I have always been a keen baker. My attempted journey from hopeless to Hollywood (Paul) started age 11, baking batches of cheese scones for my family. They were obliged to force them down and make encouraging noises despite them being chemically indistinguishable from glue. The arrival of kids of my own meant new forays into the world of cakes and the production of several buttercream heavy creations that no one of sound mind or steady hand would recreate. Cakes of Infamy (which by the way would make a great name for a board game) include an Octonauts cake that looked like I was trying to recreate “The One Where Kwazi Kitten Falls Into A Volcano And Gets Melted” and a Fireman Sam cake where I had to resort to printing out a picture of Fireman Sam to stick on top of the cake after my attempt to render him from fondant icing left him looking like it was him who needed to call the emergency services.Read More
In 2012 I had a job as a Senior Associate in one of the top five law firms in the UK, advising a host of multinational companies on high profile environmental law matters. I had an impressive shiny office in the heart of Spitalfields Market, my own PA and a six figure salary that meant I could comfortably afford to shop in Whistles during my lunch break, go on nice holidays and invest in a pension. But I was miserable. I had returned to work after having my first son and was regularly leaving the office at 5:30pm, picking him up, putting him to bed and then logging on to do another 4 or 5 hours work on corporate deals which left me feeling that I was making little or no difference to the world my son would grow up in. My boss was a nice guy but wanted someone who could be in the office day and night if he needed them and he flatly refused to entertain the idea of me working from home even one day a week in case it “ set a precedent”.Read More
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.
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)’.
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.”
“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.”
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
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 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”.
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”
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”.
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.
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.
My Instagram Journey So Far
I started idly dipping my toe into Instagram in late 2016. I was on maternity leave with my third son and looking for something to help pass the time that didn’t revolve around the contents of Mr Tumble’s spotty bag. I have never really been one for Mumsnet. I can’t get over the feeling that it is slightly wrong to be discussing baby poo with strangers online so I thought I would try out Instagram instead. I never set out with a grand plan, goals or a strategy. It was just me sharing pictures of my bathroom and finding, to my surprise, a community of fellow interiors fans who liked the cut of my rolltop bath and shared a love of metro tiles and blow job gags.
Since posting that first murky shot of my bathroom 2 years ago I have gained 80K followers, had my pictures regrammed on some of my all time favourite Instagram accounts such as Apartment Therapy, seen my home featured in My House Beautiful and 91 Magazine, collaborated with some of my favourite interiors brands and been lucky enough to go on trips to and write about some amazing places including Malmo (my spiritual Scandi home).
In the last 9 months I have also started, for the first time, to earn money from my Instagram and blog. Not the kind of money that enables me to make Ryan Gosling an ‘Indecent Proposal’ he would actually accept (although Ryan if I have misjudged this and you would in fact be my Demi Moore for £20 and a Grab Bag of Roast Beef Monster Munch call me). But the kind of money that means that my dad no longer tells me to stop wanking over pictures of other people’s cushions (not literally I stress).
However, I have also discovered that whilst Instagram can build you up it can also knock you right back down again and, in the grip of algorithm angst, it can become easy to lose sight of why you started using the app in the first place. So finding myself with five minutes free when no-one is asking me to wipe their bottom (I have told Mr Malmo he really need to start doing his own) I thought I would share with you five lessons I learnt in 2018 about how to grow your Instagram without losing your mind in the process.
Serve up a Killer Shot
Errr duhh Malmo isn’t that the whole point of Instagram? It is but it is a basic principle I confess I have at times been guilty of forgetting! When a post bombs it may well be because the evil algorithm has hidden you down the back of the Instagram sofa but sometime the truth is that actually you just served up a bit of a shit shot! Take this one of my bedroom for example. At the time I thought I was unleashing #gridgoals but it struggled to get past 1K likes and then died. But when I look back at it now I can see that I totally over did it with the filters, zoomed in too close on the bed cutting out the windows to the right and shaving off half of the bedside table.
In comparison in this shot I showed more of the whole room so you can see the bed in context and told more of a story in the image (in this case wife eats croissants in bed and sets off husband’s over sensitive crummy alarm). I also edited the picture in a much lighter way. Same room, different picture, different result with this picture receiving over 6k likes
Filters Can Be Your Friend Afterall
In my last blog about Instagram back in 2017, I wrote that I had learnt to go easy on the filters after an early addiction to adding borders to my images that made them look like they were trapped behind #beigebars. But what I have learnt this year is that filters and editing tools (if used less cack handedly) can turn a photo from meh to marvellous. They also allow you to create a look and feel to your feed that people start to identify with your pictures making them stand out from the crowd.
I have started using third party apps like Snapseed and VSCO to edit my pictures and my goal for 2019 is to get to grips with Lightroom. They have a much wider selection of preset filters to chose from than Instagram and allow a broader range of edits you can make to a picture. It has been trial and error ( I still get it wrong sometimes as shown above) and you may prefer to leave you pictures au naturel. However, since making this change to the style of my pictures they have got picked up and regrammed by some huge interiors instagram accounts like My Interior, Apartment Therapy, Home Adore and Room Porn. Those regrams have added about 1000 followers a time to my account.
Fuck the Numbers
I am not going to pretend that I don’t care the number of likes my posts get or the number of followers I have. The ping of a blue notification can be intoxicating! But what I learnt the hard way this year was that if the number of likes and follows you get becomes your main motivation and validation then Instagram can fairly quickly go from thriller to killer. 2018 started out well for me, I had a couple of pretty big regrams and gained 4.5K followers overnight when the Frugality mentioned me in her stories. But then out of the blue my account suddenly ground to a halt. For the first time I was losing more followers than I was gaining and my pictures attracted a fraction of the likes they had been getting when my account was much smaller.
My first thought was that I had been shadow banned but I was still showing up on hashtags and after the normal two weeks it would take for shadow ban to elapse I was still in insta purgatory! I drove myself crazy trying to work out what I had done wrong googling “why does Instagram hate me” and reporting the problem with pleading messages along the lines of “Dear Instagram please can I come off the naughty step".
It was frustrating to watch what felt like everyone else surge past me whilst my account went into reverse. I had got totally sucked into a “race” mentality. But then my husband put it all into perspective for me by reminding me of ‘Wanted’. A truly terrible action film starring Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy from the late noughties. The first 30 mins or so of the film are an enjoyable enough action caper in which Jolie and McAvoy team up to defeat a mysterious bad guy. But then it is revealed that the bad guy they are battling is, in fact, a weaving loom of the type that might appear in an episode of Cranford. The weaving loom in this analogy is of course the algorithm.
In the absence of a degree in computer science (or even a basic understanding of Microsoft excel) it will remain a mystery to me. So instead of worrying about followers I didn’t have, likes I wasn’t getting or how big other accounts were growing I decided to focus instead on engaging with the followers I do have and creating content that I think they will like and which I am proud of. That is what my stay in insta jail taught me and I have been happier and enjoyed insta much more ever since. Which brings me to my next point.
Get Authentically Social
Getting regrammed by Apartment Therapy may have been one of my highlights of 2018 but so was the night when, home alone and relaxing in my favourite #FlaccidPenisFlanelettes, I shared a picture of them and asked people to show me their favourite #PyjamasPenisesLoveToHate in return. I received over a hundred entries into the Boner Crusher Hall of Fame with nightwear featuring everything from fleecy festive owls to erection extinguishing ice skating penguins that had me howling with laughter.
I didn’t share my pyjamas as part of any grand Instagram engagement strategy. I shared them because Mr Malmo was out and I was sitting on the sofa eating doritos and fancied some bants. Instagram is “social media” and I am sure you have all read advice which says that the best way to grow your account is to be social and engage with other accounts. There are many different ways you can go about that. You can comment “love this” or “nice room” on as many accounts as you possibly can before you get thumb fatigue. But the rather long winded point of my flaccid penis pyjama story is that when you forget about being strategic and make your followers laugh, or share something that allows you to build real rapport with the people following you they stop being a number and instead become your tribe, your champions and, in many cases, your friends in real life!
Step away from your Phone
“Put Phone Down Mummy”. Four words spoken to me by my toddler this Summer which, combined with my stay in insta jail, caused me to reassess my relationship with Instagram. Prior to that point I had posted religiously every day at the most “insta” appropriate time and driven Mr Malmo mad by constantly being heard to say “just give me a minute whilst I” insert one of “reply to this comment, check my DMs, post this to stories”. Instagram had become like a job and it was zapping the fun out of it for me (not to mention those around me!). I already have a job (in sustainability) that I enjoy very much and I realised that whilst Instagram has brought me some amazing opportunities I don’t want it to become my full time career. And I certainly don’t want to miss out on times with my family worrying about the algorithm or how my posts are performing.
