my most prized possessions added great towel storage

The Canda Dry box that is one of my most prized possessions added great towel storage

Lowering the Lighting

It goes without saying that my dream bathroom would feature candles.  In fact that tallboy storage unit would probably be predominantly filled with them.  Scented, unscented, real, battery operated I love them all! My current obsession are these hurricane lanterns from Marks & Spencer which have a lovely limewashed wooden base and speckled glass and create a lovely soft glow when filled with candles.  However, woman cannot read Living Etc by candle light alone so I also added two wall lights into my bathroom scheme from Cox & Cox.  I chose black to add a nod to the industrial into the room and they are, of course, bathroom rated.  They are actually outdoor lights which is a great trick to employ if you are struggling to find bathroom rated indoor light options!

I was really pleased with the industrial edge the black carriage lights added

I was really pleased with the industrial edge the black carriage lights added

The Xeno² Vanity Unit and AquaClean toilet actually also have smart motion sensor lighting built into them as well to prevent you stumbling around in the dark in the morning/middle of the night.

Turning Towels into a Feature

I know a lot of people like their towels to be neither seen or heard (a talking towel would admittedly be rather alarming) but I like mine to become a feature of my bathroom design.  They are a great way to add subtle nods to colour, pattern and texture into a room.  Using a vintage ladder to display them on is also a great way to add some height into your bathroom scheme.  There is a probably a retired builder called Dave laughing all the way to the bank after I purchased his paint splattered step ladders (possibly brought out of the back of his van by mistake/an after thought) at a car boot a couple of months ago.  The selection of towels I have featured are all from HM Home. 

H&M Home have some great towels this season including this linen striped one

H&M Home have some great towels this season including this linen striped one

Elsewhere in the bathroom I have also added soft texture and a touch of hygge in with shaggy sheepskins on the floor and bench.

 All Hail the Humble Tooth Mug

When I first met Mr Malmo he was using an aged Sheffield Wednesday Mug with a fading picture of Chris Waddle on as a toothmug.  It took me four years and two house moves to finally give Waddle the red card from our bathroom and replace him with something more Scandi than Sheffield themed.  The moral of this tale is that small details can actually make all the difference to a room and there is no reason why practical things cannot also be beautiful ones.  With this in mind, I sourced a handmade tooth mug and soap dish in earthy colours from the ceramics range stocked by socially minded small business Aerende Store.  For display rather than practical purposes I also mixed in some vintage bottles I have amassed over the years as well as some new favourite vases from the Nordic inspired range at Marks & Spencer so that I had a range of different sizes, textures and colours.

Vintage and new ceramics adding some texture to the basin area

Vintage and new ceramics adding some texture to the basin area

The basin upon which they are resting from the Xeno² range is actually made from a super soft matt material called Varicor which I have never come across before but would happily now enter into a long term relationship with. 

In Praise of [dried] Plants

I have a confession to make which may make me an insta outcast by the time you finish reading this blog: I don’t really like houseplants.  Yes they have carbon dioxide absorbing life enhancing benefits to having them around but my ability to reduce a monstera to mulch in less than a month means I just don’t dig them.  However I am not an all round nature hater in my home, I do still like to bring the outdoors in and embrace plant life I just prefer, in the bathroom, for it to be in dried rather than semi biodegraded form. I think the 1970s kinda gave dried flowers a bad rap.  Pot Pourri has a lot to answer for. But the last 12 months has seen them having a major resurgence and no-one is happier about this than me.  They add soft texture, natural colours and a bit of drama to the bathroom, require zero maintenance and need never be thrown away.  I used them in two ways in my dream bathroom design.  Soft wavy pampas grass to soften the wall the toilet was hung on and then in a super size flower cloud in my cosy corner. 

www.malmoandmoss.com (5).png
geberit bathroom styling 8.JPG

The cloud is actually much easier to recreate than you might think, you just need a floristry oasis wreath (easily obtainable on Amazon) and then a selection of dried grasses and flowers.  Mine was made for me by Your London Florist and they use a mix of grasses and then dried hydrangea heads and roses to add in some (subtle) colour and drama.

Wall Art and the Wall Hung Toilet

I don’t know about you but I grew up in a house that had both a separate toilet (in a room no bigger than your average glovebox) and the cistern proudly on show.  With space now at a premium that sanitary set up is increasingly uncommon (I say this based on a survey of my friends houses rather than backed by official census data on the bathrooms of Britain).  With a toilet now more likely to be featured in the bathroom itself, the looks of your loo have become more important.  Geberit were actually one of the first companies to introduce and champion the wall hung loo in the UK:  stoying away cisterns and making flush plates a thing to covet not conceal.  When I visited their showroom in Warwick recently I was gob smacked by the range of flush plate options they offer.  My dream bathroom features one hewn from slate that looked completely unobtrusive and part of the general rustic theme.  Another great way to blend your toilet into your room scheme is to add art to the wall on which it is hung so people have something that draws their eye other than just the WC. 

www.malmoandmoss.com (2).png

So there you have it the bathroom of my dreams.  Hope it has provided you with inspiration for how to style your own Rustic/Scandi bathroom paradise and how to use the Xeno² bathroom range as part of that dream. 

One Bathroom Two Ways

If you fancy seeing how the colour loving Yin to my neutral décor Yang got on with the same challenge then head over to Come Down To the Woods Blog by clicking here.  Her dream is definitely different to mine but I still found myself seduced when I saw it.  She certainly has a way with wallpaper and I don’t mind admitting that I was tempted to nip up the motorway to Leeds and purloin the Tom Dixon marble bathroom lights she included in her scheme. 

Come down to the woods.jpg

There is also a line in her blog that made me laugh about imagining me wafting around with sheepskins, dried hydrangeas and hamman towels as I would say a solid 40 minutes of the day were spent with me either fluffing a sheepskin, positioning a hamman towel or handling a hydrangea.  You know me too well Woods….

upload.jpg

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the work I have been doing as part of my long term paid partnership with Geberit.  It has been so much fun so far (in fact I kind of feel a fraud calling it work!) and I have more exciting content to share with you later this year so watch this space!

Best Places To Stay UK: The Fife Coast

Do you ever get stuck in a holiday rut where you end up packing your suitcase to head back to the same places over and over again? When it comes to UK staycations we have fallen into the habit of heading South-West in search of Cornish beaches, cream teas and the opportunity to potentially spot Poldark indulging in some topless farming. However this Easter we headed North rather than South of the border after a chance conversation with my Sister lead me to discovering a secret the Scots have been keeping under their Sporrans: the East Neuk of Fife. This stretch of coast between Leven and St Andrews is where well heeled Edinburghers come to spend their Summers drawn by the miles of sandy beaches, gorgeous little fishing villages and some of the best food and drink in Scotland.

Beautiful Elie our base for the holiday

Beautiful Elie our base for the holiday

The harbour in Pittenweem

The harbour in Pittenweem

Granted you may have more chance of spotting Gordon Brown paddling in the sea with his trousers rolled up than Poldark tending a field with his top off but that is pretty much the only drawback of visiting this beautiful part of the world. We travelled up from London by train (which takes about 4.5hrs) and then hired a minibus from Edinburgh for the final hour or so of the journey. Before you start thinking that I am a secret mormon with enough children to fill a bus I should point out we were travelling with friends so there were 12 of us in total. I would highly recommend getting the train as the stretch of the journey north of Morpeth runs alongside the sea and includes coastal views stunning enough to cause kids to look up look up from their I Pads.

Ruby Bay beach in Elie which our holiday house led directly out onto

Ruby Bay beach in Elie which our holiday house led directly out onto

Where We Stayed

There are four or five different places to choose from as a base on this stretch of coast. St Monan’s, Elie, Anstruther, Crail, Pitenweem and St Andrews itself are all charming.  We chose Elie after I lucked out and found a stunning contemporary house right on the beach.  For all of you who asked for the link  click here.  Midrock House sleeps up to 12 and has a wonderful open plan layout downstairs with floor to ceiling windows to take advantage of the stunning views out over the beach. 

The entrance to Midrock House with bags of coastal kerb appeal

The entrance to Midrock House with bags of coastal kerb appeal

The design of the house maximised its stunning coastal location

The design of the house maximised its stunning coastal location

The back of the house and the path down onto the beach

The back of the house and the path down onto the beach

This side of the house has a bedroom with 4 beds for kids and a separate living space and TV to keep them entertained

This side of the house has a bedroom with 4 beds for kids and a separate living space and TV to keep them entertained

There are polished concrete floors throughout, an open plan kitchen/diner, five double bedrooms, three bathrooms, three living rooms, a utility and boot room. Everything is built around the stunning views which in the Winter you can enjoy snuggled up inside in front of the beast of a log burner.

I loved the concrete seating bench which also housed a woodburner

I loved the concrete seating bench which also housed a woodburner

Plenty of room on the sofa for six

Plenty of room on the sofa for six

We lit the woodburner one of the colder nights and cosied up watching the sea as the sun went down

We lit the woodburner one of the colder nights and cosied up watching the sea as the sun went down

There is an amazingly well equipped kitchen at the centre of the living space that had every pot and pan you could ever desire and then there is a gorgoeus (and enormous) vintage farmhouse style table for dining at. This is positioned to take full advantage of the views and in the Summer there is an outdoor seating area on the terrace that runs the width of the house that is steps from the beach.

There is a huge island in the centre of the kitchen which makes it a really sociable space

There is a huge island in the centre of the kitchen which makes it a really sociable space

We easily fitted all 12 of us around the vintage farmhouse style table

We easily fitted all 12 of us around the vintage farmhouse style table

The open plan living/dining space. There is a further seating area with TV beyond the wall behind the table

The open plan living/dining space. There is a further seating area with TV beyond the wall behind the table

When the sun was shining you could open up the doors and eat outside on the terrace

When the sun was shining you could open up the doors and eat outside on the terrace

Upstairs the bedrooms have been designed to take full advantage of the view. The decor is fresh, white and neutral but huge picture windows flood the rooms with light and offer an outlook over the bay and beyond. I can’t tell you how soothing it is to fall asleep at night with the blinking light of a lighthouse reflecting at you over the sea. There is almost an annex/separate wing of the house that is designed as a cool kids crash pad with four single beds and a separate living space with its own tv.

One of the bedrooms with views of a lighthouse

One of the bedrooms with views of a lighthouse

Another bedroom which had an enormous picture window running the width of the room

Another bedroom which had an enormous picture window running the width of the room

Five things to see and do

Exploring Elie

We chose Elie as our base mainly because the house just completely bowled me over but when we got there I realised it was actually a great choice for a number of other reasons as well.  If you come out of Midrock House and turn right you come to the huge, flat main beach and, most importantly, The Ship Inn.  This lovely pub has great interiors that have just the right amount of nod to the nautical and is the place to eat in Elie.  The menu majors on amazing locally caught seafood and they have just added a new outdoor Gin Bar for 2019 which means that you can sit outside, drink in hand watching the sun go down whilst the kids play happily on the beach just metres from you. 

The famous  Ship Inn  which was just 3 mins from the house

The famous Ship Inn which was just 3 mins from the house

The house itself looks over the second beach which is the more sheltered Ruby Bay (so called because garnet stones have been known to be found on the beach). And beyond Ruby Bay you can follow the coast around to the lighthouse and explore a ruined temple. For the more adventourous (who do not have a toddler hell bent on throwing himself in the sea) there is the Elie Chain walk. We didn’t do it because of aforementioned toddler but is basically a bit like coasteering but with chains to help you navigate the rocks.

We loved doing the walk around to the lighthouse from the house

We loved doing the walk around to the lighthouse from the house

Even if it was a little windy

Even if it was a little windy

There is also the option of further exploring the coast on the Elie Chain Walk

There is also the option of further exploring the coast on the Elie Chain Walk

upload.jpg

The Bowhouse Market

Ten minutes up the coast from Midrock House is the Bowhouse.  A monthly food and craft market in a super cool converted agricultural building that gathers together some of the best local food and drink producers and adds in some great local designers and makers so that you can chow down on a freshly baked Creme Egg Brownie whilst perusing locally made ceramics and jewellery.  There is a brilliant atmosphere with lots of great stalls.  The are big communal wooden tables to sit, live music and some great food demonstrations.  It is an absolute must visit

I loved the concrete planter in the entrance to the market

I loved the concrete planter in the entrance to the market

Just some of the great stalls to peruse

Just some of the great stalls to peruse

I loved this jewellery stall

I loved this jewellery stall

There is a great and lively bar area

There is a great and lively bar area

And a separate barn with huge communal wooden tables and more great food trucks

And a separate barn with huge communal wooden tables and more great food trucks

When at a farmers market dress like a footballing farmer?!

When at a farmers market dress like a footballing farmer?!

St Andrews

Hands up anyone born between 1983 - 1986 who considered popping St Andrews on their University application form to have a go at #WinningaWindsor.  Prince WIlliam is long gone but this great little town is definetely still worth visiting.  It has great beaches, oodles of lovely architecture, golf if you are that way inclined but most importantly of all in Janettas potentially the best ice cream parlour I have ever visited (and I am a veteran #parlourpurveyor). 

upload.jpg

Scotland’s Hidden Bun ker

Whilst the Fife Coast is Scotland’s sunniest spot this is still Scotland so you will get the odd overcast/rainy day.  In which case this place is defo fun to visit.  Declassified in the 90s it turns out that in a non descript field in the middle of nowhere there is in fact a huge underground bunker built to withstand a nuclear attack from which the cold war was being fought.  Well I say fought, it mainly seemed to involved lots of men looking at maps and practising their morse code every now and again.  If you are used to London Museums where the cafe is part of the attraction you may want to adjust your expectations before visiting though as the err facilities are more of the formica table and vending machine than avocado on toast and filament bulb variety.  Although the vending machine did sell Wham bars which I am pretty sure may have been outlawed some time around 2003 on account of their e-number account but which I would still happily lose a tooth to eat.

upload.jpg
The err retro cafe which looks like it is still trapped in the Cold War era

The err retro cafe which looks like it is still trapped in the Cold War era

Young secret agents in the making

Young secret agents in the making

Craigtoun Country Park

If you are, like us, in possession of kids who seem to share their DNA make up with Labradors and thus require exercising everyday in wide open spaces then Craigtoun Country Park is great.  It is about 30 mins from the house and great to combine with a trip to St Andrews.  There are loads of different adventure playgrounds and activities to choose from as well as the park itself being rather beautiful and it is the number 1 visitor attraction in Fife for good reason

A couple of soft southerners struggling with the Scottish breeze at Craigtoun Park

A couple of soft southerners struggling with the Scottish breeze at Craigtoun Park

Anstruther

There are lots of lovely villages to explore on this stretch of coast with lovely fishing harbours, sandy beaches and pastel and sand coloured houses but Anstruther might just edge prize of the prettiest.  It has some nice indepdent shops and an award winning fish and chip shop (the Anstruther Fish Bar) right in the beach to round off your visit. 

upload.jpg

Best Places to Eat and Drink

I should probably caveat this heading as best places to eat and drink if you have kids with you who have a maximum restaurant concentration time of 25 mins.  Any meal that takes long than that to arrive  and be eaten usually ends in carnage so unfortunately I am not able to offer my review of some of the more fine dining establishments ( Seafood Restaurant and Craig Millar @ 16 West End  both look amazing).  However the beauty of this stretch of coast is that there are loads of great farmshops so even if you are not eating in restaurants you can still fill you tum with fabulous food.  One of the best is Adross Farmshop and it is just five mins from Midrock House.  Here is my round up of my favourite places we chowed down

Cocoa Tree in Pitenweem

It doesn’t look very promising from the outside and the decor does have a slight feel of Mystic Meg’s dressing room but this is the best place for a Hot Chocolate for miles around.  It is part chocolate shop part cafe run by the Pitenweem Chocolate Company so you are guaranteed an amazing chocolate experience.  They have a stove in the winter that creates a cosy feel and a sheltered courtyard garden to enjoy in the Summer and the owners were extremely friendly and accomodating of our party which included 6 kids between us.  Pitenweem itself has a lovely little fish harbour and pretty pastel houses and buildings.

