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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introducing the Crafty Fox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Crafty Fox’s Top Tips for Instagram Success

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

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

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

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

Dining Room with vintage style pendant lighting

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

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

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

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

Vic’s  kitchen with an eyecatching tiled floor

Vic’s kitchen with an eyecatching tiled floor

Kitchen with chalkboard wall and pink door

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

Living room with cosy throws

How to grow your gram without losing your mind

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

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

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

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

This is one of my favourite corners of Crafty Fox HQ

This is one of my favourite corners of Crafty Fox HQ

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

A Weekend at Ivywood Cottage, Norfolk

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

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

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

About the Cottage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Downstairs at the Cottage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upstairs at the Cottage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The vintage sink and vanity area in the gorgeous rustic bathroom

The vintage sink and vanity area in the gorgeous rustic bathroom

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

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

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

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

Exploring the surrounding area

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miniest Malmo enjoy a romp through the sand dunes at Walberswick

Miniest Malmo enjoy a romp through the sand dunes at Walberswick

The sand dunes at Walberswick beach on the Suffolk Coast

The sand dunes at Walberswick beach on the Suffolk Coast

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

Source: http://www.malmoandmoss.com

Creating a Relaxed Rustic Bedroom

One of the main attractions of our house when we bought it was that it had 4 double bedrooms with the loft already having been converted to create a large master bedroom with ensuite.  However whilst that meant we had all the space upstairs we needed, the finish of the loft conversion was about as inspiring as the interior of a portakabin.  It had clunky white pvc doors with a metal rail across the outside that lent the room a feel that was one part dentist surgery to two parts lunatic asylum.  The previous owners had installed laminate wooden floors in a shade I would describe as satsuma and the ensuite was En Vogue around the same time the girl band of the same name topped the charts.  I will leave the story of the bathroom renovation until another day when I have finished the course of therapy I had to embark upon following my dealings with Brian, the right wing misogynist tiler with strong views about my abilities as a housewife and the Enfield cycle lane scheme. For now let's stick with the bedroom.  We carried out an initial round of cosmetic changes including painting the floors and walls and wallpapering a corner to use as a dressing table space

The bedroom after we had carried out an initial range of changes to tone down the satsuma floor by painting it in Farrow & Ball Strong White

The bedroom after we had carried out an initial range of changes to tone down the satsuma floor by painting it in Farrow & Ball Strong White

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This wallpaper was on the front cover of Living Etc and I loved it at the time although it is not my usual Scandi Rustic style!

This wallpaper was on the front cover of Living Etc and I loved it at the time although it is not my usual Scandi Rustic style!

After a couple of years we saved up enough to get rid of the #lunaticasylumdentistdoors and replaced them with a big picture window instead which gives us an amazing view out over the garden and makes the loft extension blend (or speak as Kevin McCloud might say) much better with the contemporary style of our kitchen extension. 

The newly installed big picture window. We also have a smaller window to the side which opens.

The newly installed big picture window. We also have a smaller window to the side which opens.

The new gallery wall with prints from  We are Amused  and  Desenio

The new gallery wall with prints from We are Amused and Desenio

I also went for a darker paint shade on the walls (Dark Lead from Little Greene) and added a gallery wall to create more of a focal point.  The room started to feel a little bit less portakabin but I wanted to make more a feature of the wall behind the bed so I wallpapered it with some faux wood effect wallpaper from Andrew Martin.   Whilst it definitely made the room more interesting and looked pretty convincing in photographs I couldn't ignore the nagging feeling that my dad (who I usually don't defer to on decorating decisions on account of his love of #clutteredgothicchic) might be right when he said it looked a bit naff up close.  

The faux wood wall

The faux wood wall

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I also couldn't get this picture from my pinterest out of my head which featured a bed against a wall of reclaimed wood.  I loved the texture and warmth it created.  However I was pretty sure that my DIY skills didn't extend to cladding an entire wall in wood on the basis that they are yet to encompass changing a light bulb so I got my next door neighbour who is a carpenter to give me a hand.  Note to self if you ask your neighbour to nail a ton of old scaffold planks to your bedroom wall he will regard you in much the same as way as if you are asking him to nail Sanitary Pads to the wall.  However it was worth enduring #AlwaysUltraWallFace because I absolutely loved the finished result.  If you are London based and looking to recreate the look then Forest Recycling Project based in Walthamstow is a great place to source your reclaimed wood.  They have a huge stock of scaffold boards all for a reasonable price compared to some I have seen being sold on ebay for the same price as a small convertible car.