So I did what my toddler suggested and put my phone down. I now take at least 1 or 2 days off a week from posting and do it at times that fit in with family life rather than being preordained by Instagram insights. My account has not fallen off a cliff. I am still being offered opportunities and my account is still growing. Maybe not as fast as others that post more frequently but that is ok with me. Whilst Instagram does seem to penalize you if you disappear for long periods, a day or two off a week doesn’t seem to have angered the insta gods too much. Indeed I think my engagement has been better since I stopped posting as frequently, maybe because it is a case of absence makes the heart grow fonder?! To quote a truly great philosopher (Ray Winstone in the Paddy Power adverts) when the fun stops stop. Whether it is for a day, a week or a month a little insta break every now and then can sometimes be what you need to get your mojo (and sanity) back.
So there you have it, my advice, for what it is worth, on how to grow your instagram without losing your mind (or being a dick). Thank you to every one of you who follows me, banters with me and encourages me on a daily basis.
There are a couple of job interview questions I always struggle to answer. The first is “what is your greatest weakness”. This is not tricky because I think I am perfect but more because the answer on the tip of my tongue is always Cornish Cruncher Extra Strength Cheddar Cheese and a packet of Pickled Onion Monster Munch rather than the more employment friendly “a small blind spot when it comes to understanding full functionality of the wrap text field of Microsoft Excel.” Second on my list of dreaded questions is “tell me about your hobbies”. I am pretty sure the “You’re Hired” answer has something to do with running triathlons whilst reading ‘A Brief History of Time’ whereas in truth one of my favourite ways to while away my leisure time is creating seasonal tablescapes. So when Sainsbury’s Home asked me if I would like to pick a few items from their Autumn/Winter range for my kitchen I was in my hobby heaven
After 11 years of marriage and 14 years of dating a remarkably high percentage of our shared kitchenware still dates back to our student days when it was put through its paces cooking high end cuisine such as beans on toast and fish fingers on a bed of super noodles (don’t knock it until you have tried it people). With the motely selection we have accrued approaching the end of its life I chose a selection of kitchen and tableware from the rustic retreat and escape ranges that Sainsbury’s have introduced this Autumn/Winter. I selected Scandinavian inspired items in a neutral colour palette of soft greys and natural materials such as wood that would stand the test of time in my kitchen beyond this season. Affordable homeware doesn’t have to mean disposable homeware.
I put them through their paces cooking a couple of my favourite autumnal recipes, taken from a book I cook from on repeat: Seasons by Donna Hay. The photography and the food are both amazing. The recipes I selected both use just 4 main ingredients and can be whipped up with about 5 minutes preparation: perfect for a quick but delicious midweek meal if, like me, you often need to cook with a toddler attached to a leg and whilst shouting at someone to stop playing FIFA and start doing their homework.
I sourced all of the ingredients for the recipes from our local Sainsbury’s which I think it is fair to say is where I spend about 35% of my life in trying to keep up with the insatiable appetites of 3 hungry sons who consume sliced bread, bananas and milk at an alarming rate.
Butternut Squash, Mozzarella and Palma Ham Salad
Ingredients (serves 2-3)
2 Butternut Squash, 375g Mozzarella Cheese, 500g Palma Ham, handful of thyme, salt and peppper to season
It is so simple to make there is almost need to type out instructions! Basically you peel the Butternut squash then chop into wedges (this is the hardest part as I ending up sweating like a shotputter trying to slice through a particularly stubborn butternut), place on a tray, drizzle with olive oil and season then cook for 25-30 mins. In the meantime tear up the mozzarella and cut the palma ham into strips. Take the butternut squash out of the oven and combine in an instagram friendly fashion on a plate scattering chopped up thyme on to taste. Simple to make but totally delicious
Having emerged victorious from the #BattleOfTheButternut I set to work on the fun part: creating my tablescape. I chose dinner plates and pasta bowls from the Urban Escape range in a lovely muted grey. They are the kind of plate that you can use everyday without fear of chipping and stick in the dishwasher but their simple Scandi good looks lend themselves to fancier dining as well (featuring non-beige food). To compliment the plates I also selected a really lovely carafe and set of wine glasses in a smoked grey and I loved the contrast they create with the plates
For pudding I turned once more to Donna and selected a delicious sounding maple and pear tarte tatin.
Maple Pear Tarte Tatin
Ingredients (serves 4-6 depending upon how greedy they are!)
6 dessert pears, 375g puff pastry, 4 spoonfuls of golden syrup, 80g of butter
Peel and slice the pears to about a one pound coin thickness (which are a joy to work with compared to the bastard butternuts). Melt the butter in a pan over a medium heat and then add to syrup and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer for 2 minutes and then remove from the heat. Arrange the pears to cover the bottom of a 20cm oven proof pan and then pour over the butter/syrup mixture. Then place over the top the puff pastry cut to a 22cm circle and place in the oven. Cook for 20 mins (or in my case until the smoke alarm goes off because some of the syrup mixture has escaped the pan and formed a mini bonfire on the bottom of the oven). Serve with creme fraiche or clotted cream
It is a stunningly easy and delicious dessert to make and it was a dream to use new kitchen utensils which had not seen active service in the University of Manchester Halls of Residence kitchens mainly stirring supernoodles. I love the earthy contrast of the oak handles of the rural retreat range against the scandi inspired grey. They look great against the white metro tiles in my kitchen and make my utensil selection about 100% more stylish!
With the tarte tatin in the oven I performed a quick turnaround on tablescape number two. Whipping away the table cloth to reveal the natural texture of our vintage farmhouse kitchen table and adding in some gorgeous dried flowers in autumnal colours and some scandi white pumpkins to up the autumn factor. I love the contrast between the texture of the table and the simple pale grey of the plates. The pasta bowls are great for serving dessert in as you can add in a drizzle of maple syrup and dollop (is there a more satisfying word known to man?!) of creme fraiche without fear of it escaping!
I also added in these lovely rattan table mats from the Urban Escape range (available in store but not online) to provide a bit of additional contrast, they are a timeless style and colour that I know I will get lots of use out of. I used the oak chopping board to display the tarte on which turned out pleasingly like the picture despite its emergency evacuation from the oven
So there you have it, two ideas for autumnal tablescapes with a rustic Scandi twist. I hope you enjoy giving the recipes a try and updating your kitchen with the Rural Retreat and Urban Escape ranges from Sainsbury’s Home.
This blog post was kindly sponsored by Sainsbury’s Home
If you attended our last Occasional Home Store in March you may have been mistaken for thinking it was our Christmas rather than Spring event on account of the Beast from the East blowing in and rendering Stoke Newington indistinguishable from Siberia. The extremely non spring like weather conditions temporarily transformed me into my dad for the week leading up to the event, frantically shushing anybody who came into the room whilst I was watching the weather forecast.
However, despite the fact that we were shovelling snow when we thought we would be draping spring blossom it all turned out alright on the night with loads of you lovely people coming to the West Reservoir Centre in Hackney to enjoy the array of beautiful vintage & contemporary homeware that our stallholders had battled the Beast to bring you.
Having had six months to recover from the #posttraumaticsnowstress I am now extremely excited to share with you that the Occasional Home Store will be returning to the West Reservoir Centre on the weekend of the 17th and 18th of November in association with Plum & Ashby and our gorgeous new partner Igigi General Store to bring you a festive shopping extravaganza.
In the beautiful industrial surroundings of a 1930s water filtering station we will be bringing you a handpicked selection of the very best vintage and contemporary homeware complimented by a programme of workshops and talks to inspire you to renovate, decorate and instagram your homes this Christmas. If this sounds like your idea of a perfect weekend then read on for a preview of just some of the delights we have in store for you
Plum & Ashby
We are thrilled to once again be working with Vicky and Freya, the team behind Plum & Ashby. Together with their team (including four legged friend Bertie) they work to produce a range of elegant, high quality, carefully considered products that always lift a space. Their extensive range, from washes, lotions and bath salts to hand poured candles, is made in the South of England. And we’re certainly not alone in our admiration for this brand, their fan base includes interior publications, online blogs and they were shortlisted for the Best British Design at the prestigious Elle Decoration Awards and at our last Occasional Home Store they completely sold out of their candles. This time round they will be introducing some gorgeous new scents in their range as well as stocking their highly sought after Christmas advent candle.
