Renovating our bathroom to create my ultimate sanctuary space

It has been two months since we moved into our new house and, bar one bad wobble unpacking cardboard box 3456, we haven’t looked back.  I thought I would be longing for my metro tiles and modern rustic interiors but we have been so busy making renovation plans for the new place there hasn’t really been time to pine for the old one.

The room I am pining for the most: our old bathroom

The room I am pining for the most: our old bathroom

However, there is one room that I haven’t quite got over saying goodbye to and that was my bathroom.  It wasn’t the largest room in the house but, as the only one with a lock on the door and a ready supply of scented candles, it was my sanctuary.   Apparently it is not just me that feels that way either: 43% of people in recent survey by top bathroom brand Geberit listed it as their sanctuary space.  I am guessing I am not the only mum who barricades herself in there for a bubble bath after the end of full day adulting!

The copper taps made by my builder added an industrial edge to the bathroom that I loved

The copper taps made by my builder added an industrial edge to the bathroom that I loved

It was one of the first rooms that I completely designed by myself from scratch and the combo of a vintage roll top bath, copper piping taps and hexagonal floor tiles was probably responsible for 89% of my Instagram growth!

Even managed to acheive my ultimate goal before we left and snuck an olive tree in

Even managed to acheive my ultimate goal before we left and snuck an olive tree in

Candles lit, bubble bath poured ready for relaxation

Candles lit, bubble bath poured ready for relaxation

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So are you ready to see what my new bathroom is like and find out more about my plans for transforming it into my ultimate sensory sanctuary space with some clever tips I have picked up from working with the clever bathroom people at Geberit? Ok here she is!!

This was the bathroom when we first came to visit. All clean and tidy with strong folded towel game

This was the bathroom when we first came to visit. All clean and tidy with strong folded towel game

Like most of the house we are lucky in that everything is in pretty good (ish) condition and fairly neutral style – we are not overwhelmed by an avocado suite or battling a beige bog.   It is more of a case of things looking a little bit dated oh and the shower running at a temperature indistinguishable from lukewarm tea. 

Up close the bath panel and unit are starting to show their age and I would like to swap them for something more contemporary

Up close the bath panel and unit are starting to show their age and I would like to swap them for something more contemporary

One of number one desires is to find space for a separate shower as at the moment we have a shower over the bath

One of number one desires is to find space for a separate shower as at the moment we have a shower over the bath

As you can see from this floor plan there is a very obvious reconfiguration of the space we can do that will allow me to escape from my own personal bathroom hell: a shower over the bath.  By shifting the water tank out of the cupboard shown on this plan we will be able to separate the shower out and then I would like to switch the bath so that it sits under the window.

The current configuration is a bit awkward with an airing cupboard containing a water tank in a space that would be perfect for a standalone shower

The current configuration is a bit awkward with an airing cupboard containing a water tank in a space that would be perfect for a standalone shower

Detail Architects have drawn up some plans to show how we could incorporate the shower into the bathroom

Detail Architects have drawn up some plans to show how we could incorporate the shower into the bathroom

I love the arrangement of have the bath under the window that  @the_girl_with_the_green_sofa  went for in her new bathroom

I love the arrangement of have the bath under the window that @the_girl_with_the_green_sofa went for in her new bathroom

By knocking through into the airing cupboard we would be able to achieve a shower space similar to  @the_girl_with_the _green_sofa  bathroom as well.

By knocking through into the airing cupboard we would be able to achieve a shower space similar to @the_girl_with_the _green_sofa bathroom as well.

With those structural changes made  I can then hopefully get down to the fun part: designing a bathroom to stimulate all my senses!

It’s all about the Olafractory

Ok smell may not seem the obvious sense to start with but if there was one thing that took the edge off my old “dream bathroom” it was the fact that the toilet was positioned in the bathroom 30 cms from the tub meaning that a) 1 in 2 baths were interrupted by one or more of the boys bursting in to drop off something that smelt like it had been ejected from the bowels of a Victorian and b) when they burst back out again a smell remained that even a whole pine forest of toilet duck couldn’t shift. 

In the new house the toilet is actually separate from the bathroom an arrangement that some people view as old fashioned but which I am increasingly coming round to!  But what do you think? Would we be better bringing it into the bathroom as shown on the floorplan below?

The alternative option of bringing the toilet into the bathroom

The alternative option of bringing the toilet into the bathroom

However, if we do incorporate it into the bathroom to create more of a spacious feel, then it is reassuring to know that Geberit’s toilets actually have the latest in duo fresh odour extraction technology incorporated into them, filtering the surrounding air to diminish unpleasant smells and extracting odours directly from the loo before they have the chance to spread!

I love the fact that  Geberit  have developed a toilet with built in odour extraction

I love the fact that Geberit have developed a toilet with built in odour extraction

Coming Over All Kinesthetic

Come again Malmo I hear you say? I realise it sounds like I have got in touch with my inner Mystic Meg but your kinaesthetic senses actually relate to your awareness of the position and movement of parts of your body (in essence your sense of touch) rather than your ability to read the fortune of a reader of The Sun. 

So in designing a bathroom to stimulate your kinaesthetic side you need to pay attention to things that are tactile and nice to touch! In our last house the polished concrete sink in our ensuite totally ticked this box.

The concrete sink in our old ensuite

The concrete sink in our old ensuite

I would love to be bolder and introduce more concrete or micro cement into the new space this time potentially on the walls or even on the bath itself.  These are a couple of the inspo pics on my pinterest board that I keep coming back to.