The inspiration behind my wooden wall spotted on the  Herdy Sleep  website

The inspiration behind my wooden wall spotted on the Herdy Sleep website

Scaffold planks lined up and ready to go

Scaffold planks lined up and ready to go

Step one was to attach wooden planks (or batons as I believe carpenters may call them!) to the wall to help hold the weight of the planks which were then just nailed on to the vertical planks

Step one was to attach wooden planks (or batons as I believe carpenters may call them!) to the wall to help hold the weight of the planks which were then just nailed on to the vertical planks

The final big change I have made is to upgrade our mattress and bed which, after 10 years and the arrival of three kids had seen a lot of action (although latterly probably less of the kind Mr Malmo would prefer!).  The fabric on our old bed had started to fray and the mattress was getting saggier than my spaniel's ears.  I had always wanted a button back head board but they can stray into foootballers wives territory (and alas I am not Victoria Beckham).  I wanted to find one which was less Rooney and more rustic.

The picture I spotted in a magazine of my dream bed from  Button & Sprung

The picture I spotted in a magazine of my dream bed from Button & Sprung

I therefore jumped for joy when I spotted this picture of a Button & Sprung bed in a magazine featuring not only the bed of my dreams and with a wooden wall behind it to boot! Button & Sprung are a predominantly online bed & mattress retailer (although they have a showroom in London) and all of their beds come a right to a free return within 100 days.  However there is no chance I will be sending my bed back.  The fabric and frame are both brilliant quality and it fits perfectly with my rustic/scandi style.  It is the Foxtail in Nickel soft wool but there are a range of other great fabrics to choose from including some lovely linens and velvets in both neutral and brighter colours.

Model not included

Model not included

I loved the way the wool looks against the wood

I loved the way the wool looks against the wood

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When it came to the mattress I was lucky enough to be approached by Emma Mattress and asked to try out one of their memory foam matresses.  I was, I confess, initially quite skeptical when it arrived in a box that looked liked it contained a hole punch rather than a kingsize mattress but after a couple hours out of the box it was ready to roll.  If you like your mattresses firm without it feeling like you are sleeping on a concrete slab then this is the baby for you.  It genuinely delivers an insanely good night's sleep and having err fully road tested it so to speak, I can confirm it also copes well with activity of a slightly more vigorous nature than sleeping.  If you would like to see for yourself (the mattress rather than us road testing it) then you can get £100 off any original or second generation Emma Mattress with the code Malmo100.

One mattress out of the box and ready to be road tested once I have moved those instagram styling props!

One mattress out of the box and ready to be road tested once I have moved those instagram styling props!

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With the new bed and mattress in place our duvet and pillows, which had seen Mr Malmo through his student days at Manchester and somehow joined us in marital life, were seriously letting the side down.  The duvet was about the same consistency as cold rice pudding and the pillows could easily have been used as sandbags should the Environment Agency require extra flood reinforcement this Winter. Their replacements are from the Secret Linen Store and it now feels like we are sleeping in Angel Delight (in the sense that the duvet and pillows feel gorgeous, light and fluffy rather us emerging covered in pink mousse of a morning).  We went for a goose down all season duvet which means it has an extra layer of fluffiness you can clip on when our weather front once more steps back in line with Siberia rather than Spain. Secret Linen Store were also kind enough to gift me some of their bedding to try out. 

Bedroom makeover complete with the arrival of a new duvet and pillows from  Secret Linen Store

Bedroom makeover complete with the arrival of a new duvet and pillows from Secret Linen Store

Slubby bedding perfection achieved with the Pebble linen bedding from  Secret Linen Store

Slubby bedding perfection achieved with the Pebble linen bedding from Secret Linen Store

I went for the pebble linen bedding and dove grey striped undersheet.  The linen is just the right kind of no need to iron but still looks amazing slubby and I can really tell the difference in quality compared to budget linen sets I have bought in the past.  I am also a sucker for beautiful packaging so I loved how all of the bedding arrived parcelled up.

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No ironing required, just out of shot Mr Malmo having a crumbie induced meltdown about croissants on the bed....