The pretty streets of Pittenweem

The pretty streets of Pittenweem

I loved the pastel coloured houses

I loved the pastel coloured houses

upload.jpg
The perfect place for a hot chocolate

The perfect place for a hot chocolate

The Cheesy Toast Shack

Mr Malmo tends to take a back seat when it comes to our holiday planning but every now and again he comes up with a gem out of the blue that makes me think he would make a very good substitute #ModernRusticJudith Chalmers were I to retire.  The Cheesy Toast Shack is one such gem.  A chance read of a Jay Rayner review in the Observer led 20 of the best minutes of my life sat in a steamy mini bus looking out to sea whilst eating a macaroni cheese filled toasted sandwich which may have furred my arteries but was worth every ounce of cholesterol.  I cannot recommend this place highly enough.  No pretty flat lay for you of this one just a full frontal shot of the melted cheese magic.

Best cheese sandwiches in Scotland

Best cheese sandwiches in Scotland

Sex in a sandwich

Sex in a sandwich

The Ship Inn

I have mentioned it already but I am going to mention it again because we had such a great meal here.  If budget had allowed I would happily have eaten here every day of our stay.  Seriously amazing food in a lovely relaxed atmosphere.  In the Summer the Ship Inn also organises beach cricket tournaments with a barbeque. No pressure but they have been known to attract ex professional cricketers from the West Indies so make sure to pack your cricket A game.

upload.jpg
The upstairs dining room with great views of the beach

The upstairs dining room with great views of the beach

The Millhouse Pizza Company

Whilst the Bowhouse market that I mentioned is only on once a month, there is a permenant woodfired pizza restaurant in the same building that is open 6 days a week and serves up the most delicious pizzas in a gorgeous beamed ceiling space.  They also do coffee and cake if you are not in the mood for pizza (if that is even possible).

upload.jpg
upload.jpg

So there you have it my round up of the best of the Fife Coast. I would put this in out top 5 holidays of all time. I loved it that much and we are already planning a return trip next year having spotted these amazing looking Cath Penny Safari Lodges just outside Elie.  We also added a night in Edinburgh into the mix on the way back which I would highly recommend. Although I would probably not recommend climbing Arthur's Seat with a toddler who (within 1 minute of starting the ascent loses all of the power in his leg batteries).

No leg batteries but a big smile at least

No leg batteries but a big smile at least

Creating the Perfect Floorplan for Family Living

We bought our current house nine years ago. We came to view it when I had just found out I was pregnant with our eldest son and we were living in a one bedroom flat at the time. Having put the (trouser) horse before the house cart there was a certain degree of urgency to our search. We had seen a number of other properties and all were either out of our budget or in budget but with rooms that only a hamster would describe as spacious. After 5 minutes looking around we decided to put an offer in because, to quote Clint Eastwood in ‘Bridges Over Madison County’ ', this kind of certainty comes but once in a lifetime. Or put another way, within 5 minutes of a viewing when you encounter a house that has four genuinely double bedrooms.

One of the four double bedrooms (by human not hamster standards)

One of the four double bedrooms (by human not hamster standards)

The previous owners did have a penchant for painting rooms sanitary pad purple but shades of Always Ultra aside it was in the kind of condition where you could move straight in. The loft had already been converted so we had all the bedroom space we needed. The two most obvious “big jobs” that needed doing were an update of the bathrooms and a reconfiguration of the downstairs space to create a more open plan kitchen diner.

One of the selling points of the house was the fact that the loft had already been converted saving us a big job

One of the selling points of the house was the fact that the loft had already been converted saving us a big job

The Victorians may have given us the railways and the Royal Albert Hall but they did not bestow generously sized kitchens upon us. When we moved in we had the fairly classic Victorian lay out of a long narrow kitchen which some dude in the 1980s had then latched a conservatory on the back of. Getting out into the garden was like a challenge on the Cystal Maze involving having to shoulder barge a cheap UPVC door that often swelled shut. With son number 2 on the way we drew up plans to get rid of the conservatory and replace it with a proper extension. In an ideal world we would have liked to extend the kitchen to the side but Enfield council have an enormously annoying policy that prevents this unless your neighbours are doing it at the same time. GIven we had trouble persuading our then neighbours not to call each other mother f’ckers within earshot of our kids it was safe to say they weren’t the kind of people who would obligingly whack up an extension to their kitchen for us.

We replaced the previously unsightly 1980s conservatory with a contemporary extension at the back of the house

We replaced the previously unsightly 1980s conservatory with a contemporary extension at the back of the house

The extended kitchen diner

The extended kitchen diner

That meant we had to extend outwards at the back rather than to the side. We replaced the conservatory with a proper extension so that this space became part of the house instead of a room that you only went in during the summer if you were trying to recuperate from hyperthermia and therefore needed to sit somewhere the same temperature as Mars. We also knocked the wall down between the kitchen and the “dining room” to get more light into the kitchen and create more of an open plan layout. Those changes brought us to our current floor plan which is below.

The current floor plan of our house. It is what I think estate agents would describe as deceptively spacious

The current floor plan of our house. It is what I think estate agents would describe as deceptively spacious

As you can see we have a separate front room and then one big L shaped open plan room which is used as kitchen diner and second, less formal familiy living space. This is where the kids watch TV, cover every surface in butter or banana and have their toys. Whilst the changes we have made (including adding a downstairs loo under the stairs) have radically improved how this house works for us as a family, there is one missing room which I can’t stop hankering for: a utility.

The utility room of my dreams in the home of @thislittlehouse

The utility room of my dreams in the home of @thislittlehouse

That’s right, my greatest desire these days is not to lick Nutella off Brad Pitt but to possess a room in which to process my laundry and store the hoover. Although obviously the dream would be to lick Nutella off Brad in said utility room and be able to pop his Hazelnut covered smalls straight in the washer dryer afterwards. I want to reclaim the spare room from the drying rack which is almost permanently erected in it trying to keep pace with the volumes of pants, school shirts and football kits that having three sons generates.

@hornsby_style is another one of my #UtilityIdols

@hornsby_style is another one of my #UtilityIdols

Mr Malmo is unsurprisingly not as obsessed with creating a #placetoputapulley but luckily I know an interior designer with an architecture background or two (ok just one but a really bad ass one) who was willing to play around with some floorplans for me to work out how we might be able to squeeze one in. The interior deisgner in question is the wonderful Rebecca Wakefield of Studio Fortnum who has built up an instagram following of over 20,000 people who love her signature stylish, calm and unpretentious interiors as much as I do. She came up with four layouts for me which explore different potential locations for a utility.

One of  Rebecca’s  interior design projects

One of Rebecca’s interior design projects

Now I want this sitting room as well as a utility room

Now I want this sitting room as well as a utility room

As a person who struggles to visualize anything unless it is right in front of me, having floorplans to look at was an amazing way to get to grips with the changes we would need to make to fit a utility in and the impact it would have on how we currently use the space. It rapidly became apparent (looking at Option 3 for example) that if we squeezed one in without also extending the kitchen space to the side, we would be left with a significantly reduced second living space. However whilst we now have neighbours who are much less likely to call each other MoFos and are also open to a mutual side return situation, it would still be a fairly major investment to gain the utility of my dreams.

The four floorplans the amazing  Rebecca Wakefield  drew up for me

The four floorplans the amazing Rebecca Wakefield drew up for me

Of the three remaining options (all of which assume a side extension) I think my favourite is Option 4 as it gives the biggest /best layout of utility. But I do worry that we would still be sacrificing quite a bit of the space where the sofa currently sits in the living room and that it might potentially make that room feel cramped. A completely different plan which would preserve all of our current living space and potentially work out cheaper than adding a side return, would be to build a garden room at the end of the garden and relocate the washer dryer out there. But perhaps that is a discussion for a different blog

In the proposed layouts, the utility would be to the right of the partition doors so we would lose some of the space where the sofa sits.

In the proposed layouts, the utility would be to the right of the partition doors so we would lose some of the space where the sofa sits.

The view from the kitchen would be rather different

The view from the kitchen would be rather different

Whilst we continue to mull it over I would love to know what you guys think? Do you have a utility room, do you understand my laundry room lust? If it were your house which one of the options would you go for? Or do you think pursuinh my utility dreams would compromise the space we have? Would love to know your thoughts! In the meantime thank you so much to the layout legend that is Rebecca Wakefield . If you have your own interior dilemma or project I cannot recommend Studio Fortnum enough.

Recipe for the perfect Easter Cake

I have always been a keen baker.  My attempted journey from hopeless to Hollywood (Paul) started age 11, baking batches of cheese scones for my family.  They were obliged to force them down and make encouraging noises despite them being chemically indistinguishable from glue.  The arrival of kids of my own meant new forays into the world of cakes and the production of several buttercream heavy creations that no one of sound mind or steady hand would recreate.    Cakes of Infamy (which by the way would make a great name for a board game) include an Octonauts cake that looked like I was trying to recreate “The One Where Kwazi Kitten Falls Into A Volcano And Gets Melted” and a Fireman Sam cake where I had to resort to printing out a picture of Fireman Sam to stick on top of the cake after my attempt to render him from fondant icing left him looking like it was him who needed to call the emergency services.

Read More

5 Steps to Finding Your Dream Job: The Story of My Career Switch

In 2012 I had a job as a Senior Associate in one of the top five law firms in the UK, advising a host of multinational companies on high profile environmental law matters.   I had an impressive shiny office in the heart of Spitalfields Market, my own PA and a six figure salary that meant I could comfortably afford to shop in Whistles during my lunch break, go on nice holidays and invest in a pension.  But I was miserable. I had returned to work after having my first son and was regularly leaving the office at 5:30pm, picking him up, putting him to bed and then logging on to do another 4 or 5 hours work on corporate deals which left me feeling that I was making little or no difference to the world my son would grow up in.   My boss was a nice guy but wanted someone who could be in the office day and night if he needed them and he flatly refused to entertain the idea of me working from home even one day a week in case it “ set a precedent”. 

Read More

How to grow your Instagram (without also losing your mind): The Crafty Fox

There is one school of thought which says that to succeed on Instagram you should never talk about politics, your marriage, your sex life, your job or the sleep depriving sanity depleting business that can be raising small children. As you have probably noticed by now I don’t really subscribe to that school of thought, although I am sure there is merit in it. I have probably broken all of those rules at some point over the last 2 years bar the politics one (although major hint I rather gouge my eyeballs out with a spoon than #GiveItToGove or put a tick in Bojo’s ballot box). I never started out on Instagram with a game plan (bar staving off middle of the night breast feeding boredom) treating it more like a journal which, for a good 6 months almost no-one bar me was reading. I just wrote about my life warts (foraged dog piss blow job sticks) and all. I found that if you share something with people beyond your thoughts on the weather (it certainly has been a very mild February btw) then they tend, in turn, to share things back and to then look forward to reading your posts and chatting with you.

Introducing the  Crafty Foxes . Victoria has grown her Instagram to nearly 80K followers in the last two years

Introducing the Crafty Foxes. Victoria has grown her Instagram to nearly 80K followers in the last two years

So for this blog series I wanted to chat to a fellow Instagram Convention Bucker (who regularly combines pictures of her cushions with chat about her massive areolas) to inspire you to find your own voice and dare be a little bit different on Instagram. Whether that is by sharing a secret passion for stamp collecting or, like Victoria, bemoaning your husband’s flatulence and the smell of his balls after a night on the beers. So without further ado, here are the thoughts of @thecraftyfox.uk on ‘How to grow on your Instagram (without also losing your mind)’.

Victoria’s  living room, currently the most popular room on her feed

Victoria’s living room, currently the most popular room on her feed

The arrival of this rather delicious green sofa has been an  Instagram  pleaser

The arrival of this rather delicious green sofa has been an Instagram pleaser

Introducing the Crafty Fox

I kicked off my chat with Vic by asking her to tell me a little bit about herself and why she first started using Instagram. Despite worrying that her response would, in her own, words, make her “sound like a twat” this is what she had to say.

“I'm a 36 year old Londoner, Mum to Oliver (age - prime bellend) with a bun in the oven and  a milky cup size of 36 EE and rising. Married to Rob, ex-rock star (he went on tour once) now a rather jaded cyber security wizz and living in the deepest darkest depths of East London (not the cool gentrified bit). I started my Instagram account on maternity leave as a means of numbing the boredom and loneliness of looking after a newborn. It saved my sanity.”

This was the room in  Vic’s house  that I first fell in love with. She had me at hello with her pink bath.

This was the room in Vic’s house that I first fell in love with. She had me at hello with her pink bath.

I love that Vic is honest about her  home’s  real life imperfections in her posts like the fact that they ran out of money when revamping this room so the lights over the bathroom basin are not actually wired in

I love that Vic is honest about her home’s real life imperfections in her posts like the fact that they ran out of money when revamping this room so the lights over the bathroom basin are not actually wired in

I couldn’t upload the fanny cannon video that garnered Vic 7K new followers so I am having to make do with a hand emerging from the bath instead of confetti from her clunge instead

I couldn’t upload the fanny cannon video that garnered Vic 7K new followers so I am having to make do with a hand emerging from the bath instead of confetti from her clunge instead

Pink freestanding rolltop bath reflected in a vintage mirror above a vanity unit

“I've always loved interiors and have been a serial decorator since I first experimented with stencilling in my bedroom circa 1996. Changing rooms have a lot to answer for. I didn't really have any ambition or aim with Instagram when I started, it was just a distraction and as I was at home a lot anyway, sharing my house seemed like the natural focus.” 