I love the way in this one that the concrete sink sits against a polished concrete wall. Image via Pinterest source unknown

I love the way in this one that the concrete sink sits against a polished concrete wall. Image via Pinterest source unknown

I love this concrete bath from @viaparissi but wonder if it might be a bit much in a family bathroom?

I love this concrete bath from @viaparissi but wonder if it might be a bit much in a family bathroom?

If I can make it work without having to take on a second mortgage I would also love to bring a reeded glass shower screen into the scheme for some additional texture.  I saw it used to great effect in this bathroom

I think I have pinned this image approximately 6788 times I love it so much! Image via Living Etc

I think I have pinned this image approximately 6788 times I love it so much! Image via Living Etc

The reeded glass shower screen is a great way of bringing texture in. Image from Living Etc

The reeded glass shower screen is a great way of bringing texture in. Image from Living Etc

I also fell in love with a basin at the photoshoot I did with Geberit earlier in the year (click here to read all about it) that was made of a super matt, soft material called varicor.  I don’t know quite how to describe it but it felt like the basin was made out of the softest silk you can imagine. 

This  Geberit  basin made of a soft material called varicor is super tactile

This Geberit basin made of a soft material called varicor is super tactile

As you can see I coulnt’t keep my hands off it!

As you can see I coulnt’t keep my hands off it!

On the techy side my derriere very much likes the idea of sitting down on an intelligent Aqua Clean  toilet that is programmed to know exactly the warmth to heat my toilet seat to for me. 

Scroll Stopping Visuals

I started with smell but obviously the other biggy when designing your ultimate sensory bathroom space has to be how it all looks!  Whilst I loved my old bathroom and the rustic vintage industrial vibes it was channelling I actually have in mind a softer slightly more minimal look for the new bathroom.  Still retaining touches of industrial edge but introducing calmer colours and softer textures.  Also shockingly even to me I am toying with the idea of bring some non neutral colours in.  Before you start imagining bright pinks and neon yellow I should probably clarify that I am more thinking of dabbling with a very light mint green.  I adore these tiles for example and how they look with brass taps.

Soft mint green is the new avocado in this bathroom by Sarah Shearman Samuel

Soft mint green is the new avocado in this bathroom by Sarah Shearman Samuel

Lighting is also a hugely important part of the visual experience.  My Malmo would happily bathe with the big light on (any other Northerners call the overhead light that?!) but for me dimmable wall lights are a massive important part of creating a relaxing bathroom experience. 

Geberit have also come up with some smart solutions to avoid dazzling your eyes when you enter you bathroom space such as soft automatic orientation lighting as part of their vanity units and mirrors.  Exposure to harsh light sources in the middle of the night can apparently negatively effect your sleep patterns so incorporating gentle orientation lighting into your bathroom design is a great way to avoid being awake all night after popping for a 3am wee!

Soft orientation lighting built into the vanity unit and mirror avoids dazzling your eyes if you pop to the loo in the night!

Soft orientation lighting built into the vanity unit and mirror avoids dazzling your eyes if you pop to the loo in the night!

Turning up the tranquillity factor

Unless I at bathe at 11pm (which has been known to happen!) there is very rarely silence in our house.  The very best I can usually hope for is no-one under the age of 10 breaking through the door to enquire why there is a hairy glove floating in the bath or to ask my opinion on the Sheffield Wednesday back four.

There are some clever things you can do to maximise tranquillity and reduce noise in the bathroom though.  Geberit recommend planning features into your bathroom such as a decoupled pre-walls, opting for acoustically optimised pipework and choosing wall hung ceramics. The soft touch buttons on their flush plates also ensure a super quiet flushing action.  I can confirm I have heard louder whispers!

Geberit's soft touch flush plates ensure the tranquility of your bathroom experience is not disturbed

Geberit's soft touch flush plates ensure the tranquility of your bathroom experience is not disturbed

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Also there is one person I always enjoy taking into the bathroom with me (when Ryan Gosling is too busy to pop by for a bubble bath) and that is Alexa! Being able to ask her to play Zero 7 to drown out any rows that might be happening elsewhere in the house about turning the Octonauts off is invaluable!

I look forward to sharing more details of our bathroom makeover with you as our renovation plans progress.  Hopefully soon I will be in a position to pull together a moodboard that whittles down the 3567890 bathroom images I have saved and shapes them into a coherent design incorporating the sensory design principles I have picked up from Geberit!

*This post is part of the my long term paid partnership with Geberit*

Girl Meets Scandi Rustic Cabin of Her Dreams: Our Week Glamping in Belgium

If you did a straw poll of 100 people asking them where they went on holiday this year I am guessing the results might be: Spain (40), Greece (20), France (20), UK (10), Belgium (1). That one would be me! So why did we choose Europe’s least obvious holiday destination for our Summer break this year? There is actually a very obvious reason : two of the national culinary specialities are chocolate and cheesy chips. What is not to like?!

But if you are more of a plant than prailine based diet person there is a actually another great reason to flock to the Flemish land. Enter the Scandi/Rustic cabin of my dreams. About 6 months ago this image popped up on the explore page of my Instagram. It had me at festoon light. When I discovered it was located in the pine forests of Belgium rather than the plains of the American Mid West I was sold on a glamping holiday for 2019.