No ironing required, just out of shot Mr Malmo having a crumbie induced meltdown about croissants on the bed....

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There are still a few tweaks I am thinking of making to finish the renovation of this room off, including most importantly acquiring either curtains or a blind for that big picture window as am fairly sure my neighbour doesn't want to see #MalmosMuff when he is taking his bins out.  But for now I am pretty happy with how it has all come together. 

Many thanks to Button & Sprung, Emma Mattress and Secret Linen Store for partnering with me on this project and helping me to transform it from #SuburbanPortaKabinPants to the relaxed rustic bedroom of my dreams.

 

 

 

 

Malmo & Moss House: Adding Hygge to the Living Room

As regular Malmo & Moss blog readers will recall, when we moved into our house 7 years ago one of our first decorating steps was to paint the previously sanitary pad purple front room Farrow & Ball Wimborne White.  However, the white combined with original sash windows that looked great but which were about as energy efficient as a pair of your granny's moth eaten pants, meant that we actually rarely used the room or at least not without our winter coats on.   To up the hygge factor and reduce the freezer aisle at Tesco factor we laid a carpet, got shutters and went over to the dark side (on the walls) to create a cosier space that we actually wanted to spend time in without an electric blanket.  With those changes complete it ceased to be #SittingRoomSiberia' but there was last change I had been hankering after making: installation of a woodburner.  

The sitting room pre woodburner but post sanitary pad purple phase

The sitting room pre woodburner but post sanitary pad purple phase

We had inherited a gas fire when we moved in which, when lit, gave off about as much heat as a mouse's fart and when unlit had fake stones which our toddler was fond of stealing and then throwing around the living room cackling like a contestant at the Highland Games who has drunk too much Iru Bru.

Stones in the fire just waiting for a toddler game of cabertoss

Stones in the fire just waiting for a toddler game of cabertoss

However, just as I had started to throw myself into some serious woodburner research, a slew of headlines hit the Daily Mail which basically suggested that the sole cause of global warming was not cows, energy intensive industries or the rapid growth of the Chinese economy but too many middle class people installing woodburners.  It turned out that the Daily Mail story was not actually 100% accurate.  In fact it was not even 1% accurate and they had needlessly caused the kind of middle class panic that ensues when Waitress runs low on olive oil or pomegranate molasses.  Sadiq Khan had expressed concern about particulate emissions from woodburners in a letter to Michael Gove but not from stoves manufactured in accordance with the latest Ecodesign standards which are designed to destroy a huge amounts of those nasty particulates meaning more of the warmth is emitted to your front room instead of vanishing up the chimney.  So when you are choosing a stove just make sure it is one which complies with the Stove Industry Alliance's "Ecodesign Ready" label and you are all good.  If you want to read more about it all our installers Stoake Ltd have produced a really handy Q&A.

Looks cosy but in reality emitting about as much heat as a mouse's fart

Looks cosy but in reality emitting about as much heat as a mouse's fart

Having reassured myself that my woodburner would not be plunging the Capital back to the Great Smog of 1952, I got to work on the fun stuff, choosing the tiles and stove of my dreams.  My main dilemma was whether to keep the existing marble mantlepiece and go for some statement tiles or replace it with a more rustic looking surround and keep things more au natural in the hearth.  In the end Option 1 won out because I just couldn't get these Grey Santona tiles from Bert & May out of my head  and I wanted to experiment with having a bit of pattern in the house so it was either getting the tiles or getting Mr Malmo to get a huge chest tattoo of them.

The  Bert & May  tiles of my dreams

The Bert & May tiles of my dreams

I wasn't quite sure what installing a woodburner actually involved.  I had visions of Bert from Mary Poppins scampering around on my roof singing chim chimmney chim chim chicheroo as he dropped a flue line down our chimney pot.  Luckily this is where the lovely guys from Stoake Ltd (a local North London business) came in.  The first step in the process was for them to come round a do a site visit and they then followed up quickly with a written quote setting out the installation process and how much each stage and the associated materials would cost. They are able to arrange scaffolding for you or you can do that bit yourself.  We did it ourselves as it worked out a bit cheaper although that meant dealing with a guy who punctuated his conversation with farts rather than commas *Apologies to any more #SophisticatedScaffolders out there*

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With the scaffolding finally up, the process of removing the existing fire surround, capping the gas supply and rendering and tiling the new opening took just 2 days.  We decided to keep our existing hearth stone to keep the costs down which also saved time.

