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

Malmo and Moss Meets: Littlewood Life

My best friend at University was Northern Irish so, in between discovering that if you put Baileys into Sambuca it creates a drink that tastes a lot like vomit suspended in petrol, I heard a lot of tales of Finn McCool and the Giants Causeway.  My dad's family are actually all Northern Irish but my Grandma Phoebe was the family Black Sheep so we didn't go back to Belfast when I was growing up.   Although that didn't stop me alluding to relatives off the Shankill Road if I was trying to sound a bit gangsta at high school (which wasn't really required that much growing up in a small market town in Northumberland).   Whereas at one time Eamon Holmes represented the pinnacle of Northern Irish totty, these days Jamie Dornan has a new generation of ladies rushing to storm Stormont.  However, since joining Instagram I have discovered that as well cuddly news presenters and sexy TV pyschopaths, Northern Ireland also has a strong stock of stylish lifestyle bloggers of which my absolute favourite is Emma of @littlewoodlife.

It was this picture that first made me click follow on Emma's instagram, I am a sucker for a suspended twig

It was this picture that first made me click follow on Emma's instagram, I am a sucker for a suspended twig

Emma's fireplace has me dreaming of using brickslips to add a bit of texture into our house

Emma's fireplace has me dreaming of using brickslips to add a bit of texture into our house

Emma grew up not far from where she lives now with husband Andrew and their three kids although, as Emma points out, nowhere is too far away from anywhere else in Northern Ireland. Where Northern Ireland is definitely far away from if you don't use a plane to get there is London.   13 hours away to be precise.  I discovered this 10 years ago after my irrational aviation fear lead me to elect to travel to a wedding in Belfast by a combination of Megabus and ferry.  5 minutes after pulling out of Victoria Coach Station a large Balkan man in the seat behind me whispered through the gap in the seats "You look nice"  causing me to spend approximately 12 hrs and 48 mins of the journey wondering whether i would be able to use my doors keys as numchucks should he try and abduct me when we stopped at the services in Stoke-on-Trent.  

An indoor tree tha thrives, I need to know Emma's secret

An indoor tree tha thrives, I need to know Emma's secret

Having taught in a fairly gritty secondary school for some years before becoming a blogger am fairly sure Emma would have had my Balkan Bus Pervert sorted out in no time.  Think Michelle Pfieffer in Dangerous Minds and Mrs McCluskey from Grange Hill all rolled into one feisty Northern Irish package.  Sticking teaching out long enough for husband Andrew to qualify as an architect, the Pfieffer McCluskey years also helped the couple get on the property ladder.  First with a little semi which was then traded in for a detached house doer uper. Having gained a taste for renovation, Emma and Andrew seized the opportunity to build their own home when a plot of family land came up.  I really need to encourage my mum and dad to become more expansive land owners, my dad hasn't even succeeded in securing a coveted council alottment yet because, in his own words, not enough people are dying in their local area. 

Ernie the Dachshund adding to the kerb appeal

Ernie the Dachshund adding to the kerb appeal

Although it does not sound like building a house is a walk in the park from Emma's description of a build that took place amid redundancy, sick children, a bout of pneumonia and the death of a rabbit.  It sounds a bit like an episode of Grand Designs set in Watership Down! Project managing the build themselves meant forging close relationships with tradesmen working on the job.  A little closer than Emma would have liked in the case of Neil the decorator who plastered whilst providing blow by blow updates on the condition of his prostate as well as criticising the work of any and all other tradesmen working on the job (including Andrew).  An obssessive aversion to mess meant he did at least dry clean his dust sheets although was arguably in the wrong profession if he didn't like getting his hands dirty

The parquet flooring was reclaimed from Fleet Street

The parquet flooring was reclaimed from Fleet Street

Adding some serious sophistication to cocktail hour

Adding some serious sophistication to cocktail hour

After one update too many on his enlarged prostrate Emma paid him off and employed a decorator with no interest in sharing the details of his down below affairs with her.The end result is, however,  a gorgeous, warm and inviting family home which Emma has decorated in a style I am going to coin "Scandi Classic Cotswold Farmhouse Luxe" (trips off the the tongue I think you will agree!).  Whites and creams create a great backdrop to show off features that add personality and texture to their home such as the parquet flooring in the hallway that was reclaimed from a newspaper office in Fleet Street ( if that floor could talk!), a stunning exposed Belfast brick wall in the living room and gorgeous old cast iron radiators throughout.