Before the arrival of the green sofa downstairs it was Vic’s upstairs people were most interested in, with her bedroom frequently attracting thousands of likes

Before the arrival of the green sofa downstairs it was Vic’s upstairs people were most interested in, with her bedroom frequently attracting thousands of likes

Vic is way more colourful than me in her interiors (in the sense that she uses colour whereas I have to lie down if I chose anything in a more vibrant tone than taupe) but I still love her style

Vic is way more colourful than me in her interiors (in the sense that she uses colour whereas I have to lie down if I chose anything in a more vibrant tone than taupe) but I still love her style

I love how she has painted the walls dark in her bedroom and then uses her bedding to bring the colour in

I love how she has painted the walls dark in her bedroom and then uses her bedding to bring the colour in

The Crafty Fox’s Top Tips for Instagram Success

I asked Vic whether she was and overnight sensation or a slowburn success on the gram to which she replied “I had reached 30K by the end of my first year using insta so I don't know where that places me?! It's weird because there hasn't really been one point where I've thought, wow, this is it now. It's consistently grown - although the biggest most noticeable shift in numbers happened when I shared my fanny confetti cannon and I gained 7K followers in about three days”.

I wanted to know the three things that Vic thinks have contributed most to her growth on the gram (bar the fanny connon). She summed it up shortly and sweetly as: good pictures, banging captions and a massive dose of luck. She has some strong money shots (not all involving confetti shooting out of her clunge) that she uses consistently on her feed and which have helped her account to grown. Her bed (flatulent husband and all) has always done well but has now been usurped by the arrival of a rather eye catching and instagram pleasing green velvet sofa downstairs. Vic is not sure why that has proved such a big hit beyond that the fact that it is it's green and it's velvet 

I think of this room as iconic Crafty Fox and love that Vic has got a whole host of vintage items with a story in her home

I think of this room as iconic Crafty Fox and love that Vic has got a whole host of vintage items with a story in her home

Dining Room with vintage style pendant lighting

Trusting your instincts when it comes to brand collaborations is one lesson Vic has learnt after working with one brand whose products were, in retrospect, more expensive than things she would be able to buy in real life and didn’t feel like an authentic fit to her home and lifestyle. They were also really prescriptive when it came to what could be in the captions ( no references to bums, burps or bellends allowed) which, in Vic’s words made her sound “like a PR twat”. However it has been a helpful experience ultimately because “it's taught me to be more cautious about who I work with and to also make it explicitly clear that I will maintain my voice, even in an ad”.

Vic thakes all of her pictures on one of those wizzy Chinese phones that are £300 cheaper than an I Phone and which kncok ten years off you with a whizzy potrait mode

Vic thakes all of her pictures on one of those wizzy Chinese phones that are £300 cheaper than an I Phone and which kncok ten years off you with a whizzy potrait mode

Vic has also been an early adopter of video stories (her cooking ones are my particular fave) which she says “wasn’t a conscious strategy for Instagram growth more a reflection of the fact that I clearly like the sound of my own voice. In all seriousness, I just think having a regular presence on there helps people to stay engaged with your account. I love both stories & feed for different reasons but stories are definitely freer. I like that they're reactionary too - so I can respond to something in the moment and it feels genuine”.

Vic’s  kitchen with an eyecatching tiled floor

Vic’s kitchen with an eyecatching tiled floor

Kitchen with chalkboard wall and pink door

Whilst she craft’s a mean caption, she also takes a mean photograph with a clearly recognisable look and feel to her pictures. She started off taking them with a Canon 5D but when that became “a ballache transferring the pics to a laptop and back” she “fucked it off and invested in a Huawei Pro 10 instead. Yeah, I'm probably being monitored by the Chinese government but it takes a banging photo. I use snapseed to edit and that's it”

Living room with cosy throws

How to grow your gram without losing your mind

Having grown her account to nearly 80 K in just under two years you might assume that all has been plain sailing for the Crafty Fox but Vic reveals that “I fall out of love with it every couple of months with lulls in engagement that everyone experiences which can make you feel pretty shitty and question the point of it. However, she gets through these by keeping things in perspective and focusing on other things when it’s getting her down. She has had the occasional troll which is never nice but her take on that is that “you just have to remember to take it on the chin and try to remember that trolls are basically massive cunts”.

Club Tropicana in  Vic’s pantry , one of her favourite campaign’s she has worked on so far for E Bay

Club Tropicana in Vic’s pantry, one of her favourite campaign’s she has worked on so far for E Bay

When it comes to algorithm angst her advice is likewise short, sweet (and potentially a little bit salty) saying “Take some time off, don’t take it too seriously and if all else fails have a wank.” When it comes to working with brands, hold on to your sanity and your authenticity by picking brands that you would genuinely use and can afford and don’t let them squish out your personality or make you go “full advertising dick wad”. For Vic, working with E-Bay on a tropical revamp of her pantry was the perfect collab or her hook up with Modern Rugs who didn’t blink an eye when she ended each of her three posts with a fanny rug gag.

This is one of my favourite corners of Crafty Fox HQ

This is one of my favourite corners of Crafty Fox HQ

upload.jpg

So there you have it, @thecraftfox.uk recipe for Instagram success which, in a nutshell she sums up as “find your own voice, don’t let fear hold you back and if in doubt talk about bumholes.” When I asked her what is next for her account she shared that she would, ideally, like to be able to rely on her Instagram to create an income that would allow her to drop down to working part time. That would allow her pursue her longer term dream of writing for a living. Maybe when she is on maternity leave this time round she will have the chance to come up with something that will top the fanny canon, send her beef flaps viral and allow her hand in her P45. I, for one, look forward to seeing what the Crafty Fox has in store for us in the future. Thanks so much for chatting to me Vic.

Creating a Rustic, Romantic Retreat At Home

I have a confession to make……I like Valentines Day!  I realise that probably puts me in an exclusive club of which only me, Barbara Cartland (RIP Babs) and Dolly Parton are members but I can’t help it.  I love a bit of regulated romance.  Don’t get me wrong, I totally agree with the V-Day haters when they say that romance should be about little acts of love all year round rather than the emphasis falling on one day.  But the reality is, when you both have jobs and 3 kids to parent, you are more likely to be reciting daily sonnets about whose turn it is to take the bins out than comparing each other to a summer’s day. However, whilst I like Valentines Day,  I am not really a massive fan of going out somewhere to celebrate.  Mainly because it is extremely difficult to find a teenage babysitter who is willing to give up an evening snogging her Enfield equivalent of Justin Bieber to look after our boys for the night.  So i thought I would share some inspiration for creating a rustic romantic retreat at home instead, with lots of tips that you can put into action at anytime of the year.

Creating romance at home 365 days of the year

Creating romance at home 365 days of the year

upload.jpg

Cupid Loves to Cook

They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.  Well the way to this woman’s heart is by creating an amazing flower cloud installation “Signe Bay” style over the dining table.  This amazing creation, setting the scene for romance chez Malmo & Moss this February, was the work of the super talented Your London Florist.  The base is a ball of chicken wire suspended by a couple of hooks drilled into the ceiling.  The main elements of “The Cloud” are magnolia branches, natural foliage and dried flowers which means that this is a cloud which doesn’t have to blow away after the 14th of February.  It can stay on and be adapted for Easter, spring and beyond.  I also love that Your London Florist used tulips and roses in it which were older and might otherwise have gone to waste because they are perfect for turning the petals out on to create this great trumpet shape.

Saying I love you with a flower cloud created by the super talented  Your London Florist

Saying I love you with a flower cloud created by the super talented Your London Florist

Adding some sort pinks and greens to the kitchen with roses on the table and my favourite plates from Wonki Ware.

Adding some sort pinks and greens to the kitchen with roses on the table and my favourite plates from Wonki Ware.

One romantic table scape ready to roll

One romantic table scape ready to roll

If you are staying in for Valentines Day and have lost the number for the local Chinese then, having set your tablescape, can I suggest that you try wooing your man/woman with my favourite “I am trying to impress you by cooking something more tricksy than a Chicken Kiev” menu.  I always find that when I try and cook three courses simultaneously either 1) we end up eating at 11:47pm after I burn and have to recook at least one of the courses or 2) I forget to include a critical element of one of the dishes and it is usually the one that gives it flavour/a consistency that is not like gruel.  With  that in mind I am going to recommend ditching a starter in favour of popping open a tub of Pringles and focusing instead on the main course which is a Lorraine Pascale’s Roast Beef with Parma ham wrapped green beans .  It is almost impossible to fuck up (unless you have to clean up an overflowing potty incident shortly after putting it in the oven and forget to set a timer).

Table ready to receive Lorraine Pascale's roast beef with Parma ham wrapped green beans.

Table ready to receive Lorraine Pascale's roast beef with Parma ham wrapped green beans.

upload.jpg

For pudding why not try my go-to easy pudding: Gingernut, Lemon Curd and Blackberry Cheesecakes.  You can make them in advance to reduce the amount of courses you have to juggle.  It is my own creation so I will have to describe how to make it rather than linking you to a recipe so bear with me.

Ingredients

1/2 packet of Gingernuts, 20g Butter, I jar of Lemon Curd, 1 tub of Creme Fraiche, 2 Tablespoons of Icing Sugar, 2 Handfuls of Blackberries, Mint to Garnish.

Method

Put the gingernuts in a bag and pound to pieces with a rolling pin. Melt the butter in a pan and then add the gingerbread crumbs, stir until the crumbs start to come together.  Take off the heat and pat the crumbs into the base of a glass tumbler.  Then spoon lemon curd in to cover the biscuit base.  Stir the incing sugar into the creme fraiche and then spoon on top of the lemon curd before adding the blackberries on top.  Pop into the fridge to chill and set.  Get them out of the fridge about an hour before you are ready to eat them otherwise the biscuit base tends to be even more impenetrable than Hilda Ogden’s knickers. 

I love the colour combination of the green, pinks and soft grey added by napkins gifted to me by  Chalk Pink Linen

I love the colour combination of the green, pinks and soft grey added by napkins gifted to me by Chalk Pink Linen

upload.jpg
Eucalyptus down the centre of the table makes an inexpensive and lovely smelling garland

Eucalyptus down the centre of the table makes an inexpensive and lovely smelling garland

Romance in the Rolltop

Hands up anyone who has a husband who actually enjoys a relaxing bubble bath? It is my go-to way to unwind but on the rare occasions when I have been able to persuade Mr Malmo to join me he has looked about as relaxed as a man about to partake in a threesome with Toyah Wilcox and Dot Cotton and constantly fretted about the water temperature burning his balls.  He would, in his own words, rather go to a Simply Red concert and plait Mick Hucknall’s hair than slip into a bubble bath.  However, I personally enjoy nothing more than romancing myself in the bathroom (that is not a euphemism for masturbation by the way) by lighting all the candles sprinkling some rose petals in and pouring myself a glass of proseco.

upload.jpg

The bathroom ready for romance rose petals and all

upload.jpg

Our bathroom used to be a whole lot less romantic as, when we moved in, it was a third smaller and host to a very tired bathroom suite and some tiles decorated in a range of tile stickers that even Laurence Llewellyn Bowen would refuse to put his name to. We lived with it like that for a couple of years whilst we concentrated on renovating downstairs and then saved up enough to make it bigger by stealing a bit of space from the spare bedroom. That allowed us to separate the shower out from the bath and invest in the roll top of my dreams. I say invest but it is actually my best ever e-bay bargain at £25. It came with silver taps but I asked my builder to have a go at recreating some copper ones I had seen in a kitchen in Living Etc which just involved some copper piping and a bit of clever welding. The dark paint on the walls is Dulux Bowler Hat and the wall and floor tiles were both inexpensively sourced from Walls & Floors Ltd. It is definitely a far more romantic place to linger now

upload.jpg

The copper taps that were made by my builder after I saw and fell in love with some in Living Etc

The bath is one of my best ever E-Bay bargains at £25

The bath is one of my best ever E-Bay bargains at £25

If you are with me on enjoying a bit of tubtime then why not try my playlist for romance this Valentines to listen to whilst you are having a soak.

1. Extreme: More Than Words

2. The National: I Need My Girl

3. Radiohead: No Surprises

4. Cat Power: Wild is the Wind

5. Michael Kwanaka: Home

6.  Jeff Buckley: You Should Have Come Over

7. The Beatles: Blackbird

8.  Lana Del Rey: Video Games

9. Lauryn Hill: Can’t Take My Eyes Off You

10. Bon Iver: Skinny Lover 

Hope you enjoy my romantic playlist. If you have a favourite love song you think I should add to it tell me in the comments below

Hope you enjoy my romantic playlist. If you have a favourite love song you think I should add to it tell me in the comments below

Let’s Take This Upstairs

Whilst I may not have much luck getting Mr Malmo in the bath it is, unsurprisngly, much easier to persuade him to join me in the bedroom.  To be honest, as parents of three young boys, it is usually just to sleep and we are more often than not also joined by a Pre School Camilla Parker Bowles at some point in the night.  But regardless of the omnipresence of a junior third wheel, I still love my bedroom so much after it’s rustic makeover (read about that here) that it is my favourite place to retreat to in the house. 

My haven in the house: our bedroom

My haven in the house: our bedroom

Ready for romance with fairy lights and candles

Ready for romance with fairy lights and candles

This Valentines Day I may have upped the romance factor a notch or two by adding a gorgeous rustic wreath above the bed created by Your London Florist.  If you fancy having a go at recreating, then source some bendy type twigs, some sprigs of your favourite natural foliage (eucalyptus is mine) and make them into a roughly circular shape and secure with floristry wire. I always think it is nice to leave some sprigs and twigs loose for a wilder feel.  I am really enjoying using dried flowers at the moment because it means you can create things which last longer than a week and won’t drop petals on you as you sleep.  Your London Florist used some lovely dried grasses in this one which they had sprayed a pale pink.

Upping the romance factor with a rustic wreath

Upping the romance factor with a rustic wreath

I love that it can be adapted to last beyond Valentines Day

I love that it can be adapted to last beyond Valentines Day

upload.jpg

If you don’t fancy a rustic wreath above your bed (because you are worried about suffering a #ModernRusticConcussion if it drops on you during the night) then why not add romance with lots of cosy sheepskins, candles and fairylights instead. Or still have flowers but maybe just a smaller posy style arrangement in a jam jar or similar by the bed.

Sheepskins add romance and a touch of a Game of Thrones feel to the bedroom floor

Sheepskins add romance and a touch of a Game of Thrones feel to the bedroom floor

upload.jpg
upload.jpg

Rather unromantically I have been letting Mr Malmo read a lot of porn at bedtime lately.,….Cabin Porn that is. Our big project for 2019 is installing a garden room/cabin at the end of the garden so I have been buying him lots of rustic outhouse and shed inspo books to get his creative and carpentry juices flowing. Although ultimately I think this is a job which may prove slightly beyond his joinery paygrade. If you have built your own garden room or have sourced one from somewhere else that cost less than a small terraced house I would love to know about it.