Stoake at work!

Stoake at work!

Gas fire gone, opening ready for tilng

Gas fire gone, opening ready for tilng

And my  Bert & May Santona  tiles are in. Candles purely for effect zero heat emitted!

And my Bert & May Santona tiles are in. Candles purely for effect zero heat emitted!

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2 weeks later, just as the Beast from the East blew in, Nigel and team returned to install the stove itself.  By the time I had battled the beast to and from work (which sounds dramatic but in reality just involved me walking to the station in wholly impractical shoes squeaking "gosh it is windy" every now and again) the stove was in.  

Snowy scenes in the suburbs on the day the stove went in

Snowy scenes in the suburbs on the day the stove went in

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The tiles were covered up to keep them safe during the stove install

The tiles were covered up to keep them safe during the stove install

I chose a Skye stove from Charnwood in a lovely cream colour which is handmade on the Isle of Wight and, in Charnwood's own words is "a new state-of-the-art stove with a remarkably efficient combustion system. It’s innovative burn technology ensures efficiencies of up to 86% and exceeds the new Eco Design standards and Defra exemption limits; allowing wood to be burnt cleanly in smoke control areas". If you have space in your hearth there is also an option to chose a version of the stove which has an integrated log store adding to it's rustic good looks.  Charnwood are a family owned British company and can help you to find a trusted local installer in your area.

I love the contrast of having a cream stove with the dark walls in our living room

I love the contrast of having a cream stove with the dark walls in our living room

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I am no boy scout (I look terrible in Khaki for starters) so I was a little bit worried that I would struggle with the lighting the fire aspect of having a woodburner.  However, the Skye is honestly so easy to use that it renders Ray Mears completely surplus to requirements.  You literally just assemble a mini pile of kindling wood around a firelighter, strike a match, shut the door and within seconds you will have a blaze ready to chuck a log on.  My biggest challenge now is stopping #chriswaddlecat from blocking out all of the heat by plonking himself in front of the stove whenever it is lit and embarking on an epic clean of his feline nether regions.

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With thanks to Charnwood, Bert & May and Stoake Ltd for partnering with me on this project. 

Malmo & Moss Sleeps: The Vintage Curator House

Growing up the child of Guardian reading muesli eating parents in the 80s/90s meant that our Summer holidays followed a well trodden middle class path across the channel to a French Gite my mum had booked through the Brittany Ferries catalogue.  This being the days before the internet the most you had to go off in determining whether your accommodation was tres chic or a shit gite was usually just one picture of the exterior.  On several occasions we turned up after an 12 hour journey in our Rover 316 (anyone else remember the faux mahogany trim that made you feel like you were trapped inside David Dickinson’s wet dream) to find what waited behind the keyhole was more ‘A Week in a Romanian Orphanage’ than ‘A Year in Provence’. Happily saying Bonjour to the internet has meant we can say Au Revoir to the horrible holiday lottery and these days Gites even come with their own Instagram accounts.  So having followed and drooled over the Vintage Curator House feed it took me all of 20 seconds to say yes when it's owner Sam ( aka @vintagecuratorinteriors) asked me if I would like to go and spend a week there. 

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The house is located in the Vendee which on the West coast of France.  The nearest airport, La Rochelle is just over an hour away but because we have 3 small children and therefore travel about as light as a zumo wrestler we decided to take the ferry and drive instead.  Our plan was to hit the road straight after picking up the kids from school thus avoiding rush hour traffic. Obviously the reality was that an hour after picking up the kids we were still trying to find someone to feed the cat and locate the chessboard that my middle son claimed he couldn't live without but then didn't play with all week.  A last minute discovery that I had neglected to pack myself any knickers set us back a further 15 minutes and whilst returning to fetch them avoided this blog being called "Malmo's Muff Gets into Merde"it did, on the other hand, result in us both running into rush hour traffic and Hurricane Brian.  Arriving at Dover to discover our ferry had been delayed by 3 hours merely confirmed my suspicion that nothing good comes from things called Brian.   But when we arrived at the Vintage Curator House the next day all negative thoughts about Hurricanes named after tax inspectors from Wilmslow were forgotten.  