They also have the woodburner of my dreams in their Living Room which is on my house wishlist if I can just stop buying cushions long enough to save up for one.  Should M15 ever discover that the key to defeating ISIS lies in smothering them in soft furnishings then I would be the lynchpin of the Cushion Counter Terrorism Strategy.  Or maybe i will just have to find a woodburner that can burn both logs and cushions. 

Emma's dressing table was one of my favourite corner's of her home

Emma's dressing table was one of my favourite corner's of her home

Emma's inspiration for the soft, luxe interior comes from reading lots of US based lifestyle blogs with Gal Meets Glam, Barefoot Blonde, Love Taza and Somewhere Slower being particular favourites.  If you have ever wondered what it would be like to live in a Pink Clapboard house in Charelston with one of those wraparound verandas then Gal Meets Glam is the blog for you.  Be warned, you will come away with serious pastel home and swooshy hair envy.

Although their house is located in the beautiful Northern Irish countryside, it is actually only 20 minutes from Belfast which, over the last 5 years, has benefited from huge amounts of regeneration and is now a buzzy, lively little city with beautiful parks and plenty going on. Those there to Dornan spot (or Eammon spot if you prefer your men chunkier and with greater experience in presenting news items about telepathic dogs) should also take time to visit the University area for quirky coffee shops and brunch stops or the Cathedral quarter for bars and restaurants.   Belfast is also home to the Titanic exhibition which was recently voted the number one tourist attraction in the world.  I still can't watch the film starring Leonardo de Caprio and Kate Winslet after going to see it with my then boyfriend age 17 who cried through the final third whilst I remained uncharacteristically dry eyed and ended up being offered tissues by a woman in the row in front.  Nobody wants another woman to have to mop up their man with Kleenex.   

I dream of the boys wardrobe looking like this instead of a screenshot of a bring and buy sale

I dream of the boys wardrobe looking like this instead of a screenshot of a bring and buy sale

With her parents having been savvy enough to invest in a holiday home in the South of France  the Littlewoods often swap County Amagh for the Cote D'Azur, although Lake Como is giving La Croisette a run for it's money after Emma fell in love with it's stunning scenery and laid back vibe last Summer.  When in France, favourite places to eat include Angelina in Paris (which, elasticated trousers alert, serves white hot chocolate to die for), or Les Garcons in VilleFrance for delicious dinners in a courtyard surrounded by jasmine. Slightly less French (but right up my fatty treat street) is Emma's favourite bakery back home called Donuts from the Pocket opposite the QUB in Belfast.  Having checked out some of their amazing specialities online, I think it would have to be renamed "All the Donuts In my Mouth" if i got within 25 metres of it. 

I love this idea of using a suspended branch to display Noah's zoo animals

I love this idea of using a suspended branch to display Noah's zoo animals

Emma and I share another love beside donuts: Ryan Gosling.  Although, Emma would complete her celebrity threesome by inviting Hugh Jackman to join her and Ryan, whereas I would be asking the Gosling to budge up to make room for Lovejoy.  Give me a dubious mullet and a penchant for fencing Ming Vases over all those werewolf issues any day. Although Hugh would find himself out in the cold if Emma's other celebrity male crush came rocking into town.  Yep, it turns out that having once sold merchandise at his concerts, Emma also has a little soft spot for thigh slapping guitar wielding country music star Garth Brooks.  A man with a mullet even Lovejoy could not compete with.  On that bombshell I will leave you to go follow Emma's instagram or read her blog  for further peeks inside her gorgeous home (and slightly dodgy CD collection).