His stash of (cabin) Porn over on his side of the bed

His stash of (cabin) Porn over on his side of the bed

upload.jpg

So there you have it, my recipe for creating romance with your interiors.  May 2019 bring you lots of love and, in my case, the #ScandiShed of my dreams.  Many thanks to Your London Florist for collaborating with me on this blog post by gifting their services and the beautiful flowers.

Dedicating this post to Mr Malmo the long suffering, bubble bath hating love of my life

Dedicating this post to Mr Malmo the long suffering, bubble bath hating love of my life

How I Transformed My Hallway With An Affordable Alternative to Crittall

When people ask us if we can ever see ourselves moving house, Mr Malmo and I often give contrary answers. He is very much “Remain” on the basis that moving involves a) spending money and b) the very real risk of me “losing” in any move i) his collection of Sheffield Wednesday Programmes dating back to 1989 and ii) the maroon sweatshirt he loves but which I think makes him look like a cross between a teenager on day release from Borstal and a Songs of Praise presenter. My answer is also “Remain” but with the caveat that I would instantly trigger Article 50 and leave for a house with a double width hallway like this.

The spacious hallway of my dreams. Picture credit  www.livingetc.com

The spacious hallway of my dreams. Picture credit www.livingetc.com

I have this yearning for double width because our house is semi-detached and the hallway is an L Shape. You can’t see the stairs when you first come in the house as they are located in the middle of the house. If that makes about as much sense as inviting Jim Davidson to be the keynote speaker at a vegan mindfulness seminar then hopefully the two photos below will clarify what I mean.

The hallway as you come in the front door

The hallway as you come in the front door

The view looking backwards towards the front door. With the stairs in the middle of the house to the right

The view looking backwards towards the front door. With the stairs in the middle of the house to the right

When we first moved in the hallway was dark, narrow and a bit damp (which I realise sounds a bit like a tagline for a vaginal deodorant). My first tactic to brighten it up was by painting both the walls and floors in a lighter colour. From memory the colour I chose was Farrow & Ball’s Slipper Satin although I could be suffering from a bad case of middle class amnesia and getting my Slipper Satins and Wimborne Whites mixed up.

The hallway after my initial attempts to brighten it up by painting the walls and floors in Slipper Satin

The hallway after my initial attempts to brighten it up by painting the walls and floors in Slipper Satin

This definitely helped to bounce more light around the space but there is only so much Slipper Satin can achieve when your only source of natural light is a window on to a side alley and you have to contend with the shadows cast by the army of anoraks that come with having three boys (and a husband with a penchant for a Liam Gallagher mac). I started dreaming of a more radical solution to the problem involving replacing the wall between the hall and dining room with a crittal partition like this.

Crittal doors in the hallway of House Curious (Picture credit  www.livingetc.com  )

Crittal doors in the hallway of House Curious (Picture credit www.livingetc.com )

However, after getting a couple of quotes, I started to realise I had crittal dreams on a cornflake budget. They were coming it at around £7-10K for doors to fill a 2 x 3 metre space. It was actually Kevin my quotes guy (who had come round to price up making the opening for the doors) who came up with the idea of installing timber panelled doors instead of crittal ones. A quick Pinterest later and I realised this was a compromise I could live with. Compared to crittal the price of having bespoke timber doors made was just £2K (with the labour for knocking the wall through and making the opening about £1.5K ).

These timber doors from Plain English (pic credit  www.remodelista.com ) made me realise that there was life after crittal!

These timber doors from Plain English (pic credit www.remodelista.com) made me realise that there was life after crittal!

This is what the space looked like just before “Project Partition” began. Although it was to be hastily renamed “Project Opening” after realising the former sounded less like a plan to remove a wall and more like Hitler’s code name for his plans to annex the Sudetenland. Project Opening admittedly did have slight working title of a 1970s porno connotations but it at least had less #annexationovertones.

The view from the kitchen before “Project Partition” commenced

The view from the kitchen before “Project Partition” commenced

The night before work commenced on taking out the wall and putting the doors in

The night before work commenced on taking out the wall and putting the doors in

The builders took the wall down in stages and I have to confess that I nearly called the whole thing off after they took the plaster off the wall and left me alone with the exposed brick wall of my dreams for a night. #BareBrickBradPitt as it became known even scooped me the honours in #myhomevibe after the addition of some festive pom poms and illuminated Noel letters around Christmas time. But just like Angelina Jolie, I ultimately waved Brad goodbye with the rest of the wall being knock down and temporary supports being put in place.

For one night only: #BareBrickBradPitt in all his glory

For one night only: #BareBrickBradPitt in all his glory

It’s totally normal to decorate your building supports in the style of a Winter Wonderland right?

It’s totally normal to decorate your building supports in the style of a Winter Wonderland right?

The builders had originally thought that it might be necessary to put a steel in above the doors as it is a load bearing wall but it turned out there was already a timber beam in place that did the job which saved us a bit of money. After the opening had been made good, the bespoke doors were installed unpainted.

The unpainted doors installed and waiting for me to decide on a paint colour

The unpainted doors installed and waiting for me to decide on a paint colour

Only one of the doors opens (the furthest to the left if you are looking at them with the front door behind you) but it has hinges that mean it can be folded right back. If I was to go back in time I think I would have opted for them to be concertina doors so that we could have the option to fold all three of them all the way back. However, that is but a minor quibble because with the doors in place we now have a view straight through the house out to the garden when we open the front door and there is so much more light in the hallway.

This door folds right back but the other two are fixed in place.

This door folds right back but the other two are fixed in place.

After much deliberation about what colour the doors should be I ultimately decided to go for a really dark colour and chose Charcoal from the Valspar paint range at B&Q (not an ad!). I am really happy with that choice now but I like the fact that because they are timber I can change the paint colour to change the feel of the room in future if I wanted to. (something I couldn’t do if there were crittal!).

The finished doors in Charcoal paint by Valspar. I wanted to them to look crittal-esque which is why I went dark with the paint colour

The finished doors in Charcoal paint by Valspar. I wanted to them to look crittal-esque which is why I went dark with the paint colour

A lovely spot to hang out pretending to read an interiors book.

A lovely spot to hang out pretending to read an interiors book.

Having the doors in place lets lots more light into the hallway from this room

Having the doors in place lets lots more light into the hallway from this room

I love the new view from the kitchen with doors in

I love the new view from the kitchen with doors in

upload.jpg

The other big change we made at the same time as installing the doors was to replace the original floorboards with a tiled floor instead. Whilst I love wooden floors there were lots of gaps in ours so that in winter it was like being on the set of “Whistle Down the Wind”. I was really torn as to whether to go for a statement Victorian style floor with some colour in it (inspired by the picture below from Living Etc) or something more muted.

The tiles I spotted in Living Etc (Pic Credit www.balancemedesign.com) which for a brief moment tempted me to go for something bold in the hallway

The tiles I spotted in Living Etc (Pic Credit www.balancemedesign.com) which for a brief moment tempted me to go for something bold in the hallway

Ultimately I chose a monochrome design from Mosaic del Sur which at about £900 came in about £4000 cheaper than the Victorian tile option! They have proved pretty hard wearing so far. We don’t clean them with any special products (perhaps mistakenly so!) and they actually show up mud much less than the wooden floors they replaced. Every now and again I have a pang and wonder if I actually ought to have gone for polished concrete floors but that is a project for a different house me thinks, maybe one with that double width hallway that makes me trigger my Article 50

I am really happy with my ultimate choice of monochrome encaustic tiles from  Mosaic del Sur .. Sheepskin placed there entirely for instagram purposes…

I am really happy with my ultimate choice of monochrome encaustic tiles from Mosaic del Sur.. Sheepskin placed there entirely for instagram purposes…

They are a good balance between a modern and traditional tile

They are a good balance between a modern and traditional tile

Final hallway picture
upload.jpg

The next step in our hallway renovation is to tackle the stairs and bannisters. The sisal carpet we laid after a couple of years suffered a horrendous middle class atrocity when it had a tester pot of Annie Sloane Chalk Paint thrown down it by our toddler. Let’s just say Sloane and Sisal don’t mix. What I would actually like to do is to replace the Jackson Pollock carpet with a runner, painting the stairs and banister at the same time. The current banister is the kind of shade of mahogany that David Dickinson turns after 5 weeks on the Costa Brava so I am desperate tone it down or potentially paint it dark but even thinking about the amount of sanding required to get that project going makes me feel tired so, for now, it is on the back burner.

David Dickinson banister is on my 2019 hitlist as in the #SloaneOnSisalShitShow you can see on the stairs!

David Dickinson banister is on my 2019 hitlist as in the #SloaneOnSisalShitShow you can see on the stairs!

Hopefully this view will include the carpet runner of my dreams once I have found the motivation to sand down and repaint 30 plus stairs

Hopefully this view will include the carpet runner of my dreams once I have found the motivation to sand down and repaint 30 plus stairs

But for now I am just going to enjoy hanging around here holding an impractical hat

But for now I am just going to enjoy hanging around here holding an impractical hat

Thanks for reading all about my hallway overhaul hope it inspires you to see that you can achieve a crittall look on a cornflake budget afterall!

upload.jpg

A Weekend at Eden Hall Cottage, Norfolk

Does anyone remember the TV programme ‘Challenge Anneka’?  The basic premise was that Anneka Rice (sporting a blue jumpsuit that made her look like an errant Kwik Fit employee) had 48hrs to complete a seemingly impossible task like reintroducing an obscure species of Owl to the UK or persuading Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen to wear beige.  It sadly disappeared from our screens some time around 1994 but I think the BBC should bring the show back and set Anneka a new challenge. Find a holiday cottage near the coast in the UK that sleeps 10-12 people (without anyone having to sleep in a drawer) with interior’s that don’t look like the inside of your Auntie Pat’s conservatory all for less than £5000 a week.  I suspect it would make reintroducing that obscure owl look like child’s play.  But fear not Anneka, I’ve got this one.  In my little black book of holiday cottages is a place that ticks all of those boxes and more: Eden Hall Cottage.

The gorgeous back porch of  Eden Hall Cottage  which is a traditional flint cottage on the North Norfolk coast

The gorgeous back porch of Eden Hall Cottage which is a traditional flint cottage on the North Norfolk coast

About the Cottage

The cottage is located on the North Norfolk Coast on the so-called secret side (i.e. the stretch that is not overrun with men called Tarquin down from London for the weekend who are partial to red trousers).  Eden Hall’s owners are Vicky and Chris White.  If I tell you that Vicky is the founder of the beautiful home and lifestyle brand Plum & Ashby you will start to appreciate that this is going to be a pretty special place.

Edenhall as it looked when Vicky and Chris first went to view it

Edenhall as it looked when Vicky and Chris first went to view it

Vicky, Chris and their dog Bertie live in Olney (Bedfordshire) but have always been regular visitors to the Norfolk coast.  They got engaged there and, in 2015, they started to look for a property they could turn into the coastal holiday home of their dreams.  After two years of searching and several close misses, in November 2017 (on their shared birthday) they went to view Eden Hall Cottage and fell in love. 

upload.jpg

The Renovation

It took some vision to see it’s potential as a beautiful beach bolthole because it was, at the time, completely run down with rats in residence and a random toilet in the middle of the drive.  However they were able to look past the loo and having secured the property, brought an architect on board to help them restore it to it’s former glory. Their ambitious goal was to have the property ready for its first visitors by the summer of 2018.   

The inside of the property had seen better days but the potential was easy to see

The inside of the property had seen better days but the potential was easy to see

Some gorgeous period features were still shining through the gloom

Some gorgeous period features were still shining through the gloom

Having hired a team of local builders following a tender process, their first step was to strip the property back to it’s bare bones (including taking out and replacing all of the upstairs floors the joists of which turned out to be rotten).  This is what the cottage looked like when I first popped round “Kevin McCLoud” style at the start of their renovation journey.

The upstairs landing and staircase. The entire upper floor had to be removed as part of the renovation and replaced after the joists were found to be rotten

The upstairs landing and staircase. The entire upper floor had to be removed as part of the renovation and replaced after the joists were found to be rotten

upload.jpg
Vicky and Chris kept and restored the original brick fireplace

Vicky and Chris kept and restored the original brick fireplace

The Interiors

By the time Malmo McCloud returned to stay as one of their first guests in October 2018, it was virtually unrecognisable.  With the renovation complete, the cottage has five double bedrooms (three of which are ensuite), a stunning kitchen diner with vaulted ceilings, a relaxed sitting room with open fire, a family bathroom with a gorgeous cast iron roll top bath and a boot room and separate utility.  There is a lovely secluded patio garden at the front and a large lawned area at the back (perfect for letting our pack of lad labradors off the leash). 

Vicky battled her builders to have vaulted ceilings in the kitchen/dining space that is at the heart of the house

Vicky battled her builders to have vaulted ceilings in the kitchen/dining space that is at the heart of the house

The rowing oars are a subtle nod to the cottage’s coastal location

The rowing oars are a subtle nod to the cottage’s coastal location

The family bathroom blends contemporary and vintage features with a huge rolltop bath to relax in

The family bathroom blends contemporary and vintage features with a huge rolltop bath to relax in

Vicky said that her aim for the interiors was to create an English take on an American beach house and it is a triumph of Nantucket come to Norfolk.  The walls are painted in a pallet of clean minimal neutral colours which act as the perfect backdrop to some seriously luxurious furnishings from brands such as Neptune, Rowen & Wren, Also Home and the White Company.  There is not a jaunty anchor or whimsical shell in sight. 

The relaxed sitting room is at the front of the house and opens on to a secluded patio courtyard garden

The relaxed sitting room is at the front of the house and opens on to a secluded patio courtyard garden

upload.jpg
upload.jpg

The star of the show has to be the duck egg blue Humphrey Munson kitchen which is at the heart of the house and fabulously well equipped.  I loved the way that Vicky and Chris had chosen to leave sections of the original flint walls exposed in the kitchen to provide a rustic contrast to the contemporary units. 

The Humphrey Munson kitchen Vicky chose in duck egg blue works perfectly with the flint walls left exposed

The Humphrey Munson kitchen Vicky chose in duck egg blue works perfectly with the flint walls left exposed

The perfect shelfie

The perfect shelfie

Those flint walls

Those flint walls

Marble worktops and brass taps add a vintage edge to the

Marble worktops and brass taps add a vintage edge to the

We stayed at the house as a group of ten (with 5 friends rather than 5 children I have previously failed to mention in case you are wondering).  The layout of the cottage is perfect for groups of friends or families..  Upstairs are two generous double bedrooms (one of which is ensuite) and a further single with bunk beds and some lovely touches for children staying like a minature teddy version of Bertie the dog. Upstairs is also host to the family bathroom of dreams which has Georgian style panelled walls, a huge roll top bath and gorgeous brass taps. The bath products are all from Plum & Ashby’s beautiful range made in the UK.