The rustic cabin picture that popped up on my Instagram explore page

The rustic cabin picture that popped up on my Instagram explore page

We booked 4 nights over the August bank holiday. At 700 Euros it was approximately half the price of the equivalent break in the UK with a significantly reduced risk of coming home with a veruca. I am not going to lie, I was a little bit worried that I had gone completely off piste as we drove ever deeper into Belgium past all the places I had heard of and could easily pronounce but when we arrived all of those fears evaporated and hopefully after reading this Belgium will also be top of your holiday hit list for next year

The Setting

There are approximately 28 of the cabins at Nutchel located in a beautiful pine forest close to the border with the Netherlands. It is the perfect mix of being secluded/an escape from everyday life whilst also 10 minutes drive from a supermarket that stocks toilet roll and marshmallows should you run out of either in the middle of the night, There are a mix of different cabins depending upon your party size and budget. We stayed in one of the cozy cabins which has all of the living accommodation at ground floor level and then a raised covered platform with seating for outdoor dining up in the trees.

Our own slice of Scandi cabin heaven for the week

Our own slice of Scandi cabin heaven for the week

This was one of my favourites. It overlooked a lake and had a hot tub

This was one of my favourites. It overlooked a lake and had a hot tub

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If you were there as a couple one of the smaller cabins would be really cosy

If you were there as a couple one of the smaller cabins would be really cosy

There are some which are all elevated though which looked really cool and a couple which come with their own hot tubs which I would definitely splash my Euros on when we return next time. But to be honest you really can’t go wrong as all of them have the same great combo of crittal style doors/windows, contemporary cladding and festoon lights

This is the cabin in the trees that we have our eye on for next time!

This is the cabin in the trees that we have our eye on for next time!

The Interiors

Where do I start? They were my wildest Little Modern Rustic House on the Prairie fantasy!

THe kitchen was small but perfectly formed

THe kitchen was small but perfectly formed

I loved the industrial interiors touches like the copper taps

I loved the industrial interiors touches like the copper taps

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Wooden clad walls, flowing linen curtains, cosy woodburner, industrial inspired kitchen, fairy lights and lanterns, cosy corners to curl up and read a book in, fluffy white duvets and a view of the forest from your bed, hell even copper piping taps in the bathroom!

My favourite spot to curl up in the window

My favourite spot to curl up in the window

The layout is basically one open plan room for the living space that has a sofa, a kitchen, a table and built in seating (as well as the woodburner) and then a separate bathroom and sleeping area with the beds sort of stacked up on top of each other. Hopefully you can see what i mean from the picture below.

The view through from the living space to the bedrooms

The view through from the living space to the bedrooms

The sofa had lots of clever storage so the cabin never felt cluttered

The sofa had lots of clever storage so the cabin never felt cluttered

The sleeping arrangement did mean that marital relations were pretty much off the cards for the week on account of us having children directly below and above us at all times but I did have a really good book I was reading so that actually worked out quite well for me!

I am going to miss waking up in the trees

I am going to miss waking up in the trees

I loved how much the kids enjoyed the whole experience

I loved how much the kids enjoyed the whole experience

A Camping Experience with Glamping Comforts

The cabins definitely deliver on the back to nature front and offer the chance to live a simpler life for a few days. There is no television, no WiFi, no microwave and no fridge (though there is a clever cold box before you start worrying about where you will store your almond milk).

The two sources of lighting were fairy lights and oil lamps

The two sources of lighting were fairy lights and oil lamps

ANd of course candles!

ANd of course candles!

I want o say that without Wifi the kids were reading books but I think he was scrolling my phone in this picture!

I want o say that without Wifi the kids were reading books but I think he was scrolling my phone in this picture!

Running hot water and no compost loo!

Running hot water and no compost loo!

But before you worry that you will be pooing into compost and unable to charge your phone, I should reassure you that there are power points flushing toilets, warm water and 4G reception in the cabins. So it is back to nature with data roaming still intact!

Crucially there is a kettle

Crucially there is a kettle

Things to Do

In all honesty your really won’t miss the TV because there is so much to do on the site and in the surrounding area. What i hadn’t appreciated when I booked is that there is a actually a really nice common area that all of the cabins have access to that includes a lake with a sandy beach around it which is dotted with Tiki style parasols, lazy boy bean bags and happy looking parents. The lake has a series of stepping stones in it for jumping off , a mini water slide and then in the landscaping around the lake there are also some adventure challenges like log stepping stones, a net bridge to navigate over a pond and some tightropes. On a Wednesday night there is a big barbecue in a cosy tipi strung with fairy lights over looking the lake and they open a bar up on the sand. Our kids loved this whole area (as did I Aperol Spritz in hand as I watched them play) and we easily spent 3-4 hours each day hanging out there.

The lovely lake and beach area

The lovely lake and beach area

It had definite Ibiza vibes!

It had definite Ibiza vibes!

This water slide provided hours of fun

This water slide provided hours of fun

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If you can prize your bum off a bean bag there is also a Go Ape style adventure park which culminates in a huge zipline across the forest and for littler ones there is a woodland playground that doesn’t require a crash helmet or for you to conquer your fear of heights! One of the things our boys loved the most though was just playing in the woods! They set up a mini cricket pitch in a clearing by our cabin and played a woodland version of the Ashes (with perhaps a greater proportion of tantrums and runs ending in one of them calling the other an idiot).

The Go Ape style adventure park

The Go Ape style adventure park

But our boys just loved playing in the woods

But our boys just loved playing in the woods

They used this little area as their cricket pitch

They used this little area as their cricket pitch

On our last day we booked a session in the hot tub set in the woods in a bid to persuade the boys that sitting in gently bubbling warm water is more enjoyable than trying to find a cricket ball in a bramble thicket. There is also a sauna and a Finnish wooden hut you can hire for a barbecue experience!

Romantic hot tub for……..5!

Romantic hot tub for……..5!

I am hoping I have won them over to a Spa experience!

I am hoping I have won them over to a Spa experience!