Igigi General Store
Do you have a favourite interiors shop that your heart skips a beat when you think about visiting it? For me that shop is Igigi although sadly for me (but perhaps fortunately for my bank balance) it is situated 150 miles away from me in Brighton. I am, therefore, incredibly excited to announce that Igigi General Store will be partnering with us on our Christmas event and bringing their distinctive brand of modern rustic homeware to the Occasional Home Store including unveiling their brand new range of Igigi designed furniture and lighting.
Owners Alex and Zoe describe Igigi as an ever evolving hub of creativity where they blend a handpicked selection of contemporary homeware with one of a kind vintage finds. From wooden bowls, baskets and spoons from Morocco to beautifully scented Turkish soaps and handwoven Kilim cushions to Balinese water pots and garments handmade from vintage fabrics.
One of our favourite things about organising the Occasional Home Store is bringing a little bit of brocante to the city by hand picking sellers that help to conjure up a marketplace in the South of France in Manor House. We love seeing how our sellers curate their beautiful finds to create instagrammable scenes in every corner. We have some of our favourites returning from last time round including beetle & WILDE, Hellish Designs (aka my mother-in-law), The King and I, Enamelama, Vintage Curator Interiors, My Nook Shop, Fabulous Vintage Finds, Grow & Gather,All the Fun of the Fair and Early Bird Vintage. But we also have some knockout newcomers: Beulah’s Attic, The Shed at Tenby and Little Wren
I describe myself in my instagram profile as Sarah Lund meets Lovejoy. This is on account of my love of mixing vintage finds with Scandinavian inspired homeware rather than because I have a thick black mullet, penchant for icelandic knitwear and encyclopaedic knowledge of Chippendale furniture. Bringing the Lund to the table at the Spring Occasional Home Store is a stellar line up of independent stores and online businesses including Home of Boho, Nabo Shop, Meylor Stationery, Peastyle, Lisa Valentine Home, Tinker Tailor, Fich Ceramics, Chalk Homeware and Ondine Ash. There is simply not space here to talk about all the amazingness that these brands are going to be bringing to the Occasional Home Store so make sure you are following @occasionalhome where we will be profiling them each individually.
Our festive Occasional Home Store will be the perfect place to get started on your Christmas shopping. In addition to amazing homeware, we have also picked a selection of broader lifestyle stalls for you to shop from in case your beloved is not a fan of cushions and scented candles. So make sure to visit the stands of Woven the Agency, Buddug, Gil Fox Hats, Meylor, Malako Skincare and Your London Florist to fill your stockings with beautiful clothes and accessories, handcrafted jewellery, one of a kind hats and head pieces, stationery, skincare, plants and succculents (Your London Florist will also have gorgeous fresh flowers to take away on the day rather than to save for Santa). And if all that shopping makes you hungry make a beeline for Norah’s Brownies who will be serving up delicious brownies and bronuts and book in for an express manicure with Minicures London to get your nails ready for the Christmas party season for just £10.
Workshops & Talks
The Occasional Home Store is not just a place to shop. We also have a fantastic programme of workshops and talks to inspire you to renovate, decorate and instagram your homes as well as hands on festive craft activities. Set out below are some of the highlights of our two day programme with more details to follow shortly.
Hygge for all Seasons
After our hugely popular Hygge for all Seasons workshops in Cardiff and London last year, I am excited to be joining forces once more with @Hygge_for_Home in association with Join, to bring you another seasonal styling workshop designed to inspire you to create a relaxed rustic home and instagram feed this Christmas.
Join us as we will be share ideas and inspiration for how to style your home the modern rustic way this festive season and then, over coffee and Fika, we will provide you with our five best instagram tips. There will be a live table styling demonstration (what could possibly go wrong), the return of our famous gifting Christmas tree (with some lovely hygge themed prizes) as well as an opportunity to ask us absolutely anything you like about instagram. From filters to followers fire away.
The workshop will run from 10:30am to 12:30pm on Saturday the 17th of November. Tickets will be £40 and include a drink, a Scandi inspired Bronut from Norah's Brownies and a luxury botanical candle from Join London. To book your place click here
We’re delighted to welcome fellow North Londoner Alex Stedman, aka The Frugality, to the Christmas Occasional Home Store! In conversation with Malmo & Moss (me aka the lightweight Jeremy Paxman of the interiors world) Alex will share the inspiration behind her hugely popular fashion-focused blog and instagram account.
Offering practical tips for those keen to follow in her footsteps, Alex will retrace the process of setting up and growing her successful blog, reflect on how her content has evolved with time and discuss how instagram has changed the blogging landscape. And, as anyone following her accounts will know, despite juggling motherhood, social media and her career as a freelance fashion editor Alex has spent the last 3 years (and all her money) renovating her Victorian terraced house in North London. As a result renovation dos and don'ts and the secrets of her interior style will also feature in our talk. Finally we will open to floor to questions – so come along and quiz the Frugality yourself.
The talk will run from 11am - 12pm on Sunday the 18th of November. Tickets are £20 and include a Norah’s Brownie. To book your place click here.
We have even more great talks up our sleeve for you as well, including top tips on how to tackle a successful home renovation or revamp from Rebecca Wakefield, interior designer and owner of Studio Fortum based on her hugely popular blog, Six Things. If you have always dreamed of owning your own business or are a small brand starting out then make sure to come along to our panel discussion with Vicky from Plum & Ashby and Emily from Aerende Store when they will be sharing the story behind building their brands, the lessons they have learnt along the way and five top tips for running a successful business (without having to approach Alan Sugar).
In addition to our programme of talks, we also have a series of hands on practical workshops planned where you can learn to make a festive scented candle with Join London, learn the basics of modern calligraphy and create your own Christmas card with Cherry Rebecca, make unique Furoshiki fabric wrapping paper with upcycling Queen Shed Homeware as well as making festive hoops and learning how to make vintage inspired Christmas decorations using paper craft with the Occasional Home Store team. More details on all of these workshops to follow soon
How to book you ticket to the Occasional Home Store
So if all that has wet your appetite and you would like to come and join us for the Christmas Occasional Home Store here is everything you need to know about visiting.
The Venue: The West Reservoir Centre, Green Lanes, N4 2HA
Getting there: The nearest tube/rail is Manor House on the Piccadilly Line (10 mins walk away) and Finsbury Park on the Piccadilly and Victoria lines and overground (15 minutes walk or 5 minutes on the 106 bus). Bus routes stopping close by include the 341/141/106.
Opening hours and tickets: We will be open 10am - 4pm on Saturday the 17th and Sunday the 18th of November. Single day tickets for either the 17th or 18th will be £5 each. A weekend ticket covering both days is £8. Although some tickets will also be on sale on the day, these will be on a first come first served basis and only those with a pre-purchased ticket will be guaranteed entrance so we would strongly advise booking in advance. CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR TICKET
*Please note that all tickets are non-refundable and tickets to the workshops do not include entrance to the Occasional Home Store which will need to be purchased separately *
Thanks to @tiatalula for the beautiful pictures used throughout this blog. We are thrilled Tia will be coming back to capture our Winter event
I’ve never really been one for wearing prints. Or dresses. Or skirts, or that matter. Until this summer, when I’ve suddenly gone crazy for all three. It started with an apple green and red floral print maxi dress by Rixo which I picked up in the sales (after some very focussed and intense online stalking). Then a post-box red dress with tiny blue and yellow flowers by Ghost which I spotted on an Instagrammer. Then a leopard print silk skirt from Danish brand, Ganni. All special pieces which I love so much they have relegated my jeans to second place this season. The shops are practically bursting with a riot of dresses and skirts in ditsy florals, bold stripes and statement animal prints at the moment. Here’s my pick, with some items already in the sale.
My favourite brands for summer dresses are overseas ones – in particular, LA-based Faithfull the Brand, and online only brands Rouje and Realisation Par. The only problem with these is the blah blah tedious overseas charges they come with, although a limited range of Faithfull is stocked by ASOS and Net a Porter (you have to be quick off the mark though, it sells out quickly) and Realisation Par is opening a London pop up early July (big woop). Closer to home, this pale yellow button through dress from & Other Stories is a sunny gem, and this vibrant red dress from Zara will look killer with a tan. I am generally not a fan of waist cut outs in dresses as they can look a little meh, but the length of this floral Top Shop dress keeps it modest. If you’re going floral, I think it’s nice to toughen up your look a notch with a vintage look denim jacket.