The upstairs ensuite bedroom with gorgeous striped headboard and exposed wooden beams

The upstairs ensuite bedroom with gorgeous striped headboard and exposed wooden beams

I have this thing with the amazing honeycomb tiles on the floor in the ensuite

I have this thing with the amazing honeycomb tiles on the floor in the ensuite

upload.jpg
The second upstairs double bedroom which is a great size

The second upstairs double bedroom which is a great size

The family bathroom with fabulous Georgian style pannelling

The family bathroom with fabulous Georgian style pannelling

The lovely single bedroom complete with bunk beds and lots of thoughtful touches for junior guests

The lovely single bedroom complete with bunk beds and lots of thoughtful touches for junior guests

I love that Vicky and Chris were able to keep the original window frames

I love that Vicky and Chris were able to keep the original window frames

Downstairs are two further double bedrooms both of which are ensuite.  This layout meant that those in our party with kids could sleep upstairs whilst those without occupied the bedrooms downstairs so that they were spared a 7:30am wake up by the Octonauts/Fireman Sam/Mr Tumble emptying his spotty bag.

One of the downstairs double bedrooms. I love the panelling painted in a lucious dark green

One of the downstairs double bedrooms. I love the panelling painted in a lucious dark green

Pinstripe cushions from Also Home up the comfort levels in all the bedrooms

Pinstripe cushions from Also Home up the comfort levels in all the bedrooms

The bedrooms are all beautiful but the one to fight over is definitely the master suite off the kitchen which has both a four poster bed and roll top bath of it’s own.  It is set off the kitchen/diner and is like a mini hotel in it’s own right. I loved the vintage boathouse sign that hangs above the doorway to this room adding a nod to the coast.

Prepare to duke it out for who gets to sleep in the stunning master bedroom

Prepare to duke it out for who gets to sleep in the stunning master bedroom

The four poster bed of my dreams from the White Company in the master bedroom

The four poster bed of my dreams from the White Company in the master bedroom

upload.jpg
A peek into the ensuite which has a roll top bath of it’s own

A peek into the ensuite which has a roll top bath of it’s own

And a shower to with marble metro tiles

And a shower to with marble metro tiles

We all then enjoyed big communal breakfasts together with papers around the huge kitchen table which can easily seat 12.  Bacton, where the cottage is based has a small local shop which stocks all of your bread/milk/Sunday papers essentials. Though it is not the kind of the place where you will be able to source artisan pate or gluten free granola so maybe stock up in advance if those things are your daily essentials.

upload.jpg
upload.jpg
upload.jpg

Evenings were spent slobbed out on the two huge comfy sofas in front of the fire. The zinc coffee table is truly a sight to behold, I am pretty sure that it may be bigger than one of our bedrooms at home. If you have been out taking the sea air during the day then coming back and running a bubble bath in the stunning main bathroom of an evening is also to be recommended.

The living room with open fire and that zinc coffee table!

The living room with open fire and that zinc coffee table!

I love all of the subtle nods to coastal decor that Vicky has included in the cottage without it ever feeling beach themed

I love all of the subtle nods to coastal decor that Vicky has included in the cottage without it ever feeling beach themed

Settle down on one of the two huge sofas and enjoy a film

Settle down on one of the two huge sofas and enjoy a film

The kind of bath you want to linger in with Plum & Ashby products on tap

The kind of bath you want to linger in with Plum & Ashby products on tap

upload.jpg

The Surrounding Area

If you can bring yourself to leave the comfort of the house then there are two stunning (and nearly deserted) beaches close by.  The one at Carts Gap has a little café and Happisburgh boasts a Lighthouse and an excellent playground.

The seafront in Bacton on a slightly stormy day

The seafront in Bacton on a slightly stormy day

The lighthouse at Happisburgh which is just ten minutes drive from the house

The lighthouse at Happisburgh which is just ten minutes drive from the house

Bacton woods close to the house offer excellent dog walking/Gruffalo hunting opportunities and if you are in need of a National Trust top up then Felbrigg Hall is just 10 minutes away.  The delights of the rest of the North Norfolk coast are also within easy reach with Holt (a lovely Georgian market town) just twenty minutes drive and beyond that gems including Wells on Sea, Blakney, Stiffkey, Holkham and more.

The harbour in Blakeney a lovely place to visit about an hours drive from the cottage

The harbour in Blakeney a lovely place to visit about an hours drive from the cottage

upload.jpg
HUge open skies and miles of sand on Holkham beach

HUge open skies and miles of sand on Holkham beach

Disclosure 5 minutes after this idyllic mother and son photo was taken he did an emergency poo in a sand dune

Disclosure 5 minutes after this idyllic mother and son photo was taken he did an emergency poo in a sand dune

We enjoyed a delicious pub lunch at The Victoria at Holkham and then a run on the vast and beautiful beach.  We also called in at Stiffkey Stores for a coffee and spot of modern rustic interiors shopping.  The kids loved a) the cabins for sitting in outside and b) the excellent selection of sweets for less than 50p on offer. I should also mention that the Gunton Arms (rated in the Top 50 places for a pub lunch by [    ]) is also just ten minutes away from the house.  Be sure to reserve a table well in advance of your stay though as it gets really booked up!

The  Victoria Inn  at Holkham where we enjoyed a delicious pub lunch

The Victoria Inn at Holkham where we enjoyed a delicious pub lunch

Stepping inside  Stiffkey Stores  in like stepping into my Modern Rustic paradise

Stepping inside Stiffkey Stores in like stepping into my Modern Rustic paradise

Some of the beautiful displays in  Stiffkey Stores

Some of the beautiful displays in Stiffkey Stores

So Anneka hang your jumpsuit back up and return to presenting the Sunday Morning Sizzle on Radio Colchester as this is one challenge I have solved without your helicopter even having to leave Broadcasting House.  If you would like to book a stay at Edenhall Cottage click here you can also follow the cottage on instagram here. We were lucky enough to be guests of Vicky and Chris when we stayed but at less than £2000 for a stay even at the height of peak season it is a complete bargain compared to anything I have found of similar size/quality anywhere else in the UK!

*We did not pay for our stay at Eden Hall but I was not asked to produce any content in return for our stay. I am writing up our stay for the blog because it is genuinely one of the nicest places I have ever stayed and I wanted to share it with you *

My Living Room Makeover Plans

Do you have a room or area of your house that is off limits for Instagram? Without wishing to sound too Joseph Fritzl, our “hidden room” is our dining room. I call it the dining room because 8 years ago when we first moved in (and prior to doing the kitchen extension) this is where our kitchen table used to be. Once the extension was complete we moved the table to the bottom end of the kitchen, opened up the wall between the kitchen and this room and made it into a second living room. Confused?

This side of the room often pops up on Instagram as it features one of my favourite additions to the house: these faux crittal doors

This side of the room often pops up on Instagram as it features one of my favourite additions to the house: these faux crittal doors

The kitchen table which has been relocated to the new extension

The kitchen table which has been relocated to the new extension

I want to say I will artfully sketch you a floor plan in charcoal so you can see how it all fits together but unfortunately I have drawing skills that are on a par with those of a worm drunk on tequila so I am hoping that these next photos will help to make things a bit clearer!

The kitchen used to be accessed by a narrow door to the left of this picture. Knocking out more of the wall and shifting the entrance has allowed lots more light into the “dining room”

The kitchen used to be accessed by a narrow door to the left of this picture. Knocking out more of the wall and shifting the entrance has allowed lots more light into the “dining room”

Opening the artist formerly known as the dining room to the kitchen has made a huge difference to our family life and we use it lots as a relaxed family living room but this space very rarely graces the grid for the following reasons:

1) It is home to a toy storage unit which regularly belches out brightly coloured plastic objects and which can only be moved with the assistance of a small crane or Hulk Hogan

upload.jpg
Thanks to Hulk Hogan for popping round and helping me move it for the purposes of this blog. The whimsical rustic ladder was all Hulk’s idea.

Thanks to Hulk Hogan for popping round and helping me move it for the purposes of this blog. The whimsical rustic ladder was all Hulk’s idea.

2) There is a 1980s radiator stranded behind the sofa shitting on every shot with it’s Soviet Era bad looks (although it does come in incredibly handy for resting a mug of tea on). In all seriousness as well limiting my insta possibilities it’s current location means it is mainly heating the back of the sofa rather then us.

upload.jpg
My temporary radiator cover up solution!

My temporary radiator cover up solution!

3) The kids treat the sofa as both a trampoline and dinner table meaning it looks like the kind of two piece suite you often find in a mini cab office that has been sat on by 27,876 15 stone men called Keith eating kebabs whilst waiting for a cab.

But I have some plans for this space which may see it making more of an appearance on Instagram in 2019 which I thought I would share with you here (mainly to give myself a kick up the arse to get on with them)

The sofa in all of it’s banana and butter stained glory

The sofa in all of it’s banana and butter stained glory

Hoping that my mum isn’t reading this blog as I know she will be telling me off for having my shoes on the sofa!

Hoping that my mum isn’t reading this blog as I know she will be telling me off for having my shoes on the sofa!

Step One: Re-positioning the Shits On Every Shot Radiator

This is 95% because all of the heat it emits gets lost behind the sofa and 5% because it limits my insta possibilities in it’s current position (ok maybe more like 75%/25% but still…). Kevin my quotes guy has been round to suss out alternative positions and assures me it can fairly easily be removed from this wall and a new vertical column radiator positioned on the wall leading to the kitchen instead. I haven’t mentioned this plan to Mr Malmo yet on the basis that it involves taking floorboards up and he will probably therefore receive it as warmly as an invitation to set his own pubic hair on fire. There were some murmurings from Kevin about BTUs (which I believe relates to heat output rather than the currency of Moldova) which may slightly restrict the choice of radiator I can go for but I am thinking of either a white or light grey one so that it is not too noticeable in it’s new location.

upload.jpg
The re positioned radiator will go on the wall to the right in this picture

The re positioned radiator will go on the wall to the right in this picture

Step Two: Pimp My Wall Rustic Industrial Style

With the radiator shot cock block out of the way I am planning on making the wall behind the sofa more of a feature wall. Not in the Lawrence Lwellyn Bowen flocked wall paper sense obviously. It will not surprise you to learn that I have a more rustic/industrial plan up my sleeve. I currently have three of these gorgeous old Brooklyn ceiling tiles on the wall but I now want to go large and cover the whole wall with them. I know that you can now get wall paper with them printed on but I really want the texture and feel of the real deal. My inspiration comes from Baileys Home and Garden where they have done this to stunning effect. Nailing 50 of them to the wall should be simple right? If in the big room reveal it actually turns out to be a feature wall of LLB’s new satin flocked wallpaper you will know that it has turned out to be anything but.

Ceiling tiles on the bar at Baileys Home and Garden as captured by @kinshipcreative_dc

Ceiling tiles on the bar at Baileys Home and Garden as captured by @kinshipcreative_dc

I picked up three of these beautiful Brooklyn ceiling tiles at Sunbury antiques fair a couple of years ago.

I picked up three of these beautiful Brooklyn ceiling tiles at Sunbury antiques fair a couple of years ago.

Only need to find another 49 of them now…..

Only need to find another 49 of them now…..

Step Three: Saying Goodbye to the Seatdrop Sofa

There is a school of thought that says that we should hang on to the minicab office sofa until the boys are of an age when they are able to eat a banana without nearby surfaces ending up looking like they have a bad case of fruit based thrush. However, I am going with a different more visually pleasing school of thought that says that if we have the corner sofa of my dreams in a smoky grey velvet they will love it so much that eschew their previous #badbananamanners. Has anyone else combined velvet soft furnishings and three boys without having to take a Valium anytime they go near it?

Trying to demonstrate to the boys that the sofa is for sitting pretending to read a coffee table interiors book on rather than trampolining

Trying to demonstrate to the boys that the sofa is for sitting pretending to read a coffee table interiors book on rather than trampolining

upload.jpg

Step Four: Trimming down the Toy Storage and Creating a Magazine Library

We are currently in the midst of a lengthy rearrangement and redecoration of the boys bedrooms which make building the Taj Mahal look like a quick project. Once that is complete I am hoping to relocate the current toy storage holder upstairs and replace it with something that belches plastic less frequently (ideas on a postcard please!). I would then love to add some more picture shelves to this wall to display some of my abundant collection of interiors mags because what woman doesn’t love to get her Kinfolk out for the lads? Although do you think that having more picture shelves might be too much with the wall of many rustic tiles as well?

This stunning shot from the home of @bloggabis is inspiration for my picture ledge extension

This stunning shot from the home of @bloggabis is inspiration for my picture ledge extension

The wall to the left is where I am envisaging the additional picture shelves going

The wall to the left is where I am envisaging the additional picture shelves going

But do you think it will be too much with my rustic tile feature wall as well?

But do you think it will be too much with my rustic tile feature wall as well?

Modern Scandinavian kitchen diner

So there you have it my Living Room makeover plans for 2019.  Apologies for the slightly analogue presentation of them.  Learning how to create a digital mood board is one of my life goals for 2019 after I have nailed more regular (by which I mean more frequently than twice yearly) maintenance of my bikini line and the art of loading the dishwasher so that it doesn’t look like it has been done by Gazza upon returning home from a night on the lash.

 

Five ways to grow your Instagram (without also losing your mind)

My Instagram Journey So Far

I started idly dipping my toe into Instagram in late 2016.  I was on maternity leave with my third son and looking for something to help pass the time that didn’t revolve around the contents of Mr Tumble’s spotty bag. I have never really been one for Mumsnet.  I can’t get over the feeling that it is slightly wrong to be discussing baby poo with strangers online so I thought I would try out Instagram instead.  I never set out with a grand plan, goals or a strategy.  It was just me sharing pictures of my bathroom and finding, to my surprise, a community of fellow interiors fans who liked the cut of my rolltop bath and shared a love of metro tiles and blow job gags.

The very first instagram post of my bathroom, complete with metro tiles, copper taps and a dodgy instagram filter!

The very first instagram post of my bathroom, complete with metro tiles, copper taps and a dodgy instagram filter!

Since posting that first murky shot of my bathroom 2 years ago I have gained 80K followers, had my pictures regrammed on some of my all time favourite Instagram accounts such as Apartment Therapy, seen my home featured in My House Beautiful and 91 Magazine, collaborated with some of my favourite interiors brands and been lucky enough to go on trips to and write about some amazing places including Malmo (my spiritual Scandi home).