The stunning scene that greeted us when we arrived at the Vintage Curator House.

The stunning scene that greeted us when we arrived at the Vintage Curator House.

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Sam and husband Oli bought the house back in 2010 after their search for a holiday house that didn't need much work instead resulted in the purchase of something that needed all of the downstairs beams replacing to avoid the top floor falling in, new windows, new doors, new roofs, the installation of two new bathrooms, a new kitchen and a new septic tank.  Having taking care of the sewage and sash windows, the couple then added a swimming pool, outdoor cabana and al fresco eating area.  Whilst the renovation may have had its ups and downs (particularly for a French plumber who had to climb into a pit of raw sewage to fix a leak in the septic tank) the end results are nothing short of stunning. The house has modern rustic good looks in spades with oodles of gorgeous exposed stone walls, wooden beams and flagstone floors.  

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Males big and small loved the Vintage Curator House kitchen

Males big and small loved the Vintage Curator House kitchen

With 5 bedrooms and 4 huge reception spaces it is perfectly set up for big groups and there is just as much space outside as in with a swimming pool, outdoor barn with table tennis, and, to my 7 year olds utter delight, a garden big enough to host a mini football pitch.  We visited in October which I think offered us the best of both worlds with warm sunny days and cooler nights when we could light the wood burners in the kitchen and living room and get our hygge on.   I would, however, like to go back in Summer so I can use the pool which I wasn't brave enough to venture in this time having seen Mr Malmo jump in and then rapidly get back out with his manhood resembling a terrified field mouse.  

The lobby sitting area that is the first room you see when you step inside the Vintage Curator House

The lobby sitting area that is the first room you see when you step inside the Vintage Curator House

I loved Sam's collection of vintage carbuoys which she sells through her vinatge business @vintage curatorinteriors

I loved Sam's collection of vintage carbuoys which she sells through her vinatge business @vintage curatorinteriors

The house is located in quite a rural area so every couple of days we would head to the nearest hypermarche about 20 mins away and stock up with provisions.  This took me back to my teenage years when I would blow all of my holiday money on Hollywood chewing gum, Galak chocolate and Lafuma pencil cases the moment I stepped foot in a L'Eclerc.   My sister is still paying my mum back after suffering a bad case of #HyperMarcheHardOn and sinking all of her cash into buying a crushed silk peach coloured Naf Naf jacket in the Summer of 1993.  To be honest though, the house is so well set up that it was a struggle to leave even with the lure of a L'Eclerc. 

I have this thing about Sam's amazing chandeliers......

I have this thing about Sam's amazing chandeliers......

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With the kids in bed we would light the woodburner in here and cosy up

With the kids in bed we would light the woodburner in here and cosy up

Even getting out of bed in the morning proved a struggle as our bed in the stunning master suite was so big and so comfortable that if I didn't have an 18 month old who is fond of watching the sunrise I would happily have stayed in it all day.  Well, maybe I would have got up, but only to run a bath in the en suite bathroom which has a toll top bath and huge walk in shower. I know Mr Malmo was definitely wishing he had stayed in bed on the day we took the kids swimming at a local leisure centre only to discover an obscure French byelaw was being enforced which requires men to only wear "spot the sausage" swimwear. 60 Euros and 3 pairs of budgie smugglers later we entered the pool with him wearing swimwear shorter than the hot pants Kylie wears in the Spinning Around video.  He didn't see the funny side when I told him he had, to quote Alan Patridge, "just popped out" whilst bending down in the shallow end. 

The stunning master suite

The stunning master suite

Our ensuite bathroom

Our ensuite bathroom

Mirror mirror on the wall who is the fairest modern rustic holiday home of them all

Mirror mirror on the wall who is the fairest modern rustic holiday home of them all

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There were so many amazing bedrooms to chose from!

There were so many amazing bedrooms to chose from!

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If you prefer day trips that don't require you to leave your dignity and loose clothing at the door then our favourite local town was Fontenauy le Comte which has pretty winding medevial streets to lose yourself in with plenty of instagrammable doors in arrays of fading pastel colours.  Slightly further afield is the Il de Re which has to be one of my favourite places in the world.  It is an island just off the coast of La Rochelle and about 1 hr 15 mins drive from the Vintage Curator House.  In the height of Summer you can't move for Chic Parisians on holiday enjoying it's impossibly pretty villages, wide stretches of sandy beach, cyclepaths through salt marshes and daily food and antique markets.  However it was much quieter in October and we had a great day pottering around in the Autumn sunshine and cycling out to a lighthouse after somehow managing to find a configuration of bikes for 4 adults, 2 toddlers, 1 cycling seven year old and a non cycling 4 year old.   