I’ve never met a long, floral skirt I didn’t like, but then I was a teenager in the 90’s and grunge will always live on in my heart. This red maxi from Urban Outfitters takes me right back to my weekly pilgrimages to Camden Market circa 1991 to seek out falafel and red hair dye. It’ll look great paired with a loose t-shirt, tucked in, maybe one by an old school sportswear brand, such as Hilfiger, Fila or Champion (stocked by Urban Outfitters, or pick them up second hand on eBay). I like the candy coloured stripe and the front slits of this super flattering linen midi from Mango, into which I would tuck this simple linen camisole from Topshop. At the other end of the spectrum is this quite loud animal print skirt from Zara, which is similar to my Ganni one, which I wear with this cute (and very good quality) embroidered t-shirt by Meylor Goods (picked up at one of the Occasional Home Store fairs J!)
I think prints look best with simple footwear and this summer, I’ve been living in my Veja trainers. Veja is a Parisian “eco-friendly” trainer brand, which you can pick up at Arket and elsewhere in an array of styles and colours - I like their classic canvas sneaker the best. I’ve also thrown in a pair of neutral Gazelles as they are a timeless classic – I really like these in deep burgundy too. I’ve seen so many gorgeous leather flats on the High Street this season, particularly in Topshop. These from Dune look remarkably similar to a Hermes style which cost a gazillion pounds, and this pretty braided pair, again in leather, from Zara look a lot more spendy than £30 and also come in black. For when you are feeling truly pedi ready, there are these super simple strappy sandals from Free People.
Remarkably, in some shops, you can still buy a bag that is NOT made of straw or raffia. I’ve recently brought a larger, striped, jute macramé bag from Maison Bengal (a fair trade company, stocked by lots of fancy shops but I bought mine direct from their website and it arrived super quick). Their shaggy number might divide opinion (my husband thinks it looks like one of Chewbacca’s cousins), but they have plenty more amazing options on their website, all handmade in India. This red macramé tote from LF Markey is now in the sale, but a quick search on Etsy will unearth literally dozens of vintage versions in this style for around the same price or even less. And then there is the classic French string shopping bag – stocked by Grey September amongst others – just don’t pack anything in it which you don’t mind losing.
On the 9th of September last year I stood, at 10am, in a Church Hall with sweaty palms and a sick feeling in my stomach. Not because I was worried that Jesus wouldn't want me for a sunbeam, but because, with support from the fabulous Plum & Ashby, we were about to open the doors of our very first Occasional Home Store: bringing together vintage traders, designer makers and pop ups of our favourite interiors stores so that people could shop the best of contemporary and vintage homeware under one roof.
It turns out I needn't have got so clammy of paw as when I was brave enough to venture outside there was already a queue forming in the driveway which meant either:
1. There was a serious suburban spiritual awakening happening in N21; or
2. There were some serious shoppers waiting to get their hands on our Scandi/Vintage bargains.
The rest of the day passed in somewhat of a blur with interiors fans having come from not only all over London but all over the UK to visit the Occasional Home Store.
When the dust had settled and I had finally stopped regretting the fact that I chose hairstyle for the day that made me look like a cross between Mary Beard and Bob Monkhouse, we started to think about doing it all over again. It was at this point that a very serendipitous e-mail popped into our mail boxes from Jude, the events manager at the West Reservoir Centre.
She had been to the Occasional Home Store and wondered if we might ever consider bringing our event to her venue. Intrigued we whizzed down the A10 (scratch that, slowly crawled down the A10) to go and take a look. It is an old 1930s water filter station (nothing floats my boat more than an industrial purification process) which looks out over a reservoir and it was love at first sight. It is hard to believe you are in Hackney when you are inside and gazing out over rippling water. It has high ceilings, bare bricks and quirky industrial features in spades and offered us the space to make our second Occasional Home Store even bigger and better than our first event.
Our next step was to get in touch with Vicky and Charly, the team from Plum & Ashby who had so brilliantly supported our first event to ask them if they would like to partner with us again. Luckily they said yes without hesitation so, from that point on, it has been all systems go, contacting our stallholders from Autumn and hunting out some fabulous new additions for Spring.
After months of kitchen table meetings (the equivalent of our boardroom and powered by hobnobs rather than testosterone) we are now just a month away from the Spring Occasional Home Store which will take place between 10am-4pm at the West Reservoir Centre near Stoke Newington in North London so here is a sneak preview of what we have in store for you..
Plum & Ashby
Plum & Ashby's beautiful, stylish range of products for, bath, body and home flew off their stall in September and with new products and gorgeous spring scents on offer we expect the same to happen this time round. They will be taking over our insta meet up area for some Saturday, setting our shoppers a Plum & Ashby styling challenge with the change to win some gorgeous goodies from their range. If we are really lucky Vicky's adorable dog Bertie may also come along this time.
One of our favourite things about organising the Occasional Home Store has been hand picking a selection of our favourite vintage traders so that you can experience beautifully styled stalls full of unique items you won't find on the high street (unless your high street runs through the middle of a Brocante in the South of France that is). We have some of our favourites returning from last time round including beetle & WILDE, Hellish Designs (aka my mother-in-law), Dorothy Stiven, The King and I, Enamelama and one of my biggest sources of insta inspiration Kinship Creative but we also have some knockout newcomers: Vintage Curator Interiors, My Nook Shop, Fabulous Vintage Finds, Lucy Vintage Lifestyle, Grow & Gather, 12th Story, Maison Brocante, , All the Fun of the Fair , Curated Room and Early Bird Vintage.
My heavy hints to Mr Malmo about needing a piece of handcrafted seaglass jewellery in my life seemed to go unnoticed at the last Occasional Home Store judging by the fact that I still don't have a piece of handcrafted seaglass jewellery in my life. So I was delighted when Fiona Petheram of Drift Jewellery, who makes each piece of her stunning jewellery collection from pieces of natural sea glass recovered from the beaches of Suffolk and beyond agreed to come back to join us again. With Mother's Day falling just one week after OHS I am sure there will be plenty of husbands, sons and daughters who will be would be making their Mother's Day by shopping from Fiona's stall (including me Mr Malmo in case you are reading this).
We are also delighted to welcome the enormously talented Buddug Humphrey to our line up this time round. She is now based in Wales but lived and worked just around the corner in Hackney until recently and has a huge fanbase for her beautiful crafted jewellery which draws on enamelling techniques.
I describe myself in my instagram profile as Sarah Lund meets Lovejoy. This is on account of my love of mixing vintage finds with Scandinavian inspired homeware rather than because I have a thick black mullet, penchant for icelandic knitwear and encyclopaedic knowledge of Chippendale furniture. Bringing the Lund to the table at the Spring Occasional Home Store is a stellar line up of independent stores and online businesses who offer a range of beautiful contemporary homeware including Feather & Marble, &Hobbs, Home of Boho, Lusophile, Nabo Shop, Meylor Stationery, Fellowstead, Peastyle, Lisa Valentine Home, Lived & Loved, Tinker Tailor and Ondine Ash. There is simply not space here to talk about all the amazingness that these brands are going to be bringing to the Occasional Home Store so make sure you are following @occasionalhome where we will be profiling them each individually.
We are hoping by the 3rd of March that Spring will have sprung but even if the weather doesn't play ball, you can take home a little bit of Spring with beautiful fresh flowers from the spectacular Your London Florist.
Or you could take home some seeds to grow your own peonies, roses and tulips from Grace Alexander Flowers in beautiful vintage inspired packaging. We love that Grace describes them as "tiny fragments of hope, potential and happiness waiting to happen". And if you want to keep that Spring feeling going when you get home then you don't want to miss the stunning faux floral creations of Walnut & Willow Flowers.