We also ventured into nearby Masseig one of the days which has a pretty square with restaurants and bars around. The boys declared our meal their the best they had ever had on account of the waiter giving them both a football and a plate of fizzy sweets at the end of the meal. Note to Heston Blummenthal if you want that fifth Michelin Star swap Petit Four for fizzy dummies.

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Two holidays in one

The other thing I loved about this as a break is that you can really easily combine it with a city break on your way there. We drove and from Calais to the cabin it was about 4 hours but we broke the journey up by both having lunch in Bruges and then staying a coupe of nights in Antwerp. I would really recommend Antwerp. It has not perhaps got the Belgium Venice good looks of Bruges or Ghent but it has lots of great museums, cafes, restaurants, parks and, as the fashion captial of Belgium, shops!

The MAS Museum in Antwerp

The MAS Museum in Antwerp

Would definitely recommend it for a city break

Would definitely recommend it for a city break

So have I persuaded you to swap Greece for Ghent next year? This is the link to Nutchel so you can have a closer look and if you are interested I would say it is worth e-mailing and asking them to let you know when availability for Summer 2020 is released as I hear it gets booked up really fast!

Hopefully we will be back soon!

Hopefully we will be back soon!

The Malmo & Moss Guide to Majorca

We recently got back from spending the week in Majorca. It was my fourth visit to the Island and it is rapidly becoming one of my favourite holiday destinations. Although when we first visited on honeymoon 11 years ago we left feeling a little underwhelmed. It was the weather rather than Majorca’s fault though. It tipped it down almost the entire time we were there meaning we spent most of our time sheltering from torrential rain rather than dipping our toes in turquoise waters.

The view of the mountains from the pretty village of Fornalutx

The view of the mountains from the pretty village of Fornalutx

The winding old streets of Fornalutx

The winding old streets of Fornalutx

However, 3 years ago we hired a villa in the Tramuntara mountains on the North-West side of the Island with my cousin (who is conveniently married to one of my husband’s best friends) and finally fell for its charms.  In fact so much so that we returned for girlie city break in Palma just 12 months later losing ourselves in the winding streets of the old town and the changing rooms of Mango and Zara.

Palma’s beautiful Old Town

Palma’s beautiful Old Town

Being on a girlie break meant lots of time to pratt around getting Instagram shots against graffiti walls

Being on a girlie break meant lots of time to pratt around getting Instagram shots against graffiti walls

This time round we hired a villa in the middle of the Island in a village called Consell.  It is not really a touristy type of a place lacking the postcard good looks of Deia or Fortnalux but it still has plenty of flaky paint doors, white washed buildings and winding alleyways to fill up your camera roll with and felt much more like we were discovering the “real Mallorca”. So with four trips now under my belt I thought I would do a little roundup of my favourite places to stay, eat, beach and explore on the Island.  Please do add suggestions in the comments below as I feel like I have probably only explored about 35% of this gorgeous place so far oh and Rafa Nadal’s home address if you happen  to have it…..

Best Places To Stay in Majorca

Hotels

Son Brull

When we visited on honeymoon we stayed up in the North of the Island near Pollenca in a boutique hotel called Son Brull.  If you are unencumbered by children and want to stay somewhere Mr Tumble free with beautiful crisp clean interiors, an infinity pool and a bartender who memorises your favourite cocktail after the first night this is the place.

Hotel Nakar

On our girlie break we were looking for somewhere right in the middle of Palma that had nice interiors but which wouldn’t break the bank.  We chose the Nakar Hotel which I would whole heartedly recommend for the following reasons a) it is very centrally located so very easy to get to the Old Town, Cathedral and Harbour as well as to pick up buses to get to places along the coast b) the rooms are large, clean and contemporary c) it has rooftop terrace and infinity pool which look out over a view of terracotta rooftops, blue skies, the twinkling sea and magnificent Cathedral (in the evening a DJ plays so you can go up there after a few Roses and two step dance like it’s 1998 again) d) there is a breakfast buffet that features both limitless chocolate cake and cava and e) the concierge staff are almost exclusively very handsome young Spanish men who smell and look great as well as obviously being great fonts of knowledge on Palma’s cultural sights.

The Scandi style outdoor seating on the roof terrace of Hotel Nakar

The Scandi style outdoor seating on the roof terrace of Hotel Nakar

The view from the roof terrace where breakfast was served

The view from the roof terrace where breakfast was served

The rooftop infinity pool

The rooftop infinity pool

Self Catering

I actually deliberated long and hard about writing this blog and sharing the details of the Villa we stayed in this time round as it was such an amazing find and I am slightly worried that when I let the secret out it will get booked up and I won’t be able to go back!

One of the the gorgeous outdoor seating areas at the Villa

One of the the gorgeous outdoor seating areas at the Villa

As I mentioned above it was located in a village about 20 mins North of Palma called Consell and it’s location was perfect as we could explore all over the island without ever having to drive more than an hour.  There is a little bakery, a bar on the local square, a newagent, supermarket and a couple of nice restaurants (of the local rather than trendy variety).

A view of the street on which the Villa is located

A view of the street on which the Villa is located

Give me all the flaky paint doorways

Give me all the flaky paint doorways

But to be honest most days it was hard to drag ourselves away from the Villa compound!  It really was heaven.  Sleeping 12 in total there are 5 double bedrooms all ensuite with air conditioning and two with their own private roof terraces.  Downstairs is a huge dining/living space with a whopper of a kitchen table and a massive corner sofa with access to Netflix.  Outside there is a lovely enclosed courtyard garden, a further outbuilding with seating and a table and chairs and then through a gate is the stunning infinity style pool and outdoor dining area.