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The Il de Re is full of instagrammable moments like this!

The Il de Re is full of instagrammable moments like this!

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Back at the Vintage Curator House the weather was so mild that we even managed to squeeze in a couple of BBQs on the outdoor terrace and a mini drinks and (L'Eclerc) canapes reception up by the pool cabana before we set off home.  Obviously we were only one Vol Au Vent in before one of the kids had thrown a shoe in the pool and broken the temporary Come Dine with Me calm but if you are child free or have older children less prone to throwing things in water then you will absolutely love all the spaces the house has for entertaining.  

The lovely al fresco eating area at the side of the house

The lovely al fresco eating area at the side of the house

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If you would like to find out more about how to book a stay at the Vintage Curator House then click here to book through Air BnB or visit www.vintagecuratorhouse.com.  To find out more about Vintage Curated Interiors, the business through which Sam sells some of the gorgeous french vintage items she has found whilst visiting the Vintage Curator House visit www.vintagecuratorinteriors.co.uk 

Malmo & Moss is One: 5 things I have learnt from my first year on Instagram

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. 

Not an Smart Thermostat in sight luckily for my poor friends.....

Not an Smart Thermostat in sight luckily for my poor friends.....

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.

Trapped inside Taupe Tramlines!

Trapped inside Taupe Tramlines!

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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.

Just a gentle bit of Juno and nothing else!

Just a gentle bit of Juno and nothing else!

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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.

Blurry background all courtesey of the humble Samsung S6!

Blurry background all courtesey of the humble Samsung S6!

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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.  

The bedroom with the lights on.......

The bedroom with the lights on.......

Lights off and things are looking much better.......

Lights off and things are looking much 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..... 

The dog piss stinking stick that was the star pf the #chroniclesofablowjobbranch show

The dog piss stinking stick that was the star pf the #chroniclesofablowjobbranch show

Chanelling someone who was never afraid to be himself in my flatlay!

Chanelling someone who was never afraid to be himself in my flatlay!

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.

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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......... 

 

   

 

 

 

 

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).

Malmo & Moss Sleeps: Copenhagen

I spent my formative years in the North-East of England where my only contact with Scandinavia was the Gateshead branch of Ikea and even on trips there I was initially more interested in the mini hotdogs and 50p whippy icecreams than the bleached birch Billy Bookcases, Sodermalm sofas and fabulous faux sage.  But somewhere along the way I discovered my inner Agnetha and this North-Eastern girl went Nordic. I began to dream of moving to a Scandinavian country and even went to so far as to take Swedish lessons with Mr Malmo who proved his undying love and devotion to me by spending his Thursday evenings desperately trying to form a Swedish sentence that didn't just sound like he was trying to clear a sticky piece of flem out of his throat.   When it became obvious that we would struggle to ask for a Daim bar in a Netto we downgraded the plans to emigrate to frequent holidays there instead.  Two Summers ago we went Scandi with the kids for the first time (if you don't count frequent trips to Edmonton Ikea) staying in Copenhagen and then crossing the bridge (yes, The Bridge) to Malmo to stay in the house of one of my all time favourite bloggers My Scandinavian Home.  We had a brilliant time so this year, having sired another son (in medieval times I would surely have been given a cow or something by now) we decided to head back to Copenhagen. 

The beautiful living room of My Scandinavian Home

The beautiful living room of My Scandinavian Home

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Where We Stayed

I am one of life's nervous flyers. I am about as comfortable on a plane as Nigel Farage would be at a Liberal Democrat conference in a vegan cafe.  However, it was not my extreme fear of flying that led to our last minute decision to drive rather than fly to Denmark.  It was rather the fact that I left it until 2 weeks before the date of departure to book seats by which time return Ryanair flights were about the same price as a small helicopter.  But 14 hours with 3 small children crammed into an overpacked Audi were quickly forgotten the moment we stepped inside our Air BnB apartment in Copenhagen.  Even with my right eyeball still manically twitching from the 4 large cans of Redbull consumed to keep me awake on the autobahn, I could see that it was the apartment of my Danish dreams.  