Lisa Dawson and Dee Campling: How To Grow Your Instagram
Over the last 18 months Lisa Dawson and Dee Campling have taken the instagram interiors world by storm, racking up an impressive 170K instagram followers between. We are thrilled that they will be joining us at the Spring Occasional Home Store and, in conversation with Malmo & Moss (aka me in interiors Paxman mode), sharing some of the secrets of their success as well some great practical advice about how you can make instagram work for you. Afterwards there will be a question and answer session where you can quiz them on anything you like. So if you have a burning question about shadow bans or want to know their biggest insta regret come along and join us for this fun and informal session, chow down on a beautiful brownie from Norahs Brownies and go away armed with lots of great ideas about how to take you instagram account to the next level and maximise your engagement. To book a ticket which is £20 including entrance to the Occasional Home Store and a Norahs Brownie click here
Floral Hoop Making Class
Fashion moves in circles and it's all things hoop-like that currently have us in spin at the moment. Once confined to the Christmas season, wreaths and their deconstructed counterparts have broken out and are now embraced all year round. We used this beautiful floral hoops to decorate the venue at our Autumn Occasional Home Store venue and had so many requests to buy them that this time we decided to run a workshop showing you how to make them yourself. Join the Occasional Home Store team and learn how to make a beautiful fabric wrapped, floral spring hoop and explore creative ideas and techniques that will see you through every season. Suitable for beginners, all materials provided. Find out what all the hoopla is about for £22 excluding entry to the Occasional Home Store. Click here to book.
Style, Shoot, Edit & Curate with 91 Magazine
Tips and advice for creating great visual content for your Instagram or blog with the 91 Magazine team.
91 Magazine publishes a biannual print magazine, a quarterly e-zine and a blog, all filled with beautifully curated content and photography. In this workshop, editor Caroline Rowland and 91 photographer Jemma Watts will be sharing their knowledge on how to best style, shoot, edit and curate your own images whether it’s for your Instagram feed or blog. There will also be the chance to have a go at shooting some images on the day under their supervision. Get inspired by their hashtag #seekinspirecreate and you may even see your image published on one of 91’s platforms! Click here to book a ticket for £18 (excludes entry to the Occasional Home Store).
Food and Drink
One of the biggest lessons we learnt from our first Occasional Home Store was that shopping makes people really really hungry. So hungry that Norahs Brownies and Three One Four Pie, our lovely food providers last time, completely sold out of their sweet treats. This time they will be setting their Magimixes to top speed and coming back with double quantities. We have also further bolstered our food defences with the addition of the delicious Luminary Bakery who will be bringing their baked savoury goods to feed our hungry hoards.
Insta Meet Up
One of the best things about our first fair was the chance it offered to meet the people behind your favourite instagram squares in person. So when your feet are sore from shopping and you need a break from all the beautiful objects on offer it's time to head over to our Insta meet-up and hook up with your cushion crush or home styling heartthrob. We will have some fun challenges and great prizes for you win whilst you are there and it will be conveniently located right next to the Proseco bar!
There will also be the chance to fit in a quick file and polish with Minicures London joining us to provide £10 express manicures.
How to buy tickets
So if all that has wet your appetite and you would like to come and join us for the Spring Occasional Home Store here is everything you need to know about visiting.
The Venue: The West Reservoir Centre, Green Lanes, N4 2HA
Getting there: The nearest tube/rail is Manor House on the Piccadilly Line (10 mins walk away) and Finsbury Park on the Piccadilly and Victoria lines and overground (15 minutes walk or 5 minutes on the 106 bus). Bus routes stopping close by include the 341/141/106.
Opening hours and tickets: Our doors will open for early bird ticket holders at 10am and to the general public at 11am. All of our early bird tickets have now sold out (eek thank you guys!). General admittance tickets from 11am are £3 and can either be purchased in advance (to save queuing click here) or at the venue on the day.
Workshops: Lisa and Dee's workshop will run from 11am - 12pm, tickets are £20 and include early bird entry to the Occasional Home Store and a Norah's Brownie. Tickets to the 91 Magazine workshop which will run from 1-2pm are £18 and do not include entrance to the Occasional Home Store. Last but not least, the hoop making workshop will run from 2:30-3:30pm and tickets cost £22 which includes the costs of all materials and a hoop to take home (but not entrance to the Occasional Home Store which will need to be purchased separately). Please click here to book places on any of our workshops.
Please note all tickets are non-refundable.
Thanks to @tiatalula for the beautiful pictures used throughout this blog. We are thrilled Tia will be coming back to capture our Spring event.
It has taken me a very long time to write something for Malmo & Moss's blog, as I am fairly certain that there is not much demand for my idea of winter fashion, which involves wearing a half dozen jumpers in black, shades of grey and navy on heavy rotation until I feel warm again, i.e. mid May, or they develop (noticeable) holes on the elbows. However, I will happily ditch my much-loved woollens for a party – including the big daddy of them all, New Year’s Eve. Then I think it’s kind of nice to reach for something a little more luxe, be it velvet, sequins, leather, metallics, silk … anything goes, really. Purely in the interests of research (ahem), I have scoured the High Street for some festive gorgeousness to help you choose your New Years Eve look. Bonus – some of it is now on sale too. Here is my round up of the pick of the lot, with no single item coting over £150 as I appreciate that a lot of you have a serious soft furnishings habit to feed too.
I love a velvet suit. If you got your hands on this dreamy, high waisted tux by &Other Stories this season, which sold out in what seemed like a nanosecond, then lucky you, as I think it’s perfect. I also really like this slightly more relaxed, navy suit by ASOS and, if a suit is not so much your thing, these black velvet culottes from Sandro (both on sale). I’d tuck a silky top (like this satin pyjama style blouse from Topshop) into the culottes and add some simple, strappy heels for an easy evening look. I think the ASOS suit would look pretty cool dressed up with a silky vest, or dressed down with a T and a pair of flats as well.
There are more oversized blazers than you can shake a stick at in the stores at the moment. This tux-y looking, tailored one by Pepe Jeans (via ASOS) above caught my eye, and would really suit a mini. There are also some great looking sequinned dresses in the stores this season, including this crew necked, long sleeved version from H&M. Sequins can be a bit Marmite, so if they are not your thing, you could wear the blazer with a leather mini instead, like this high waist one from French Connection, and maybe a loose, fine knit jumper or a vintage T. I’d top the outfit off with some ankle boots (I really like these white leather ones from Topshop).
“But it is too cold to go out in a mini, you fool!”, I hear those of you who were born south of Watford cry. I am a sucker for a dress with long sleeves and leopard print, so I bought this leopard dress from Zara as soon as I saw it. It is very flattering on and a great length (somewhere between a midi and a maxi – a mid midi maxi?!). I wear it with my trusty black, pointy ankle boots. I also really like pyjama suits, and I think this one from H&M, with its exotic print and red piping, looks way more spendy than it actually is. To add a bit of boom to these looks, I’d add some big old earrings, like these ones from Mango (although be careful you don’t have someone’s eye out on the dancefloor and avoid leaning over any lit candles). Lastly, I adore these sequinned, cropped trousers from Miss Selfridge’s premium range, which are now half price in the sale. Admittedly, they are a little blingy, so I’d dress them down with a snug, black turtleneck and some suede heels, like these from Topshop. The oversized blazer would work well with these trousers too.
So there you have it – my little round up of this season’s festive party wear. Ultimately, of course, the best party outfit is the one you feel awesome in, whatever that looks like. This explains why I will more than likely end up wearing the camo print boiler suit I have just snapped up in the sales to my NYE dinner with friends, along with the mega sized Mango earrings … It’s like I said at the outset, anything goes! Happy new year!
When I was up in the wee small hours breastfeeding my second son, I used to download Jilly Cooper books to read to make sure I didn't fall asleep on the job. It was as close as I am ever going to get to Rupert Campbell Black keeping me up all night. By the time I had my third son it became clear that Jilly wasn't churning out the menage a trois as fast as I was churning out children so, having exhausted her romping repertoire, I was forced to find a new way to keep myself awake on the milky job. Enter Instagram. Prior to that point, my only presence on social media had been a work related Twitter account focused on promoting energy efficiency (the Cinderella of European climate policy don't you know). It was mainly followed by my poor friends who had to endure regular tweets about boiler lagging and solid wall insulation roll outs. They were no doubt horrified when I told them that I had joined Instagram fearing that they would soon be finding their feeds full of LED lightbulbs and smart thermostats. However, luckily for them, I ultimately ended up focusing on the interiors rather than insulation of my house.
My first few posts were an eclectic mix of shoes, choux pastries and stately homes (think Imelda Marcos takes the National Trust (and then has a nice French Patisseries afterwards) with it taking me a while to find my tribe in cushion corner. If you told me that one year on I would have over 30,000 followers and my own blog, I would have said there was more chance of me writing a cookbook about my love of lentils (aka Satan's Pulse). I can honestly say I have not really much of a clue how it happened but here are a few of the pointers I picked up along the way that I thought it might be helpful to share.