The pool was a lovely temperature and had shallow steps in so perfect for little ones.  It also had colour change lights for the evening which the kids said were their favourite bit of the whole holiday.  Around the pool dotted amongst lemon and orange trees are sun loungers, parasols and ridiculously comfy bean bags

The pool glistening in the early morning light

The pool glistening in the early morning light

There wwas lots of stylish seating around the pool and shady spots to retreat to

There wwas lots of stylish seating around the pool and shady spots to retreat to

It really has got everything you could ever hope for and more.  If you are in a smaller group then the neighbouring property is owned by the same person and has the same great combo of stylish, simple interiors and a knock out pool.  If you travel as a group in peak Summer months it works out at about £350 per person for the week which is amazing value compared to some of the other far far less nice places we looked at.      

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So if you would like to book this slice of paradise for your holiday click here for the link. Promise to leave me a week free in July 2020 though?!

Best Beaches

Majorca has a lot of great beaches to chose from it just depends what you are looking for.  My personal beach criteria are: turquoise clear waters, access to shade, a secluded/cove like location if possible, beach bar in easy reach, parking in close proximity and a walk down to the beach that does not require you to have previously gone on a survival skills course with Bear Grylls.  Oh and if there happen to be Rafa Nadal types playing Beach Volleyball near my sandcastle all the better.

Blue skies, turquiose sea and white sand = my beach paradise

Blue skies, turquiose sea and white sand = my beach paradise

Our favourite find from our first trip was Cala Fornells down in the South of the Island.  It is not a huge beach but we rocked up late afternoon and found a lovely shaded spot in amongst rocks with plenty of shade from pine trees and it delivers the full turquoise sea experience.  It is theoretically possible to hire loungers although we had a stand-off with a German man in very small trunks after some confusion about which ones belonged to the hotel that backs on to the beach.

One of the idyliic coves at Cala Fornells

One of the idyliic coves at Cala Fornells

This time round we headed East for a day and our favourite find was Cala Mesquida . We parked easily and it was a simple five minute stroll down on to a sandy beach with loungers under Tiki Parasols to hire (with no stand offs with Bavarians in Budgey Smugglers).  The water was incredibly clear and warm and there is a great Beach shack serving up snacks and a mean mojito.  There is a resort above the beach but it is very small, low rise and unimposing.  If you are child free or have somehow ended up with the kind of kids who will walk for more than 5 minutes without asking to turn back/be carried/be given sugar then from Cala Mesquida there is a tail you can walk over to Cala Torta a more secluded beach with no resort attached and the famous Dolores and Manolo’s beach bar which is renowned for serving up great seafood in this beautiful setting.

A walkway leading away from Cala Mesquida to Cala Torta

A walkway leading away from Cala Mesquida to Cala Torta

Beach heaven at Cala Mesquida

Beach heaven at Cala Mesquida

There is an option to hire a more deluxe sun lounger if you are flush with Euros. the standard sun loungers we hired were 15 Euro for two for the day

There is an option to hire a more deluxe sun lounger if you are flush with Euros. the standard sun loungers we hired were 15 Euro for two for the day

Our other new discovery was Playa D’Albercuix up in Port de Pollensa.  Port de Pollensa has a big wide sandy beach well served for water sports and family friendly facilities but the bit that we explored and fell in love with was at the end of the Pine Walk that stretches along the harbour in the Port.  We parked up near the Hotel Illa D’Or (which itself looks like a lovely spot) and then based ourselves on a lovely little stretch of sand on Playa D’Albercuix just along from the hotel which had stone jetties reaching out into the water for the kids to fish from and beautiful clear, shallow water for swimming and cooling off in.  If you fancy an ice cream walk from there towards Pollensa under the shade of pine trees whilst taking in some of the beautiful Villas that back onto the beach.  We had a beautiful seafood lunch on the terrace of the Hotel Illa D’Or (whose rather nice loo facilities we also used for the day) which is lovely and shady and has a great menu that changes daily.

Hotel Illa D’Or just off the pine walk

Hotel Illa D’Or just off the pine walk

The shade stretch of sand that we made our base

The shade stretch of sand that we made our base

The lovely shady pine walk in Port de Pollensa

The lovely shady pine walk in Port de Pollensa

If we come back to the Island I would be tempted to base myself in Pollensa or Port de Pollensa and then to go off exploring the stunning Cap de Formentor.  If you don’t fancy the slightly butt clenching journey to the end of the Cap you can catch a boat from Port de Pollensa to Formentor beach which would make a lovely day trip. 

Beach Clubs

Puro Beach

When we were on our girlie break we took a bus from Palma to Illetes Beach which in itself is a lovely little beach with a couple of great bars from which you can watch the sun set whilst sipping a cocktail.  You can hire loungers from the beach club there which was our original plan.  However when we arrived we discovered there had been a mix up and our booking lost.  However whilst we were waiting for them to reveal this fact I spotted just around the bay the glistening of white Balinese beds on a rock above crystal clear waters. 

The Balinese beds that caught my eye from across the bay

The Balinese beds that caught my eye from across the bay

Enter Puro Beach. To know it is to surrender your credit card and fall hopelessly in love.  For 60 Euros a day you can lie back on a white lounger and spend a further sum of your monthly salary on Rose Wine, perfect crispy squid and at lounger Spa treatments.  We made our way back there again this time and it was just as heavenly as we had remembered. 