The beautiful street of Torekov in Southern Sweden, which I was lucky enough to visit this year as a guest of Visit Sweden in the UK and Malmo Town

The beautiful street of Torekov in Southern Sweden, which I was lucky enough to visit this year as a guest of Visit Sweden in the UK and Malmo Town

Instagram has opened up many amazing opportunities for me. Including the opportunity for Malmo to go to Malmo!

Instagram has opened up many amazing opportunities for me. Including the opportunity for Malmo to go to Malmo!

upload.jpg

In the last 9 months I have also started, for the first time, to earn money from my Instagram and blog. Not the kind of money that enables me to make Ryan Gosling an ‘Indecent Proposal’ he would actually accept (although Ryan if I have misjudged this and you would in fact be my Demi Moore for £20 and a Grab Bag of Roast Beef Monster Munch call me).  But the kind of money that means that my dad no longer tells me to stop wanking over pictures of other people’s cushions (not literally I stress).

Picture from a recent collaboration with Visa to promote the local high street and independent businesses at Christmas

Picture from a recent collaboration with Visa to promote the local high street and independent businesses at Christmas

However, I have also discovered that whilst Instagram can build you up it can also knock you right back down again and, in the grip of algorithm angst, it can become easy to lose sight of why you started using the app in the first place.  So finding myself with five minutes free when no-one is asking me to wipe their bottom (I have told Mr Malmo he really need to start doing his own) I thought I would share with you five lessons I learnt in 2018 about how to grow your Instagram without losing your mind in the process. 

Serve up a Killer Shot

Errr duhh Malmo isn’t that the whole point of Instagram? It is but it is a basic principle I confess I have at times been guilty of forgetting!  When a post bombs it may well be because the evil algorithm has hidden you down the back of the Instagram sofa but sometime the truth is that actually you just served up a bit of a shit shot! Take this one of my bedroom for example.  At the time I thought I was unleashing #gridgoals but it struggled to get past 1K likes and then died.  But when I look back at it now I can see that I totally over did it with the filters, zoomed in too close on the bed cutting out the windows to the right and shaving off half of the bedside table.

Over filtered, over exposed and went down like an lead balloon!

Over filtered, over exposed and went down like an lead balloon!

In comparison in this shot I showed more of the whole room so you can see the bed in context and told more of a story in the image (in this case wife eats croissants in bed and sets off husband’s over sensitive crummy alarm).  I also edited the picture in a much lighter way.  Same room, different picture, different result with this picture receiving over 6k likes

A rustic bedroom revamp later and a much lighter, brighter photo saw this photo do much better

A rustic bedroom revamp later and a much lighter, brighter photo saw this photo do much better

Filters Can Be Your Friend Afterall

In my last blog about Instagram back in 2017, I wrote that I had learnt to go easy on the filters after an early addiction to adding borders to my images that made them look like they were trapped behind #beigebars.  But what I have learnt this year is that filters and editing tools (if used less cack handedly) can turn a photo from meh to marvellous.  They also allow you to create a look and feel to your feed that people start to identify with your pictures making them stand out from the crowd. 

The #beigebars from my early instagram career!

The #beigebars from my early instagram career!

I have started using third party apps like Snapseed and VSCO to edit my pictures and my goal for 2019 is to get to grips with Lightroom.  They have a much wider selection of preset filters to chose from than Instagram and allow a broader range of edits you can make to a picture.  It has been trial and error ( I still get it wrong sometimes as shown above) and you may prefer to leave you pictures au naturel. However, since making this change to the style of my pictures they have got picked up and regrammed by some huge interiors instagram accounts like My Interior, Apartment Therapy, Home Adore and Room Porn.  Those regrams have added about 1000 followers a time to my account.

A picture of my bathroom taken nearly two years ago

A picture of my bathroom taken nearly two years ago

The bathroom picture which scored over 70,000 likes when regrammed by Apartment Therapy in my now signature “Malmo & Moss” style.  It has been regrammed over 50 times on other accounts and accounted for a fair old whack of my Instagram growth in 2018

The bathroom picture which scored over 70,000 likes when regrammed by Apartment Therapy in my now signature “Malmo & Moss” style. It has been regrammed over 50 times on other accounts and accounted for a fair old whack of my Instagram growth in 2018

Fuck the Numbers

I am not going to pretend that I don’t care the number of likes my posts get or the number of followers I have.  The ping of a blue notification can be intoxicating! But what I learnt the hard way this year was that if the number of likes and follows you get becomes your main motivation and validation then Instagram can fairly quickly go from thriller to killer. 2018 started out well for me, I had a couple of pretty big regrams and gained 4.5K followers overnight when the Frugality mentioned me in her stories.  But then out of the blue my account suddenly ground to a halt. For the first time I was losing more followers than I was gaining and my pictures attracted a fraction of the likes they had been getting when my account was much smaller.

2018 got off to a good start with this picture of my kitchen being regrammed by @interior_delux

2018 got off to a good start with this picture of my kitchen being regrammed by @interior_delux

My first thought was that I had been shadow banned but I was still showing up on hashtags and after the normal two weeks it would take for shadow ban to elapse I was still in insta purgatory!  I drove myself crazy trying to work out what I had done wrong googling “why does Instagram hate me” and reporting the problem with pleading messages along the lines of “Dear Instagram please can I come off the naughty step".

My pictures started receiving far fewer like than ones like this, posted in my earlier instagram days when I had far few followers

My pictures started receiving far fewer like than ones like this, posted in my earlier instagram days when I had far few followers

It was frustrating to watch what felt like everyone else surge past me whilst my account went into reverse.  I had got totally sucked into a “race” mentality.  But then my husband put it all into perspective for me by reminding me of ‘Wanted’.  A truly terrible action film starring Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy from the late noughties.  The first 30 mins or so of the film are an enjoyable enough action caper in which Jolie and McAvoy team up to defeat a mysterious bad guy. But then it is revealed that the bad guy they are battling is, in fact, a weaving loom of the type that might appear in an episode of Cranford. The weaving loom in this analogy is of course the algorithm. 

upload.jpg

In the absence of a degree in computer science (or even a basic understanding of Microsoft excel) it will remain a mystery to me.  So instead of worrying about  followers I didn’t have, likes I wasn’t getting or how big other accounts were growing I decided to focus instead on engaging with the followers I do have and creating content that I think they will like and which I am proud of. That is what my stay in insta jail taught me and I have been happier and enjoyed insta much more ever since.  Which brings me to my next point.

Get Authentically Social

Getting regrammed by Apartment Therapy may have been one of my highlights of 2018 but so was the night when, home alone and relaxing in my favourite #FlaccidPenisFlanelettes, I shared a picture of them and asked people to show me their favourite #PyjamasPenisesLoveToHate in return.  I received over a hundred entries into the Boner Crusher Hall of Fame with nightwear featuring everything from fleecy festive owls to erection extinguishing ice skating penguins that had me howling with laughter.

upload.jpg
upload.jpg

I didn’t share my pyjamas as part of any grand Instagram engagement strategy. I shared them because Mr Malmo was out and I was sitting on the sofa eating doritos and fancied some bants.  Instagram is “social media” and I am sure you have all read advice which says that the best way to grow your account is to be social and engage with other accounts.  There are many different ways you can go about that.  You can comment “love this” or “nice room” on as many accounts as you possibly can before you get thumb fatigue.  But the rather long winded point of my flaccid penis pyjama story is that when you forget about being strategic and make your followers laugh, or share something that allows you to build real rapport with the people following you they stop being a number and instead become your tribe, your champions and, in many cases, your friends in real life! 

Step away from your Phone

“Put Phone Down Mummy”. Four words spoken to me by my toddler this Summer which, combined with my stay in insta jail, caused me to reassess my relationship with Instagram. Prior to that point I had posted religiously every day at the most “insta” appropriate time and driven Mr Malmo mad by constantly being heard to say “just give me a minute whilst I” insert one of “reply to this comment, check my DMs, post this to stories”. Instagram had become like a job and it was zapping the fun out of it for me (not to mention those around me!). I already have a job (in sustainability) that I enjoy very much and I realised that whilst Instagram has brought me some amazing opportunities I don’t want it to become my full time career. And I certainly don’t want to miss out on times with my family worrying about the algorithm or how my posts are performing.

So young and yet so wise.  Sometimes a toddler can help you see things in a different light.  And sometime they just want to wipe banana on your clothes and stay up all night.

So young and yet so wise. Sometimes a toddler can help you see things in a different light. And sometime they just want to wipe banana on your clothes and stay up all night.

Moments like these don’t happen when you are glued to your phone (although technically I was holding the phone at the time to take the photo but you get the point I am trying to make!)

Moments like these don’t happen when you are glued to your phone (although technically I was holding the phone at the time to take the photo but you get the point I am trying to make!)

So I did what my toddler suggested and put my phone down. I now take at least 1 or 2 days off a week from posting and do it at times that fit in with family life rather than being preordained by Instagram insights. My account has not fallen off a cliff. I am still being offered opportunities and my account is still growing. Maybe not as fast as others that post more frequently but that is ok with me. Whilst Instagram does seem to penalize you if you disappear for long periods, a day or two off a week doesn’t seem to have angered the insta gods too much. Indeed I think my engagement has been better since I stopped posting as frequently, maybe because it is a case of absence makes the heart grow fonder?! To quote a truly great philosopher (Ray Winstone in the Paddy Power adverts) when the fun stops stop. Whether it is for a day, a week or a month a little insta break every now and then can sometimes be what you need to get your mojo (and sanity) back.

upload.jpg

So there you have it, my advice, for what it is worth, on how to grow your instagram without losing your mind (or being a dick). Thank you to every one of you who follows me, banters with me and encourages me on a daily basis.

A Weekend at Ivywood Cottage, Norfolk

Mr Malmo and I are not really country people. He grew up in Nottingham surrounded by bus fumes rather than bushes and, although I hail from Northumberland, 20 years of living in London have rendered me twitchy whenever I am more than 300 metres away from a filament bulb and a flat white. However, having three boys has given us a new found appreciation of wide open spaces where you can let lad/labradors off the leash with less people around to hear you loudly telling them to stop what they are doing and go for a poo or to take a SuperZing out of their nose. With this in mind my google holiday search have increasingly started to feature more escapes to the country than city breaks which is how I discovered Ivywood Cottage on the Norfolk/Suffolk border .

The black timber clad exterior of a rustic shed in the garden of Ivywood Cottage in Norfolk

The black timber clad exterior of a rustic shed in the garden of Ivywood Cottage in Norfolk

About the Cottage

Ivywood Cottage is owned by Laura and James who live in the big house next door with their 3 year old identical twin boys and new baby. It was the discovery that they were expecting the twins that prompted them to trade in their one bedroom flat in Islington for James’ native Norfolk and a Georgian House in the country with the added bonus of Ivywood Cottage attached. Moving from such a busy part of North London to Redenhall was, Laura admits, a massive change. Instead of the emergency services hurting past at all hours of day and night and noisy neighbours stomping around, they now have the odd tractor trundling past and a cockerel crowing next door. But having grown up on a farm herself and James a country village it wasn't the huge shock it could have been.

The dreamy cottage exterior of Ivywood with a picture perfect porch. I love the whitewashed bricks and clematis growing up around the door

The dreamy cottage exterior of Ivywood with a picture perfect porch. I love the whitewashed bricks and clematis growing up around the door

In the summer this would be the perfect spot to sit out with a glass of wine watching the sun set

In the summer this would be the perfect spot to sit out with a glass of wine watching the sun set

Their adjustment to country life has, therefore, been fairly smooth bar some standard country-newbie errors (running out of oil...several times, forgetting they have a septic tank, not realising they had a soak-away pond, not realising the lush green garden was actually thick with ground elder and bind weed…. Reading this list revealed the depths of my own #urbanignorance because I initially thought Laura was referring to running out of olive oil here and thought a soak away pond might be some sort of cool Grand Designs style contemporary garden water feature rather than a tricksy pond drainage system.

Where most people see an old shed I see my dream modern rustic cabin with black cladding. I would love to add a garden studio at home a little bit like this. I loved the bunting strung from it

Where most people see an old shed I see my dream modern rustic cabin with black cladding. I would love to add a garden studio at home a little bit like this. I loved the bunting strung from it

Downstairs at the Cottage

Ivywood Cottage has been beautifully restored so that you get the best of old and new. So there are gorgeous flagstone floors, exposed beams and quirky staircases but also the comfort of having a beautiful contemporary kitchen in soft grey with metro tiles and on trend copper taps and the very 21st Century pleasure for soft linen bedding from Loaf on all the beds.

I loved the whitewashed brick flooring in the living room laid in a herringbone pattern

I loved the whitewashed brick flooring in the living room laid in a herringbone pattern

The living room at the cottage was painted in neutral colours with texture and warmth added through touches such as the jute rug and woolen cushions and blankets

The living room at the cottage was painted in neutral colours with texture and warmth added through touches such as the jute rug and woolen cushions and blankets

We visited in January so took full advantage of the cosy woodburner in the living room which comes complete with all the urban comforts you need to ease you into country life gently i.e. ready access to the latest copy of Kinfolk. I loved how Laura has carefully mixed interiors styles together in this room, introducing vintage pieces such as two 1950s midcentury armchairs covered in gorgeous mossy green and smokey grey velvet.

One of the changes that Laura and James made to the cottage was to add a woodburner

One of the changes that Laura and James made to the cottage was to add a woodburner

Laura has been really clever at blending contemporary and vintage in the cottage. I loved these velvet mid century armchairs she had had restored

Laura has been really clever at blending contemporary and vintage in the cottage. I loved these velvet mid century armchairs she had had restored

City dwellers relax, the cottage was fully stocked with the latest issues of Kinfolk and Cereal Magazine

City dwellers relax, the cottage was fully stocked with the latest issues of Kinfolk and Cereal Magazine

upload.jpg

The nearest town to the cottage is Harleston where we stocked up on locally baked bread, bacon from Norfolk bred pigs and fresh orange juice for breakfast (and if I am honest also Weetabix, Nutella and Robinsons squash because my kids regard Granola and Fresh Orange Juice as their breakfast enemies ). The kitchen has a gorgeous farmhouse table, bench and tolix seats and I loved the industrial touches like the vintage lights over the island and the concrete worktops.