Lesson One: Filters Are Not Always Your Friend
If you scroll back to the beginning of my feed you will notice that my pictures both had weird borders on them in varying shades of taupe and had been put through a filter favoured by 1970s porn directors (and me). It left the house looking like it had a bad case of jaundice. What can I say, I thought it looked arty. It was Mr Malmo who gently suggested that maybe I should step away from the #BeigeBars, dispense with the #HouseofJaundice filter and go au nataurel.
Whilst it galls me to admit it, Mr Malmo was right. Without the #TaupeTramlines my pictures instantly started to get more likes. That is not to say that I am now 100% filter free. As time has gone on I have tried to "curate" (sorry I know that word makes me sound like an instagram Alan Yentob) my feed a bit more and create a Malmo & Moss look by using the same couple of filters on my pictures consistently. I used to be Team Valencia/Slumber but lately I have definitely started to be #LuredByLudwig.
Lesson Two: You Don't Need a Big Gun to Have Fun
The big gun I am referring to here is a digital SLR camera rather than a Kashelnikov rifle. After I had been instagramming a while and wanted to make the move into blogging I started thinking that maybe I needed to invest in a proper camera (aka a big gun) rather than relying on my trusty Samsung phone. I will admit that this was 35% influenced by how cool the Olympus Pen looks. But the Pen don't come cheap so before I remortgaged the house I decided to call in the lovely @tiatalula to give me some advice. Over tea and cake we talked Apertures, ISOs and Megapixels and it turned out anything the Pen could do my trusty Samsung S6 could do better. Obviously I hadn't bothered to read any of the camera instructions when I first got my phone but it turned out that if I took it off auto and played around in pro I could do all sorts of cool stuff including, most importantly of all, that cool blurry background thing that makes you look like you know your Fuji film from your elbow.
Lesson Three: Turn the lights down low (well off actually)
I am a big fan of soft lighting. So much so that it would seem I have a reputation as a bit of #HalogenHitler in our family as relatives are always quick to apologise when they put the "big" light on when they visit. However, when it comes to instagram, I have learnt that I need to ditch the dimmer switch and let the natural light flood in. This can be challenging to achieve as with 3 kids and a job, there are approximately 23 minutes of any week when I am in the house alone during daylight hours without being surrounded by a swarm of plastic. However, if you can fight off a fleet of Octonauts and get in before dusk falls, the daylight shots do always do better.
Lesson Four: Crafting a Killer Caption
I know it seems hard to believe but I used to be a woman of very few words on Instagram. The words I usually used described either getting up early with the baby or going to bed late with Poldark (sadly only on the iPlayer rather than being given an in person sycthing to). However, one day I lost control of an electronic cockroach in the kitchen (like you do) and shared the story on insta and I noticed that as well as my post getting some likes it also got a lot more comments than usual. So little by little I started sharing less generic captions and before I knew it people were eagerly awaiting the next instalment of #ChroniclesOf ABlowJobBranch and interiors with a side serving of innuendo kind of became my thing. Now I realise that not everyone will want to share stories of their husband being cock blocked by a hot water bottle (Mr Malmo's struggle is real) but I guess my point, as Oscar Wilde once said (or I read on a card in Clintons) "Be Yourself Because Everyone Else is Taken"and people are more likely to engage with your feed. Although I guess I have also learnt that including hashtags in your posts like #Don'tShitYourShellSuit might mean that some brands cross you off their collaboration list.....
Lesson Five: If in doubt get your bathroom out
I don't want to say that my bathroom is solely responsible for my instagram success but.......The first picture of the it I shared got selected by @jtcollings to feature in a midweek #myhomevibe montage and it is responsible for all of my most liked posts. So whilst I encountered a severe case of #BaffledBuilderFace when I asked him to weld me some taps out of copper piping it has definitely been worth it's weight in insta gold. The only problem is my bathroom is frequently off limits for photos because either a) one of the quartet of todgers I live with has dropped something off in the loo that would make you want to amputate your own nose if you popped in to take a picture (of the bathroom not the mega log) or b) I have had to unleash 6 toilet duck refills in a bid to mask the smell of said mega log meaning it is impossible to take a photo because your eyes are stinging too much from the chemical sunset that has created. If the Mega Log-Chemical Sunset combination puts your bathroom out action then my advice would be go for the kitchen instead, another reliable instagram performer.
So there you have it, my top tips for moderate instagram success! I would love to know if there are some secrets of success I haven't discovered yet. Well ones that don't involve posting a belfie that is.........
Last time I wrote about the Occasional Home Store we were getting ready to celebrate the start of Autumn (my favourite of all seasons) by holding our first ever Fair, bringing together vintage traders, designer/makers and pop ups of our favourite interiors shops in our little corner of North London. Fast forward 5 weeks and I still can’t believe how many of you lovely people came along last Saturday and saved me from bankruptcy by ensuring that me and my mastercard were not alone in a hall full of the homeware of my dreams.
The day before we opened the Occasional Home Store doors passed in a haze of trestle table transport, chair lifting, hula hoop adornment and stall styling. Although I wish on a daily basis that our car was a nippy mint green Fiat 500 instead of a cumbersome family estate car known as the mobile landfill, I have never been so grateful for its girth and length as the moment when we managed to get our 3 metre prosecco bar in it without even having to resort to securing the boot with string.
There was, however, a hairy moment at 11pm on the Friday night when we discovered that we were somehow 6 tables short of the number of sellers we had coming, forcing us to contemplate the possibility that we would have to ask our lovely stallholders to lay out their wares on the church drive Eiffel Tower street hawker style. Fortunately a call to Roy, caretaker of the hall and the most patient man in Britain, revealed that the Vicar's widow had 6 stashed in her garden meaning we could stand down our emergency plans to bring our kitchen tables to the venue as replacements. I am guessing the big guns like Country Living never have to worry about a #VicarsWidowGoneRogue stealing their tables.
Returning home after midnight, our alarms were set very early for the Saturday morning. Sally’s so that she could get down to the hall early to ensure all of our outdoor stallholders had a gazebo constructed for them and mine to ensure that I hit the event with absolutely #PeakPebble MillHunnifordHair. Obviously when it rained briefly at 4pm I was giving thanks that Sally had been #GettingsGazebosUp whilst I was #GettingMyBouffantOn.
With our friends and family sacrificing their Saturday and the minimum wage to come along and help us out, we were able to transform the hall into a modern rustic shoppers paradise. All credit on this front must go to Beth, who used to edit Selvedge magazine and is insanely creative. If you left me alone with a hula hoop and a pile of ivy you would return after an hour to find me still with just a hula hoop and a pile of ivy. However, in Beth’s hands, those two basic ingredients were transformed instead into a gorgeous rustic decoration that was #straightouttakinfolk.
It was amazing to see our sellers arrive one by one and to watch as their beautiful stalls came together. Most of them took a huge leap of faith agreeing to come to an event that had never been held before in a part of North London they had almost certainly never heard of unless, that is, they happened to have been glued to the news in 1998 when former South American Dictator General Pinochet inexplicably chose to seek #ExileinEnfield. Our profound thanks must also go to the lovely team at Plum & Ashby who did not hesitate to come on board as our event partner and provided so much wonderful support in the run up to the event and on the day. Without wishing to sound too much like #PaltrowinPinkTaffeta huge thanks must also go to Annie Sloan and Essential Kitchen Bedroom Bathroom Magazine who gave us some lovely items to give away to our shoppers and workshoppers on the day.
Special stall holder credit has to go to Libby of &Hobbs who arrived drill in hand and proceded to construct a mini recreation of her store out of plywood before our very eyes. Given that I am about as safe with a black & decker as I would be with a nuclear weapon I stood back like an astonished home owner during an episode of DIY SOS and just watched in sheer admiration as it came together.
I think the moment when my mastercard breathed a huge sigh of relief and I was able to unclench my bum cheeks for the first time in 12 hours was at about 9:45 when a queue started to form on the pavement outside and the projects pots of Annie Sloan chalk paint we had for our first 20 customers disappeared quicker than a packet of malteasers left alone in a room with me. From there on in it all passed in kind of a blur, a little bit like your wedding day but with more opportunities to buy vintage French marmalade pots.
I got to meet so many of the amazing people I have spent the last year chatting Shades of Grey and Soft Furnishing with over Instagram as well as lots of lovely people from the local area who had seen the gorgeous strawberries & cream bell tent belonging to The Glam Camping Co go up and had decided to come along and find out what was going on. It was lovely to see people grabbing a coffee from Emily of We Are Here Coffee's super cute piaggio van, wondering around chatting, picking up flowers, hanging planters and terraniums from Love Flowers and then leaving the hall with bags full of bargains.