The view as you walk down to Puro Beach

The view as you walk down to Puro Beach

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Two (ok three) Roses down happy faces

Two (ok three) Roses down happy faces

The turquoise sea view from my lounger at Puro Beach

The turquoise sea view from my lounger at Puro Beach

Assasona Beach

A new opening since our last visit and located in the trendy Portixol suburb of Palma, Assasona has more than a little flavour of Ibiza with its boho beach good looks.  The setting in the harbour right on the beach is amazing.  There are loungers to hire but we visited for dinner just as the sun was going down and enjoyed a gorgeous open air dinner looking out to sea

New for 2019 Assaona Beach Club (their image)

New for 2019 Assaona Beach Club (their image)


Roxy’s Beach Bar

Not strictly a beach club but on our girlie break we visited Puerto Portals and loved this place.  It is right at the end of Puerto Portals beach on a pontoon out in the water from where you can watch yachts coming into harbour and tanned young types on jet skis whilst sipping Sangria and listening to a chilled out sound track.

Roxys Beach Bar in the distance

Roxys Beach Bar in the distance

The view when sat in Roxys Beach Bar Sangria in hand

The view when sat in Roxys Beach Bar Sangria in hand

Puerto Portals itself is sort of like a Majorcan version of St Tropez.   Think a harbour full of yachts, boutiques full of clothes that look like they have got caught up in a Swarkorski Crystal hurricane and boulevards full of Sugar Daddies and their twinkies.  That makes it sound awful but if you take it with a pinch of salt and add 10 Euros to what you thought was your previous ceiling price for a pizza then it is a great fun place to while away a few hours people watching.

Places to Eat

Because we were staying in such an amazing Villa (and had 5 kids between us) quite a few of the nights were there this time we just ate in. 

Palma

We visited Palma one evening and parked near the Cathedral.  Parc de sa Feixina is just adjacent with a great playground to let the kids burn off some energy and then from there you are a short stroll into the winding streets of the Old Town.  Just off the square is a Tapas place we didn’t eat in but which has great reviews called S’Angel.  We were due to eat at the Mercado de San Juan but realised it was actually 30 mins from the centre so instead nabbed a last minute table at Forn .  It has great industrial style interiors and tapas style menu and they were very family friendly although the prices were a bit eye watering.

Just across the Street was the sister restaurant Koi which came recommended by a friend and is known for its great oven cooked Pizzas.  We rounded off our evening with an icecream at Can Miquel which is located through a maze of the beautiful old streets.  The Hazlenut flavour is not to be missed.

Both of the times we have holidayed as a group we have traded babysitting so we each got to go out to a more special occasion type of place.  The first time we wen to Hotel Castell Son Claret and I cannot recommend the magical setting enough.  It is an old castle and the enter courtyard was strung with tiny fairy lights making it look so pretty on a clear starry night.  The food was almost as pretty.

This time my Cousin visited Cap Rocat and ate at the Sea Club (we were also meant to but I booked for the worng week!).  The food itself is ok but the real draw is the amazing setting on the cliffs from which you can watch the sun go down with a huge gin and tonic in hand . I guess I will just have to go back next year to experience that sunset!

 

A snapshot of images from the Cap Rocat Instagram to wet your appetite

So there you have it the Malmo & Mos Guide to Majorca. It probably only scratches the surface of all this gem of an island has to offer. I guess i will just have to keep going back for the purposes of research. Puro Beach 2020 here I come.

Malmo & Moss Renovation Diary: August

This week marked the end of our first month living in our new house.  I would like to say we celebrated this milestone wrapped in each others arms sipping chilled glasses of Dom Perignon but the reality involved mugs of builders tea and an aborted attempt to change a light fitting that nearly ended in divorce and Mr Malmo losing a testicle to an electric screwdriver.

The light fitting seen in our old house

The light fitting seen in our old house

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To briefly recap in case you didn’t see my previous blog post about the move, we have swapped our old Edwardian semi for a bigger 1930s style house which offers us the potential to extend up, out and sideways but which currently looks like it got caught up in a pebble dash hurricane.

Here she is, our pebble dash princess…

Here she is, our pebble dash princess…

I am not going to lie, I was worried that leaving behind our old house (which we had completely renovated) would leave me feeling like a fish out of modern rustic water with nothing to instagram but laminate floors and Laura Ashley wallpaper.  But, despite all its current imperfections and a distinct lack of metro tiles, this place surprisingly already feels like home.  It helps that we have actually only moved five minutes around the corner so we haven’t had to leave behind friends or change schools.  The move was driven by wanting more space and whilst the current configuration of rooms is a bit of a jumble (more on that to come….) gaining a garage, utility and a bigger, leafier garden has already made family life much easier. 

There is not a metro tile in sight at the new house so having to get my fix looking at pictures of our old bathroom instead

There is not a metro tile in sight at the new house so having to get my fix looking at pictures of our old bathroom instead

Although my dad has expressed some deep concerns about the width of the toilets.  Apparently in order to stay on the right side of his bowels I need to factor toilet cubicles the size of a small Belgian city into my renovation plans.

Me and my Dad who is smiling despite his narrow toilet concerns

Me and my Dad who is smiling despite his narrow toilet concerns

To keep me sane as we attempt to create a contemporary Scandinavian inspired family home (with spacious toilets) out of this pebble dash Princess,  I thought I would keep a monthly renovation diary here on the blog.  That way I can show you the ‘Before’ , share our plans for the ‘After’, and hopefully acquire and impart some wisdom along the way about designing and building your dream home. Although there is not much renovation to document so far as most of the first month has been spent unpacking endless boxes.  It turns out a girl can have too many shoes, coats, rustic benches and artfully distressed candleholders (33 and counting….).  It felt at one point that Rogers Removals boxes were waiting until we went to bed and then frantically procreating.