White metro tiles on the walls give the kitchen a contemporary feel that works with the medieval bones of the cottage

White metro tiles on the walls give the kitchen a contemporary feel that works with the medieval bones of the cottage

Concrete worktops contrasted with the shaker style kitchen units to add a shot of industrial style to the kitchen

Concrete worktops contrasted with the shaker style kitchen units to add a shot of industrial style to the kitchen

Restored vintage brass taps in the kitchen with my dream Belfast sink

Restored vintage brass taps in the kitchen with my dream Belfast sink

I loved the vintage industrial pendant lights hanging over the kitchen island

I loved the vintage industrial pendant lights hanging over the kitchen island

The dining table and chairs which comfortably seat 6-8 for large family breakfasts, lunches and dinners

The dining table and chairs which comfortably seat 6-8 for large family breakfasts, lunches and dinners

Upstairs at the Cottage

Upstairs are two double bedrooms (one with an ensuite) and a large landing area with vaulted ceiling which houses a sofa bed meaning the cottage can comfortably sleep six making it ideal for a family break, a weekend away with friends or a romantic retreat with your partner where you can enjoy spaces in your togetherness i.e. escape their snoring if you need to!

The vaulted ceiling landing space which has a sofa bed. I loved the pinstripe blinds

The vaulted ceiling landing space which has a sofa bed. I loved the pinstripe blinds

High ceilings and gorgeous exposed oak beams in the landing area. I liked the modern twist added by the contemporary bulb lights

High ceilings and gorgeous exposed oak beams in the landing area. I liked the modern twist added by the contemporary bulb lights

upload.jpg
I loved the panelling that had been added to the second double bedroom and the smoky grey colour on the walls

I loved the panelling that had been added to the second double bedroom and the smoky grey colour on the walls

The combination of linen bedding and cast iron radiators in the bedrooms make them super warm and toasty

The combination of linen bedding and cast iron radiators in the bedrooms make them super warm and toasty

There are a plethora of lovely country walks you can do from the cottage and a host of country pubs dotted all around. Laura’s favourite walk is a big loop from the house which just happens (!) to pass three pubs along the way. The last pub (about a 10 minute walk from the house) has a super children's play park a stones through away #parentingwin. After you have been out to take in the country air come home and warm up in the huge roll top bath. I have never been a huge shower curtain fan but the yellow and white candy striped one at Ivywood totally changed my view. I would happily have it cling to my naked body (if you are reading Ryan Gosling have similar thoughts about you).

The vintage sink and vanity area in the gorgeous rustic bathroom

The vintage sink and vanity area in the gorgeous rustic bathroom

upload.jpg
Pale pink metro tiles add a contemporary twist in the bathroom and provide contrast to the timber walls and wooden floors

Pale pink metro tiles add a contemporary twist in the bathroom and provide contrast to the timber walls and wooden floors

The yellow and white shower curtain that frames the roll top bath

The yellow and white shower curtain that frames the roll top bath

Exploring the surrounding area

Whilst the cottage is perfectly positioned for enjoying the best of the countryside there are also plenty of lovely coffee and cake shops nearby should you need a #FlatWhiteFix. One of Laura’s favourite cafes, Marsh Larder, is on a local farm and when it's warm, you can sit outside with a glass of prosecco, eating homemade cake whilst the cows in the field next to you gaze on. Or, if, like me, you have a slight fear of bovine animals, why not try the Earsham Street Cafe in Bungay who serve up an awesome homemade cake. Bungay also has some great antiques and interiors shops and Laura recommends checking out Naken Interiors in Beccles who stock great brands like Ferm Living. Slightly further afield are all of the delights of the Suffolk coast. We worked our way over to Southwold one day via Darsham Nurseries which serves up delicious breakfasts and lunches in a garden nursery (think Petersham Nurseries rather than Dobbies Garden Centre).

Darsham Nurseries is a must visit place for delicious lunches and brunches close to the Suffolk Coast

Darsham Nurseries is a must visit place for delicious lunches and brunches close to the Suffolk Coast

I loved the vintage mirrors and industrial pendant lighting in Darsham Nurseries cafe

I loved the vintage mirrors and industrial pendant lighting in Darsham Nurseries cafe

The reclaimed wood clad bar at Darsham Nurseries was ticking all my modern rustic boxes

The reclaimed wood clad bar at Darsham Nurseries was ticking all my modern rustic boxes

There are great beach walks to enjoy at Dunwich, Covehithe, Aldeburgh, Thorpness and Southwold to name but a few and even more great pubs and bakeries to sample. No self respecting instagrammer (or donut fan) should leave Suffolk without calling in at the Pump Street Bakery in Orford. And if you are looking for the perfect place for Sunday lunch look no further than the Unruly Pig near Woodbridge.

Miniest Malmo enjoy a romp through the sand dunes at Walberswick

Miniest Malmo enjoy a romp through the sand dunes at Walberswick

The sand dunes at Walberswick beach on the Suffolk Coast

The sand dunes at Walberswick beach on the Suffolk Coast

upload.jpg

We stayed at Ivywood Cottage at a discount but even at full rates it is great value for a weekend away at around £100 a night depending on the time of year. A single hotel room can easily cost that without any of the comforts, luxuries and style that Ivywood offers. We are already thinking about coming back not least because I can’t wait to see the renovations that Laura is carrying out on their neighbouring Georgian House. I am hoping I can convince her to let me come back and do a house tour when she is finished! In the meantime if you would like to book a stay at Ivywood Cottage the link is here

Source: http://www.malmoandmoss.com

Styling a Scandinavian Christmas Table

Christmas can be an expensive time of year with presents, parties and panto combining to mean you have taken on the national debt of Belgium by the 1st of January. I love decorating my home for Christmas but I don’t think you need to spend a fortune doing it or to invest in loads of stuff that you are going to chuck away after Santa has set off back to the North Pole. If, like me, you are operating with more of a Morrisons than Macy’s budget then going for a Scandinavian inspired Christmas look is ideal. Our Scandinavian friends like to keep things simple and minimal and to use lots of natural foliage that you can forage from your garden or local parks under the cover of darkness.

The Christmas table  Reena  and I created at our recent  Hygge for all Seasons  workshop

The Christmas table Reena and I created at our recent Hygge for all Seasons workshop

At our recent Hygge for all Seasons workshop at the Occasional Home Store, Reena (@hygge_ for _ home) and I created a Modern Rustic/Scandi inspired Christmas table scheme featuring 3 simple ideas for table decorations inspired by our favourite Nordic instagram accounts and nature. If you are not already following our inspiration accounts then you are in for a treat

The beautiful account of German sisters  @babes _  in _boyland

The beautiful account of German sisters @babes_ in _boyland

Cool white Christmas with a boho twist in the Swedish home of  @bytrineravn

Cool white Christmas with a boho twist in the Swedish home of @bytrineravn

Rustic maximalism in the Finnish home of  @storm_ and _ clay

Rustic maximalism in the Finnish home of @storm_ and _ clay

The space we were transforming for Hygge for all Seasons was a big lecture room overlooking a beautiful reservoir. It meant we were working with quite high ceilings and a bigger table than the average family would be sitting down to on the 25th December. But to show that the ideas can work in any setting I have also recreated them at home so you can see just how easy it is to do

The view out over the West Reservoir from our workshop room

The view out over the West Reservoir from our workshop room

Our workshop venue, a beautiful 1930s former water filtering station

Our workshop venue, a beautiful 1930s former water filtering station

We used a dark grey linen tablecloth kindly loaned to us by Chalk Pink Linen for the base of our table along with some of their lovely crisp fresh white linen napkins. They also do all of their linen in a gorgeous dove grey which I used when I styled my table at home. For our tableware we used earthy ceramic plates and beakers in muted neutral colours from Igigi General Store and then added interest to the table with some simple Scandi candle holders in the shape of stars from The King and I and I and for a tiny touch of twinkle some vintage crystal ones from Hellish Designs. We added a bit of Nordic drama to the table with our dramatic pampas table centrepiece and hula chandeliers.

Our gifting advent tree allowed Scandi Santa to share some suprises with our guests from Jord Home, Malako Skincare, Sevin London, Thornback and Peel, Lovestruck Interiors, Kate and the Ink, Igigi General Store, and A Little Botanical

Our gifting advent tree allowed Scandi Santa to share some suprises with our guests from Jord Home, Malako Skincare, Sevin London, Thornback and Peel, Lovestruck Interiors, Kate and the Ink, Igigi General Store, and A Little Botanical

A charcoal grey tablecloth from Chalk Pink Linen provided a great backdrop to our table scheme

A charcoal grey tablecloth from Chalk Pink Linen provided a great backdrop to our table scheme

We were working with quite a big space so went for a dramatic table centre piece using pampas grass and made the table cosier by adding sheepskins to our chairs from Jord Home

We were working with quite a big space so went for a dramatic table centre piece using pampas grass and made the table cosier by adding sheepskins to our chairs from Jord Home

After feasting on Bronuts from Norahs Brownies (it turns out that combining two of my favourite cakes together creates a third cake I like even more) our work shoppers went home with a luxury botanical candle from Join London which are hand poured in Jen’s South-East London riverside studio and use only natural ingredients. If you were not able to come along on the day but would like to create a similar modern rustic look for Christmas table then read on and find out how to use chicken wire, a hula hoop and fencing wire to create a Nordic Noel.

The Hygge for all Seasons look recreated on a slightly smaller scale in my kitchen

The Hygge for all Seasons look recreated on a slightly smaller scale in my kitchen

Make your own rustic advent chandelier

What you need: One hula hoop, approx 1 metre of linen or hessan, masking tape, floristry wire, mixture of faux and real foliage of your choice

Ok so you maybe reading this think a chandelier?? I thought she said this was going to be full of affordable ideas not looks to steal from the Palace of Versaille. But bear with me because the chandeliers in question are made using the humble hula hoop. I sourced mine off E-Bay for about £3 but charity shops often have them too. To cover them I used natural linen but a cheaper alternative would be to use hessian which is roughly £5 a metre.

Start by cutting the hessian into 10cm wide strips. Either tie on to the hula hoop or, for a neater look you can use masking tape to secure it in place. Wrap the strips around the hoop until it is fully covered, this is your base. The next step is to wrap a foliage garland around the hoop securing using florists wire. I used a simple garland made by Parlane that cost me £8. Depending upon how dramatic you want your hoop to look tie on mixture of faux and natural foliage (eucalyptus is good as it looks fine even when dried). I wanted mine to have a bit of drama so i tied springs of eucalyptus on pointing downwards using florists wire. Finally, cut four lengths of twine (mine were about 60cms long but it depends on the ceiling height you are working with) and tie each length on about 30cm apart around the hoop.

The humble hula hoop transformed into a stunning scandi chandelier

The humble hula hoop transformed into a stunning scandi chandelier

Once you have completed all of those steps, all you need to do is find a way to suspend it from your ceiling. I got Mr Malmo to screw a small hook in (i think I made this request after he had had a couple of beers as screwing things into plasterboard usually sets off his ‘no fucking way’ alarm). You could equally just use command hooks if you are willing to accept that at some point in December they may lose their stick and deposit a chandelier on your crackers.

Pampas Grass Table Centrepiece

What you need: 30cm x 20cm wooden box, chicken wire, plyers and 10-15 stems of pampas grass

Pampas grass has been all over Instagram this year which either means swinging is having a big revival or that there is a massive trend towards using natural dried grasses in floral arrangements. I am really hoping it is the latter as I don’t fancy throwing my car keys in a bowl and going soixante neuf with my 86 yr old neighbour George who last possessed his own teeth sometime around 1987 and favours using an outside toilet. I have seen some great ideas for using pampas in your home, from creating a stunning hanging installation (check out the account of Signe Bay for inspo) to the more suited to a surban semi option of using it in a vintage box that I have gone with.

Pampas grass table centrepiece on christmas table setting

Because the scale of the venue at our Hygge for all Seasons workshop was big with high ceilings I was able to go a bit more dramatic creating lots of height with a vintage Canadian Dry box (which I am careful never to leave Reena alone in a room with in case she disappears off into the modern rustic mist with it). However back home I used a smaller box I picked up for £10 from Sunbury antiques and a bit less grass to create a slightly pared back version.

upload.jpg

My box was about 30-40cm long and 20cm wide. If you are struggling to source a vintage one then H&M Home also have some similar size ones with a rustic look to them. All you need apart from the box is some chicken wire, plyers and a bunch of pampas grass. I got my chicken wire online (which am fairly sure may have placed me on some sort of Interpol list) but you can also source from petshops.

Pampas looks beautiful but be warned it sheds more fluff

Pampas looks beautiful but be warned it sheds more fluff

Chicken wire is quite sharp so maybe pop some gardening gloves on for this bit

Chicken wire is quite sharp so maybe pop some gardening gloves on for this bit

Cut a roll of wire that will fit inside of your box (maybe wear gardening gloves to do so as I emerged from my skirmish with it looking like someone who had stuck their arm in a holly bush). Then basically just poke your pampas grass into the holes in the chicken wire in a manner that creates an arrangement you are happy with! If you have you mother-in-law coming round for Christmas lunch and want to avoid making chit chat with her about Barry from her Bridge group’s prostate then leave the stalks long. But if not maybe cut them to a more conversation friendly level of about 30cm. You may want to be careful about how closely you position it to candles as pampas is right up there with a shellsuit in terms of flammability.

I used a mixture of natural and faux foliage on my hoop chandelier. Dunelm is my favourite place to source realistic looking reasonably priced faux.

I used a mixture of natural and faux foliage on my hoop chandelier. Dunelm is my favourite place to source realistic looking reasonably priced faux.

I love the height that the pampas adds to the table.

I love the height that the pampas adds to the table.

The wooden box adds warmth and texture to the Christmas table

The wooden box adds warmth and texture to the Christmas table

Scandi Christmas table setting

Mini Eucalyptus Wreaths

What you need: euclyptus, wire and floristry wire.

To add some greenery into our Christmas table we made mini eucalyptus wreaths which acted as a backdrop to beautiful calligraphy christmas labels from Oysterbridge Co. My original idea was to make mini rosemary wreaths having seen them on Pinterest. I don’t know if it was because my supermarket rosemary was just too short but 45 minutes into my minature wreath making all I had was a herb heavy lap and a sprig of rosemary balder than Kim Kardashian’s bikini line tied in a circle. So I went back to the drawing board, rejected the rosemary and turned to the far more plyable eucalyptus instead.

upload.jpg

The wire helps to create structure and it means you can secure the foliage in place using floristry wire. You can make them as big or as small as you like in terms of the size of the hoop (this idea would equally work to make hoops to hang on a wall as the wire is quite sturdy). And you can go simple or more dramatic in terms of how much foliage you add. I kept ours quite simple because we were putting the labels on top and didn’t want to detract from them. The mini wreaths will also make your christmas table smell amazing.

Create a wire base (close your loop by simply wrapping the wire ends together) and then secure your foliage in place with small lengths of floristry wire.

Create a wire base (close your loop by simply wrapping the wire ends together) and then secure your foliage in place with small lengths of floristry wire.