It was even more amazing to meet people who had hopped in the car and set a course to N21 from as far afield as Nottingham (the Notts Massive of @Keeleytara @eclectic_street and @janemcwallace) and Norfolk. The lovely Amanda of @FordHouseNorfolk was greeted with a sweaty bear hug from me after arriving with tables for our workshop to save my bacon after I mistook Stowmarket for somewhere you can just nip to in your lunch hour to collect 4 e-bay card tables rather than a 3 hour roundtrip up and down the M11.
I have long oogled the instagram feed of Kinship Creative and watched in awe as she has transformed venues from 'Meh' to 'May I Move I move in Please' so I absolutely loved watching her turn our upstairs church meeting room from a tribute to beige into a Modern Rustic haven for our Occasional Home Store Workshop. It was attended by a gaggle of gorgeous ladies from all corners of the UK including Reena from @hygge_for_home (my modern rustic sister from another mother) who came from Cardiff, my co-hosts of #styleithappy (aka my internet hashtag brides) @comedowntothewoods and @thisstyle_rocks who were joined by birthday girl @the_girl_with_the_green_sofa and left Leeds at 5:30 am to join us, and not forgetting the lovely @SezHodson who picked up OHS airmiles by coming from Switzerland.
With the dream team of Kay and Kate Watson Smyth aka interiors super blogger Mad About the House running the workshop I had to resist temptation to cast off my apron (which Sally and Beth totally pulled off but which lent me a certain air of #ButcherChic) and join in. Especially given there was a goodie bag which included a copy of EKBB as well as a whole host of treats from Of Special Interest Lisa Valentine Home, Annie Sloan, Pea Style, Norahs Brownies and Plum & Ashby.
What we have loved, in the week following the event, is seeing the pictures people have been sharing on their instagram accounts of the things that they bought at the Occasional Home Store with lots of items having found some very nice new forever homes. It has also been lovely to read some of the reviews of the events from bloggers including 91 Magazine and Fabulous Places .
We didn’t get everything right (as I am sure the people who used the mens loo between 1-1:30pm when we ran out of loo roll will attest). Whilst we had delicious brownies and sweet pie from @norahsbrownies and @threefour.onepie they got hoovered up fast leaving us with shoppers needing sustenance. Next time as well as killer cushions we will have copious carbs, which will, no doubt, be music to the ears of my best friends who manned my stall pretty much all day in the end with no lunch and no chair. I suspect I am now known as the #vinatgeinteriorsfagin in my friendship circle. I have promised them next time I will make them a packed lunch each because there is definetely going to be a next time. We are not quite sure when yet but keep any eye out for more news on our instagram page @occasionalhome and our website www.occasionalhomestore.com
Cultural highlights my family have taken in this month have included Captain Underpants the Movie, Match of the Day 365: Football Facts For Every Day of the Season, Twirlywoos Series 1 and 2 and Sheringham Splash Swimming Pool. Luckily for you guys, I have delegated the Malmo & Moss cultural review to Dan Hull so that instead of a round up of the best places to catch a veruca in North Norfolk it is going to encompass delights that include Balengacia, a cool Californian girl band and a zesty lemon risotto designed to transport you to the South of France rather than west of Cromer. So without further ado it's over to Dan.
The month we should all be basking in the glorious golden rays of summer. The air should be thick with the sound of deckchairs creeking and ice cubes chinking. Unfortunately 2017 appears to have had another ideas for us all. Rather than let the sogginess of the situation get us down, I propose we find ourselves means of escape. Whether you like your escape delivered in the form of a dog-eared paperback or projected onto a screen in all its cinematic glory, your August selection awaits
‘Something To Tell You’ - Haim.
There’s a very real chance this album’s success is solely down to me. The girls from Haim definitely helped a little, but mostly it’s down to the excessive amount I’ve played it since its release. Your month needs no other album to complete it, of this I assure you. Something To Tell You combines a constant string of hooks that take a swipe at that part of your brain where songs get stuck, with with vocals practically begging to be sung along to in your kitchen on a Saturday evening. It may be brief in its duration but it’s exceptional in its delivery. For me, a lifelong fan of Fleetwood Mac, the comparisons have always been clear, but here the girls from Haim even manage to channel some of Janet Jackson’s heyday into proceedings. That’s quite the combination. Open all of the windows that will possibly open, let every last drop of sunshine in that nature will allow and dance like you haven’t got a care in the world, this is the sound of summer.
Mrs Hemmingway by Naomi Wood.
I have no qualms in judging a book by its cover and I am in no way ashamed to say so. I first stumbled across this book because of its blissful blue cover and the impossible poolside glamour of the women who sit atop it. I’m happy to say that shallow decision turned out rather well in the end. A lesson for us I’m sure you’ll agree.
Naomi Wood’s tale of one of literature’s most famous names chooses to focus instead on his wife, Hadley Hemmingway, as the pair transport their life to the South of France for the summer. The hosts of cocktail parties and gin-laced debates about literature, the couple struggle to overcome Ernest’s decision to take a lover a little too close to home. In the heat of the blistering sun, Hadley’s jealousy and longing for her husband’s affection makes for a surprisingly salacious summer read.
To Catch A Thief.
If the combination of a summer on the French Riviera and the unparalleled beauty of Grace Kelly wasn't enough for you, Alfred Hitchcock's unflinching direction should be. Never has a woman looked more glamorous at the beach than Grace Kelly. Sun hats, coordinating beach bags and a white gauze overskirt ensure Grace takes centre stage in Hitchcock’s tale of a jewel thief terrorising the Riviera’s richest residents. Quite simply don’t make films like this anymore. A snapshot of a cinematic era we’ll probably never see again, To Catch A Thief will be a sublime addition to a balmy Sunday afternoon.
Balenciaga at the V&A.
You don't need to be too familiar with the work of Cristóbal Balenciaga to appreciate the beauty of the V&A's latest fashion exhibit. A true master of the cut, Balenciaga's pieces rest on the body like pieces of sculpture. His groundbreaking silhouettes were to alter the way women dressed forever and push the boundaries of our expectations of femininity. It may not pack the conceptual punch of the spectacular staging the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibit managed, but on a rainy afternoon in the capital there can be little more satisfying than gawping at pretty dresses lined up neatly in a row.
If like me you always go straight to the gift shop before the exhibit, you’ll be pleased to discover the V&A have just relaunched there in spectacular fashion. We all know ultimately the gift shop is the most important part of any exhibit after all.
When it came to the food that should accompany a trip to the Riviera, or a scandalous affair in the South Of France, it had to be lemons. What single taste transports you to the sun more than the fresh zing of lemon? If you haven’t yet discovered Madeleine Shaw I urge you to spend some time with her site. Along with her three cookbooks, it is filled to the brim with recipes for everything from peanut butter cakes to lemon asparagus risotto. Everything is dairy free, sugar free and wheat free but what it doesn’t lack is flavour. You won’t find any paragraphs about the benefits of sipping agave nectar whilst holding your head upside down and chanting mantras either you’ll be pleased to hear. What you will find is recipes for real life that are designed to help your body do its best every day, along with a selection of dishes that will only further enhance your August escape plans.
Looks and Finds, our resident hair expert has the hair of my dreams. With the Summer holidays upon us, she has kindly agree to share with us (and beautifully model) a fail safe holiday hair style which will keep your hair up and out of your way on hot days without making you look like an extra from Prisoner Cell Block H. Introducing the Triple Bun Hawk.Read More
Growing up, our Sunday night ritual was crumpets in front of the fire and a tv double bill of Antiques Roadshow followed by Lovejoy. Consequently my knowledge of antiques extended to either Chippendale desks fenced to dodgy Russian oil barons by Lovejoy and Tinker or baroque art that someone found in their Granny’s attic and claimed they would never sell until they discovered it was worth £250K. The BBC budget never stretched far enough for Lovejoy to go on a tour of the South of France, so, until I met my mother-in-law age 23 (who has her own homewares business) I thought Brocante was some kind of infectious chest disease rather than a type of distressed vintage.Read More
When I was growing up I used to want to be a vet. This was despite the fact that bovine animals kind of freak me out and so having to put my hand up their anus would probably cause me to have the kind of panic attack that Lawrence Lywellyn Bowen would suffer if you asked him to decorate a room without using any flocked fabric. With that dream dead in the water I moved on to environmental law where ironically my first case involved defending a rogue meat renderer (aka the people who turn dead cows into dog food/soap/cleaning products). My real (bovine free) dream is, however, to open my own interiors shop selling Scandi/Vintage items against a backdrop of soothing whites and greys somewhere by the sea (not Skegness just to clarify). Bar the absence of ocean, Belinda Fulton’s shop Of Special Interest in Crouch End, London, pretty much sums up my dream. Belinda agreeing to let me come and look round her house for my blog was, therefore, on a par with Ryan Gosling turning up on my doorstep and offering to give me a naked footrub (to clarify he would be the naked one in that scenario as not sure I would be able to enjoy said footrub if I was worrying what Ryan might be thinking of my overgrown lady garden and mum tum).