The procreating removal boxes and some wallpaper that looks like it could have inspired one of Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen’s frock coats

The procreating removal boxes and some wallpaper that looks like it could have inspired one of Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen’s frock coats

Obviously I unpacked the really important things first like a giant rustic flower wreath

Obviously I unpacked the really important things first like a giant rustic flower wreath

To escape the #RampantRogersRemovalBoxes we have been spending as much time as possible outside in the garden.  The previous owner was a keen gardener so we will hopefully just need to try and keep things alive rather than starting from ground zero.  It is south facing which means the outdoor seating area pictured below, gets lots of sunshine.  Actually I know it feels wrong to say this (given that August seems to have got itself confused with February) but if anything it actually gets a little too much sun for this pale skinned Northern girl. 

To escape the chaos inside we have been spending a lot of time outside in the lovely leafy garden

To escape the chaos inside we have been spending a lot of time outside in the lovely leafy garden

Because it is south facing it is a bit of a sun trap

Because it is south facing it is a bit of a sun trap

I was, therefore, excited to discover that we have actually inherited an awning. Although that excitement slightly fizzled out when I discovered that it was in Sheffield Wednesday colours and looks about as Scandinavian as the Go Jetters.

The current sun shade situation is more Sheffield Wednesday than Stockholm

The current sun shade situation is more Sheffield Wednesday than Stockholm

Apologies for the eyeful of my pebble dash

Apologies for the eyeful of my pebble dash

The hunt as begun for some alternative shade solutions with more of a relaxed Ibizan beach club vibe. So it was great timing when Solero Parasols got in touch to tell me about their extensive range of garden parasols. This cantilevered gem would completely meet the beach club brief.  It is what is known as a free arm parasol and can rotate 360 degrees.  It comes with lots of smart features as well.  The fabric is fade resistant and hydrophobic and  also has a UPF Value of 50+.   On days when temperatures soars the fabric will release rather than retain hot air adding to the stability of the parasol.  It also comes with wireless rechargeable lighting meaning you can stay outside and enjoy long Summer evenings.  To be honest I think it might be cleverer than I am!

A Cantilevered parasol from the Solero range.

A Cantilevered parasol from the Solero range.

Another option I really like (and hadn’t seen before) was having a wall parasol.  The patio area we have to play with is not huge so I like the idea of saving space by having one mounted to the wall.  And lets face it I am 100% there for any solution which obscures more of the pebble dash! 

This wall parasol might be the perfect replacement for the awning!

This wall parasol might be the perfect replacement for the awning!

When it comes to inside there are even bigger plans afoot.  We have appointed Detail Architect to start drawing up plans for re-configuring and extending the current space and hopefully by my next diary entry I will be able to share some preliminary floorplans with you!

In the meantime I am going to leave you with a couple of shots of areas of the house that are starting to look vaguely Instagrammable (if you squint…..) Do you recognise the light fitting from our old house? 10 points if you can remember which room it used to hang in!

This is one of my favourite areas of the house so far. It has got quite high ceilings so it is possible to show my Abigail Ahern light off to full effect!

This is one of my favourite areas of the house so far. It has got quite high ceilings so it is possible to show my Abigail Ahern light off to full effect!

I have big plans for making over the fireplace in here but for now enjoying this corner

I have big plans for making over the fireplace in here but for now enjoying this corner

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This Blog Plost was kindly sponsored by Solero Parasols

Styling my Garden for Summer

It has been quite a week in the Malmo & Moss household. After nine happy years we have moved house, leaving our Edwardian semi behind and taking on a pebble dash dipped renovation project.  It is fair to say that as I closed our front door for the last time on Monday I was about as composed as Gwyneth Paltrow upon discovering that her local Whole Foods had run out of tofu. 

Saying goodbye to our first family home has been emotional

Saying goodbye to our first family home has been emotional

One of the things I will be saddest to leave behind is our kitchen extension and the relationship it allowed us to have with the garden.  That sounds like we were embroiled in an unhealthy coupling with our hardy geraniums but what I mean is the way the design of the extension opened up the house to the garden allowing it to become like an extension of the house in the Summer.

My favourite feature if our old house: the cantilevered corner

My favourite feature if our old house: the cantilevered corner

A corner of our old garden where I proved to be surprisingly green fingered

A corner of our old garden where I proved to be surprisingly green fingered

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Designing a kitchen extension for indoor/outdoor living

We were originally going to just have bifold doors going across the end but ended up going for a cantilevered corner.  It was definitely more expensive ( I will probably still be paying for it when I am 79) but it created so much more wow factor.  We loved having friends round for dinner and opening the doors up to enjoy all of the view of the garden from the table.

Table set ready for dinner with my favourite items from the  Marks & Spencer  Spring/Summer homeware range

Table set ready for dinner with my favourite items from the Marks & Spencer Spring/Summer homeware range

Another key part of the design was having a raised deck that wrapped around the extension and using concrete constructed planters to create a seating area.  That little corner was the sunniest spot in the garden and I loved sitting out there with a cup of tea in the morning or with a glass of wine in the early evening (when the sun had gone down just enough for me to venture out without turning tomato red in twenty seconds).

The seating area on the wrap around decking that we created using raised concrete planters

The seating area on the wrap around decking that we created using raised concrete planters

Summer Styling with Marks & Spencer

Over the last few months as we have prepared for the move,  I have been working with Marks and Spencer (as part of a paid partnership) to explore their Spring/Summer range and to get to know more about the brand I have loved since I was a little girl.  With just days to go before we moved I enjoyed a final fling with my kitchen and garden styling them up to showcase some of the items I selected from the range and to inspire people to go alfresco Scandi Rustic style this Summer.