Et voila one mini eucalyptus wreath

Et voila one mini eucalyptus wreath

Add a personal touch to your table with these gorgeous handwritten labels from Oysterbridge Co

Add a personal touch to your table with these gorgeous handwritten labels from Oysterbridge Co

upload.jpg
I made this wreath a little bit less neat as I loved how it looked with the sprigs fanning out slightly

I made this wreath a little bit less neat as I loved how it looked with the sprigs fanning out slightly

We would like to say a huge thank you to the 31 lovely people who came along to Hygge for all Seasons in November and made it so much fun. We have loved seeing how people have incorporated the ideas from the workshop into their Christmas decor already. We would also like to thank all of the brands that collaborated with us in providing gifts for our works shoppers (including Join London, Sevin London, Malako Skincare, Igigi General Store, Love Struck Interiors, Thornback & Peel, Kate and the Ink and Chalk Pink Linen) and items to use in our table styling (Chalk Pink Linen, Igigi General Store, Lights 4 Fun, Hellish Designs and The King and I).

upload.jpg

Autumnal Table Styling Ideas

There are a couple of job interview questions I always struggle to answer. The first is “what is your greatest weakness”. This is not tricky because I think I am perfect but more because the answer on the tip of my tongue is always Cornish Cruncher Extra Strength Cheddar Cheese and a packet of Pickled Onion Monster Munch rather than the more employment friendly “a small blind spot when it comes to understanding full functionality of the wrap text field of Microsoft Excel.” Second on my list of dreaded questions is “tell me about your hobbies”. I am pretty sure the “You’re Hired” answer has something to do with running triathlons whilst reading ‘A Brief History of Time’ whereas in truth one of my favourite ways to while away my leisure time is creating seasonal tablescapes. So when Sainsbury’s Home asked me if I would like to pick a few items from their Autumn/Winter range for my kitchen I was in my hobby heaven

My kitchen in October

My kitchen in October

After 11 years of marriage and 14 years of dating a remarkably high percentage of our shared kitchenware still dates back to our student days when it was put through its paces cooking high end cuisine such as beans on toast and fish fingers on a bed of super noodles (don’t knock it until you have tried it people). With the motely selection we have accrued approaching the end of its life I chose a selection of kitchen and tableware from the rustic retreat and escape ranges that Sainsbury’s have introduced this Autumn/Winter. I selected Scandinavian inspired items in a neutral colour palette of soft greys and natural materials such as wood that would stand the test of time in my kitchen beyond this season. Affordable homeware doesn’t have to mean disposable homeware.

My scandinavian kitchen with grey kitchen units, open shelving and metro tiles on the wall. It is a light, contemporary kitchen with modern rustic feel #modernrustic #contemporarykitchen #greykitchen #kitchenideas #kitchendesign

I put them through their paces cooking a couple of my favourite autumnal recipes, taken from a book I cook from on repeat: Seasons by Donna Hay. The photography and the food are both amazing. The recipes I selected both use just 4 main ingredients and can be whipped up with about 5 minutes preparation: perfect for a quick but delicious midweek meal if, like me, you often need to cook with a toddler attached to a leg and whilst shouting at someone to stop playing FIFA and start doing their homework.

upload.jpg
upload.jpg

I sourced all of the ingredients for the recipes from our local Sainsbury’s which I think it is fair to say is where I spend about 35% of my life in trying to keep up with the insatiable appetites of 3 hungry sons who consume sliced bread, bananas and milk at an alarming rate.

Butternut squash after a struggle chopped up and ready to go in the oven once mixed with some olive oil and seasoned

Butternut squash after a struggle chopped up and ready to go in the oven once mixed with some olive oil and seasoned

Butternut Squash, Mozzarella and Palma Ham Salad

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

2 Butternut Squash, 375g Mozzarella Cheese, 500g Palma Ham, handful of thyme, salt and peppper to season

Method

It is so simple to make there is almost need to type out instructions! Basically you peel the Butternut squash then chop into wedges (this is the hardest part as I ending up sweating like a shotputter trying to slice through a particularly stubborn butternut), place on a tray, drizzle with olive oil and season then cook for 25-30 mins. In the meantime tear up the mozzarella and cut the palma ham into strips. Take the butternut squash out of the oven and combine in an instagram friendly fashion on a plate scattering chopped up thyme on to taste. Simple to make but totally delicious

Larking around with my big butternuts….

Larking around with my big butternuts….

I may look calm and composed in this picture but the outtakes capture me looking like an irate Bulgarian shotputter after the butternut refused to yield to my knife.

I may look calm and composed in this picture but the outtakes capture me looking like an irate Bulgarian shotputter after the butternut refused to yield to my knife.

Having emerged victorious from the #BattleOfTheButternut I set to work on the fun part: creating my tablescape. I chose dinner plates and pasta bowls from the Urban Escape range in a lovely muted grey. They are the kind of plate that you can use everyday without fear of chipping and stick in the dishwasher but their simple Scandi good looks lend themselves to fancier dining as well (featuring non-beige food). To compliment the plates I also selected a really lovely carafe and set of wine glasses in a smoked grey and I loved the contrast they create with the plates

Smoked grey  wine glasses  and  carafe  from the Urban Escape range and an  oak chopping board  from the Rural Retreat range

Smoked grey wine glasses and carafe from the Urban Escape range and an oak chopping board from the Rural Retreat range

Tablescape set and ready to receive food! I love how the simple minimal scandi style of the tableware and glasses works against vintage items that I added to the table to create texture and warmth

Tablescape set and ready to receive food! I love how the simple minimal scandi style of the tableware and glasses works against vintage items that I added to the table to create texture and warmth

The  oak chopping board  makes the perfect centre piece for bread to share, this is clearly not a tablescape for dining with the kids as the bread would be the far less instagrammable Hovis 50/50 medium sliced otherwise…

The oak chopping board makes the perfect centre piece for bread to share, this is clearly not a tablescape for dining with the kids as the bread would be the far less instagrammable Hovis 50/50 medium sliced otherwise…

Butternut squash, palma ham and mozzarella salad. Simple but totally delicious and the battle with the butternut guarantees you will probably burn more calories in preparing it than you will consume eating it!

Butternut squash, palma ham and mozzarella salad. Simple but totally delicious and the battle with the butternut guarantees you will probably burn more calories in preparing it than you will consume eating it!

I love the contrast that the  smoked grey glasses  create with the  plates  and it all pops out when using a dark linen table cloth as a backdrop

I love the contrast that the smoked grey glasses create with the plates and it all pops out when using a dark linen table cloth as a backdrop

Vintage wooden kitchen table set with grey linen table cloth, pale grey plates and bowls from Siansbury's Home and rustic oak chopping board #rustickitchen #tablesetting #autumntableideas #autumnalinteriors
Vintage wooden kitchen table set with grey linen table cloth, pale grey plates and bowls from Siansbury's Home and rustic oak chopping board #rustickitchen #tablesetting #autumntableideas #autumnalinteriors
Vintage wooden kitchen table set with grey linen table cloth, pale grey plates and bowls from Siansbury's Home and rustic oak chopping board #rustickitchen #tablesetting #autumntableideas #autumnalinteriors

For pudding I turned once more to Donna and selected a delicious sounding maple and pear tarte tatin.

Maple Pear Tarte Tatin

Ingredients (serves 4-6 depending upon how greedy they are!)

6 dessert pears, 375g puff pastry, 4 spoonfuls of golden syrup, 80g of butter

Method

Peel and slice the pears to about a one pound coin thickness (which are a joy to work with compared to the bastard butternuts). Melt the butter in a pan over a medium heat and then add to syrup and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer for 2 minutes and then remove from the heat. Arrange the pears to cover the bottom of a 20cm oven proof pan and then pour over the butter/syrup mixture. Then place over the top the puff pastry cut to a 22cm circle and place in the oven. Cook for 20 mins (or in my case until the smoke alarm goes off because some of the syrup mixture has escaped the pan and formed a mini bonfire on the bottom of the oven). Serve with creme fraiche or clotted cream

The kitchen set read for round two. Gorgeous  grey mixing bowl  and wooden and  grey silicone  cooking utensils pictured all from the Rural Retreat range

The kitchen set read for round two. Gorgeous grey mixing bowl and wooden and grey silicone cooking utensils pictured all from the Rural Retreat range

Taking time out for a cup of tea and praying that pears are easier to peel than butternuts…

Taking time out for a cup of tea and praying that pears are easier to peel than butternuts…

Bowl  and whisk pictured from the Rural Retreat range. Behold the Maple Pear Tart Tatin of dreams

Bowl and whisk pictured from the Rural Retreat range. Behold the Maple Pear Tart Tatin of dreams

But will mine turn out this well?!

But will mine turn out this well?!

It is a stunningly easy and delicious dessert to make and it was a dream to use new kitchen utensils which had not seen active service in the University of Manchester Halls of Residence kitchens mainly stirring supernoodles. I love the earthy contrast of the oak handles of the rural retreat range against the scandi inspired grey. They look great against the white metro tiles in my kitchen and make my utensil selection about 100% more stylish!

Mixing the pears in with the butter and syrup mixture and trying not to set light to my ill advised take on chefs whites

Mixing the pears in with the butter and syrup mixture and trying not to set light to my ill advised take on chefs whites

With the tarte tatin in the oven I performed a quick turnaround on tablescape number two. Whipping away the table cloth to reveal the natural texture of our vintage farmhouse kitchen table and adding in some gorgeous dried flowers in autumnal colours and some scandi white pumpkins to up the autumn factor. I love the contrast between the texture of the table and the simple pale grey of the plates. The pasta bowls are great for serving dessert in as you can add in a drizzle of maple syrup and dollop (is there a more satisfying word known to man?!) of creme fraiche without fear of it escaping!

The dark grey table mats look great against my vintage farmhouse table. They are available in store but not online

The dark grey table mats look great against my vintage farmhouse table. They are available in store but not online

White pumpkins adding a modern rustic touch to the table

White pumpkins adding a modern rustic touch to the table

I also added in these lovely rattan table mats from the Urban Escape range (available in store but not online) to provide a bit of additional contrast, they are a timeless style and colour that I know I will get lots of use out of. I used the oak chopping board to display the tarte on which turned out pleasingly like the picture despite its emergency evacuation from the oven

Dried flowers are a great alternative to fresh as they can last you through the Autumn season and beyond and are really versatile.

Dried flowers are a great alternative to fresh as they can last you through the Autumn season and beyond and are really versatile.

I love how the new items I have added from the Rural Retreat and Urban Escape ranges mix with my collection of vintage bottles and the natural texture of my french farmhouse table

I love how the new items I have added from the Rural Retreat and Urban Escape ranges mix with my collection of vintage bottles and the natural texture of my french farmhouse table

Just add creme fraiche and a drizzle of maple syrup to serve

Just add creme fraiche and a drizzle of maple syrup to serve

Pear Tarte Tatin served up on pale grey plates from Sainsbury's Home on a rustic wooden farmphuse table and set with vintage bottles and dried flowers for a modern rustic feel #farmhousekitchen #farmhousedecor #kitchentable #vintagekitchentable #autumnalstylingideas #autumnideas

So there you have it, two ideas for autumnal tablescapes with a rustic Scandi twist. I hope you enjoy giving the recipes a try and updating your kitchen with the Rural Retreat and Urban Escape ranges from Sainsbury’s Home.

Pear Tarte Tatin served up on pale grey plates from Sainsbury's Home on a rustic wooden farmphuse table and set with vintage bottles and dried flowers for a modern rustic feel

This blog post was kindly sponsored by Sainsbury’s Home

Christmas Occasional Home Store

If you attended our last Occasional Home Store in March you may have been mistaken for thinking it was our Christmas rather than Spring event on account of the Beast from the East blowing in and rendering Stoke Newington indistinguishable from Siberia.  The extremely non spring like weather conditions temporarily transformed me into my dad for the week leading up to the event, frantically shushing anybody who came into the room whilst I was watching the weather forecast.

However, despite the fact that we were shovelling snow when we thought we would be draping spring blossom it all turned out alright on the night with loads of you lovely people coming to the West Reservoir Centre in Hackney to enjoy the array of beautiful vintage & contemporary homeware that our stallholders had battled the Beast to bring you.

Three happy but exhausted Occasional Home Store founders at our March event

@justafewchanges just one of our many happy shoppers

Having had six months to recover from the #posttraumaticsnowstress I am now extremely excited to share with you that the Occasional Home Store will be returning to the West Reservoir Centre on the weekend of the 17th and 18th of November in association with Plum & Ashby and our gorgeous new partner Igigi General Store to bring you a festive shopping extravaganza.

Our beautiful industrial venue the West Reservoir Centre

In the beautiful industrial surroundings of a 1930s water filtering station we will be bringing you a handpicked selection of the very best vintage and contemporary homeware  complimented by a programme of workshops and talks to inspire you to renovate, decorate and instagram your homes this Christmas.  If this sounds like your idea of a perfect weekend then read on for a preview of just some of the delights we have in store for you

Our partners

Plum & Ashby

We are thrilled to once again be working with Vicky and Freya, the team behind Plum & Ashby.  Together with their team (including four legged friend Bertie) they work to produce a range of elegant, high quality, carefully considered products that always lift a space.  Their extensive range, from washes, lotions and bath salts to hand poured candles, is made in the South of England.   And we’re certainly not alone in our admiration for this brand, their fan base includes interior publications, online blogs and they were shortlisted for the Best British Design at the prestigious Elle Decoration Awards and at our last Occasional Home Store they completely sold out of their candles.  This time round they will be introducing some gorgeous new scents in their range as well as stocking their highly sought after Christmas advent candle.

Plum & Ashby’s stall at the last Occasional Home Store looking our over a rather stormy reservoir!

Igigi General Store

Do you have a favourite interiors shop that your heart skips a beat when you think about visiting it? For me that shop is Igigi although sadly for me (but perhaps fortunately for my bank balance) it is situated 150 miles away from me in Brighton.  I am, therefore, incredibly excited to announce that Igigi General Store will be partnering with us on our Christmas event and bringing their distinctive brand of modern rustic homeware  to the Occasional Home Store including unveiling their brand new range of Igigi designed furniture and lighting.

The gorgeous interior of Igigi General Store in Hove

Owners Alex and Zoe describe Igigi as an ever evolving hub of creativity where they blend a handpicked selection of contemporary homeware with one of a kind vintage finds. From wooden bowls, baskets and spoons from Morocco to beautifully scented Turkish soaps and handwoven Kilim cushions to Balinese water pots and garments handmade from vintage fabrics.

Vintage Homeware

One of our favourite things about organising the Occasional Home Store is bringing a little bit of brocante to the city by hand picking sellers that help to conjure up a marketplace in the South of France in Manor House. We love seeing how our sellers curate their beautiful finds to create instagrammable scenes in every corner.   We have some of our favourites returning from last time round including beetle & WI