Since discovering OFSI 5 years ago, I think I have spent, on average, about 33% of my monthly salary in there. When on maternity leave, I seriously considered asking Belinda to erect an electric fence around the entrance to prevent me from frittering my meagre statutory maternity pay away on candle holders and gloriously realistic yet still reasonably priced faux foliage instead of nappies and baby wipes.
Belinda started off life in Malpas in Cheshire but has been a city dweller ever since leaving home at 18. She is, like me, more of a gastro pub and café than fields and sheep kind of lady. I start to get sweaty when I am more than 5 miles away from a café with a filament bulb, bare brick wall and flat white (I don’t actually drink them, I just like to know I am somewhere urban enough to serve them). After studying textile design at Leicester (whilst secretly really wanting to do Fine Art), Belinda moved to North London with her then husband buying a flat and opening the shop together. It started off life as a junk shop selling a mix of auction house finds and their own possessions. If I had sold my possesions age 24 it would essentially have been a shop full of Ikea crockery, posters of Kurt Cobain and Bob Marley (RIP Kurt and Bob) and a CD collection that lent heavily upon the work of 90s Indie Bands. Despite divorcing they still run the business together today, a fact I marvel at. Running a business with my significant ex boyfriend would almost certainly have ended in me wanting to run over him in a tractor (as it was he was lucky to escape with my best friend just using his tooth brush to clean the toilet when we parted ways). Though, to be fair, it sounds as though Belinda has been tempted to reach for the tractor keys herself a few times over the years.
These days she is happily married to husband Lewis (who, along with daughter Mack (18) she describes as the love of her life). She spotted him in a bar over twenty years ago and plucked up the courage to ask him out, figuring she would be unlikely to be returning to that bar again so had nothing to lose. Luckily he said yes and turned out not only to be a great cook but also a builder too. He has carried out pretty much all of the renovation work on their house himself and is currently in the process of building them a studio in the garden. Am thinking that I need to persuade Mr Malmo to swap professions if I want to progress my own Grand Design dreams. Working in banking law he could whip me up a great loan finance agreement if I wanted to buy a shopping centre in Grimsby but a studio in the garden not so much.
Belinda was living in a one bedroom flat in Tottenham at the time and managed to persuade Hampstead boy Lewis to leave the Heath behind and come and join her. When Lewis was away on a work trip to Greece, a pregnant Belinda spotted their current house and loved the garden so much she put in an offer that day. She therefore met Lewis from the station slightly nervous about telling him that a) she had bought them a house and b) that said house was opposite the slightly notorious Broadwater Farm estate. Luckily he took the news well and they have never looked back, loving living sandwiched between two beautiful parks and surrounded by warm, friendly people from all walks of life. In fact I am wondering if I can borrow Belinda’s West Indian neighbour Hyacyinth who brings her a bottle of wine if she has had a bad day (unlike my octogenarian Jeovah’s witness neighbour George, who is more likely to pop round with a copy of the Watchtower and tell me that the world is about to end).
Like all good wives skilled in the art of “Renovation Deception”, Belinda promised Lewis when he viewed the house that they would wait until after the baby was born and they had lived in the house a while before embarking upon any major renovation work. Needless to say Belinda was still pregnant when she set started removing doors and demolishing a polysterene mock brick fireplace. Over time a loft extension was added which is now Mack’s domain and, when Lewis finishes the garden studio, Belinda is looking forward to having somewhere to paint again.
What I loved so much about Belinda’s house is that whilst it is ridiculously stylish it is also most definitely a family home, with the stunning gallery walls that line the stairs mainly featuring daughter Mack’s artwork from age 3 onwards (Mack seems to be far handier in the art department than me though, a gallery wall featuring my early and, if I am honest, current artwork, might look like Morph had been let loose with a crayon after one too many Barcardi Breezers). Throughout the house there is a great sense of light and space as doors have been removed so that as you step into the hallway you can see straight through to the garden beyond and clever tricks like a glass panel on the stairs keep the light flowing through the rest of the house.
Although Belinda can never see them leaving Tottenham, if they were to move it would be down to their little place in St Ives (insert link) which they head to whenever it is not rented out or perhaps to a warehouse in the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham with it’s vibrant mix of old buildings and beautiful metal cladded armadillo type modern architecture. I feel like I should give Birmingham another chance as Belinda is not the only person to sing its praises to me. I just have terrible memories of the environmental consultants conference I was forced to attend there 5 years ago where, inbetween talks about the latest developments in contaminated land identification (pointers it smells bad and your hair stands on end when you step on it) I was forced to watch two balding middle aged men called Colin and Andrew put on a medieval jousting display. 3 hours of my life I will never get back and the image of paunch straining to escape chainmail is still seared on to my retina.
Over the years Of Special Interest Interiors has grown from a junk shop into the interiors gem it is today, taking over two neighbouring shops as their owners moved on and then the annex behind when it came up to rent. Lewis has also joined the business, taking on many roles, including, on occasion that of Judge Judy if the Of Special Interest Exes are locking horns. In the shop, Belinda is inspired by the Dutch look of muted colours mixed with gorgeous natural textures but I love the fact that nothing is too regimented and it is very much not the kind of shop where entering with a buggy causes the owner to pull a face at you like they have just accidentally chewed a 3 year old piece of bubble gum.
As a fan of concept stores that mix interiors with fashion, gardening and other lifestyle products such as Daylesford Organic, Belinda would love, if she had the space, to be able to offer something similar in Of Special Interest Interiors (although without the hefty price tags found at Daylesford along with hordes of chauffeur driven Range Rovers and women called Clarissa Fortesque-Bowles-De Montfort-Hedges). Having fallen in love with some gorgeous Spanish jewellery at a recent Trade Show, Belinda may yet dip a toe into Daylesford waters or, alternatively, if it doesn’t sell, be turning up at work like Crouch End’s answer to Mr T (if Mr T favoured delicate Catalan crafted jewellery in muted colours). When she is not in the shop, Belinda loves both Instagram and Pinterest and enjoys following both interiors and artists accounts. Favourites include Cornish Artists like Kurt Jackson and Gareth Edwards, the interiors photographer Paul Massey (whose holiday home in Mousehole I have a stonking insta crush on), Hans Blomquist and Sally Denning (whose other account Black Shorestyle is also one of my all time favourites).
Local places Belinda likes to eat out include the Banc Café in Downhills Park minutes from their house. Our kids love this park as it has a mini roadway for scooters and bikes that they can zip around whilst you tuck into Union Coffee, big breakfasts and roast lunches. Although Belinda is a veggie (having grown up as the daughter of a butcher and being put off meat by early encounters with offal and other dubious offcuts) if Lewis is missing meat they go to The Westbury in Turnpike Lane or The Maynard in Crouch End, both of which do great burgers. Down in St Ives favourites include it’s Porthmeor Beach Cafe,The Alba and Porthminster Kitchen.
As well as letting me look round her amazing home, I must also take this opportunity to thank Belinda for having introduced me to the wonders of Primark pleather leggings. I spotted her wearing some on a previous visit to her shop and was delighted to discover they were £6 from Wood Green Primarni rather than £600 from Armani. Their ability to make me feel a little bit like Chrissie Hynde whilst also being wipe clean have made them a “Rock Mum” wardrobe staple (even if my husband never fails to ask if my legs have been abducted by Doreen from Birds of a Feather when I wear them).
Whilst it may yet be a few years before I am Open All Hours (as a shopkeeper that is) drinking tea and chatting with Belinda in her lovely garden has helped keep my dream alive. I now just need to convince Richard Branson instead of spending billions trying to fly Clarissa Fortesque-Bowles-De Montfort-Hedges and pals into space he should, instead, be investing his cash in my coastal modern rustic interiors empire. Failing that, maybe the shop will have to be in Skegness rather than Salcombe.