Table laid with the beautiful, simple  Marlowe dining set

Table laid with the beautiful, simple Marlowe dining set

When I attended the launch for the Spring/Summer collection there were four items that really stood out for me and which I was dying to get my hands on. They were the small bulb vases, the Marlowe dinner set, the white washed wooden hurricane lanterns and candles from the calm range.  I knew that all four would look great on my  Summer table when mixed in with my existing tableware and vintage pieces.

These lovely little bulb vases are great for displaying single stems of flowers like these blousy peonies

These lovely little bulb vases are great for displaying single stems of flowers like these blousy peonies

Peonies plate perfection

Peonies plate perfection

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The Marlowe dinner set is a lovely soft grey and has a great raised rim detail that I really liked.  I set the table with a lovely natural linen table cloth, added the plates and bowls from the set and then lit candles to flicker in the evening sun in the hurricane lamps from the collection. 

The candle from the  calm range  which is crafted with sweet orange and lavender essential oils

The candle from the calm range which is crafted with sweet orange and lavender essential oils

It is no exaggeration to say I love these hurricane lamps so much that they have appeared in literally every shot on my grid since I got them!  The original ones have sold out online but there is a slightly different shape which is equally nice which is still online and linked here .  To add some scent to my Summer table I lit two of the candles from the Calm range the style and price point of which I loved! A single candle is just £7.50 and has notes of cedar wood and clary sage.

My hero item from the range has to be the  white washed hurricane lamps  which I would happily buy for every room in my house

My hero item from the range has to be the white washed hurricane lamps which I would happily buy for every room in my house

The last hurrah I had in the garden was to take my three hero items outside and add in some cushions and planters from the Spring/Summer garden range to create a more casual dining scenario on the decking.

Let’s go outside…….

Let’s go outside…….

Creating a low picnic table from a couple of old pallets covered with a linen tablecloth. These  jute outdoor cushions  from the Marks & Spencer range make great seating

Creating a low picnic table from a couple of old pallets covered with a linen tablecloth. These jute outdoor cushions from the Marks & Spencer range make great seating

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I used a couple of pallets to create a low table and then for comfort, colour and seating used these great outdoor cushions which I have in both a mustard and navy stripe. Given that we have experienced #SiberiaInJune this year I can vouch for the weatherproof nature of them!

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As somebody who is somewhere on the English Rose spectrum between Silas the Albino Monk from the Da Vinci Code and Casper the Friendly Ghost, early evening is actually my favourite time of day in the summer. I love the light at that time of day not to mention the festoon related Instagram opportunities

All that is missing is the food! We actually had an outdoor curry but it didn’t Instagram up as attractively as the cushions!

All that is missing is the food! We actually had an outdoor curry but it didn’t Instagram up as attractively as the cushions!

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The  hi-ball glasses  are also from Marks & Spencer. They have a lovely rippled effect to the glass. I have linked them here if you would like to take a closer look

The hi-ball glasses are also from Marks & Spencer. They have a lovely rippled effect to the glass. I have linked them here if you would like to take a closer look

New Beginnings: Our New House

Whilst I alas could not take my cantilevered corner with me in the move (at least not without causing some serious conveyancing complications) I did bring all of my favourite Marks & Spencers items with me and I am now excited to share some sneak peeks of the new house and garden with you where, after a box unpacking rampage, I have settled in enough to do a little bit of styling!

Pebble dash and White UpVC have replaced my previous cantilever corner but the garden is really rather lovely

Pebble dash and White UpVC have replaced my previous cantilever corner but the garden is really rather lovely

Happy to have unpacked these  concrete planters  which are great for adding a modern industrial element to your garden

Happy to have unpacked these concrete planters which are great for adding a modern industrial element to your garden

I love how “mature” the garden is, it feels like even we can’t manage to kill a hedge this abundant!

I love how “mature” the garden is, it feels like even we can’t manage to kill a hedge this abundant!

A bigger garden for the boys was one of the drivers for our move (along with my desire for a utility room). The garden in our old house was no postage stamp but it was, like the house ( but alas not me) on the narrow side and we ideally wanted somewhere with a bigger wider lawn to see us through the next 15 years of back garden football fixtures. 

The garden is south facing so gets lots off sunshine

The garden is south facing so gets lots off sunshine

I love the contrast of the  jute striped yellow cushions  with the pink hydrangeas

I love the contrast of the jute striped yellow cushions with the pink hydrangeas

This place instantly ticked that box.  It is, like the house, wider and also longer.  It has also been been cared for by someone who knows her Foxgloves from her Fingers so is really mature and fully of things that are thriving rather than barely surviving!.

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However, the existing kitchen extension does not make the most of the possibilities of the garden and so we are excited to get to work with an architect to explore ways to better open the kitchen up to the garden and to reconfigure the internal layout (which is pretty higgedly piggledly but more of that another time). I will be sharing more about those plans as they take shape on the blog but I thought you might like a sneak preview of the kitchen for now so you can get a feel for the scale of the challenge!

Introducing my new kitchen. In an Instagram poll this week it came out on top as the room in the new house people most wanted to see! We are working with an architect to explore how we can better open it to the garden

Introducing my new kitchen. In an Instagram poll this week it came out on top as the room in the new house people most wanted to see! We are working with an architect to explore how we can better open it to the garden

It may not be my modern rustic dream but it is liveable with for now!

It may not be my modern rustic dream but it is liveable with for now!

#This Blog Post is part of my Paid Partnership with Marks & Spencer and the items that I feature were gifted to me as part of that partnership.#

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.

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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.

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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.

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@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

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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.

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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!

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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

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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!

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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.

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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).

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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

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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….

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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

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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). 

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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.

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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. 

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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

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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”. 

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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The bathroom ready for romance rose petals and all

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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
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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!

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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. 

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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.