It is owned by a couple in their early thirties called Signe and Mark who live there with their two young children.  They describe themselves in their profile as civil servants and design entrepreneurs causing me to radically re-evaluate my previous stereotypes of civil servants as people who wear short sleeve beige shirts, keep pens in their top pockets and have an encyclopaedic knowledge of Common Agricultural Policy.  

The apartment is part of a block in which the Danish Prime Minister lived during the second world war.  But as you can see it is no gloomy underground Anderson shelter.  The main living space is a huge, double reception room with high ceilings and gorgeous sanded original wooden floors. The rest of the rooms lead off that main space and are all painted white creating a beautifully spacious, light and serene feel. 

It was a case of love at first sight for the boys as well.  However, it was the massive smart enabled TV loaded with car racing games rather than the Dinesen reminiscent floorboards that captured their young hearts.  Whilst their new found precious bought us a few uncharacteristic holiday lie-ins, the downside was that anytime we left the apartment to take in some Danish culture at one of the many brilliant museums and galleries Copenhagen has to offer, they had a tendency to ask us at 10 minute intervals when we would be going back to the holiday home to play Nitro Blast.

The boys with their precious

The boys with their precious

I loved the the texture and colour they had added to the living room with their choice of rugs and throws

I loved the the texture and colour they had added to the living room with their choice of rugs and throws

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My favourite part of the apartment was, in contrast, the kitchen.  It featured all the modern rustic elements that I love.  Rough hewn wood: tick, earthy collections of ceramics: tick, accents of dark metallics: tick.  It was a lovely space to sit with a cup of tea flicking through one of their Nordic cookbooks pretending that I am not the kind of person who thinks that rye bread should be reserved for hamsters instead of humans.  We tended to eat out at lunchtime and then come back to have dinner at the apartment around the lovely rustic kitchen table having picked up ingredients from the local Meny (the Danish equivalent of Waitrose) on our way home.  

There was also a branch of  Lagkaghuset  next door to Meny so at breakfast time, whilst one of us put the kettle on and stood in the weetabix firing line, the other would pop out to pick up the best cinnamon buns I have ever tasted (and believe me when I say I have tasted a lot!).   It is a chain so you can find branches all over Copenhagen should you need a cinnamon top up at any time during the day.  I guess they are the Danish equivalent of Greggs but with polished concrete floors, pale wood, twinkling candles and handsome bakery assistants called Lars.  

In the evenings once we had the kids in bed we would light some candles in the kitchen (when I say we I obviously mean me as there is about the same chance of Mr Malmo independently lighting a candle as there is him suggesting we sit down to watch a Vicar of Dibley boxset) pour a glass of wine and make plans for the next day together. One of my favourite features of the kitchen was the black pendant lights hung at different heights over the table and worktops, they added a little bit of edge to all the natural textures and got me thinking about changing up our kitchen lights at home.

The kitchen looked out over a gorgeous internal courtyard which was a lovely spot to sit in the sun, watching the boys play with toys shared by all of the apartments with the Danes not being territorial over their tiny tikes.  When we visited in late July there were mounds of hydrangeas in whites and pinks in full bloom to enjoy.

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There were 3 bedrooms.   The master bedroom was a beautiful tranquil space as it was flooded with light from the two big windows which looked out over the quiet street and a small park.  The only blot on the bedroom landscape was that the bed had, as is the Scandi way, two separate single duvets on the bed rather than one double.  I am not sure if this is because Danish men are chronic duvet stealers so the divorce rate is kept low by everyone having their own duvet, but I found that it meant that I frequently woke up in the night to find that Mr Malmo had rolled off with both duvets leaving me exposed to the Danish indoor elements.  

Bed, Buns and Bolig = Bliss

Bed, Buns and Bolig = Bliss

Getting our hygge on

Getting our hygge on

Although the other two bedrooms were used as kids bedrooms, one had a double bed in and could easily have been used as an adult bedroom if you didn't mind waking up with the squad of FC Copenhagen (on the wall rather than in your bed that is unless you had enjoyed a particularly wild night on the Aquavit.) The other bedroom had a small cabin bed in and the only adult it would be suitable for would be wee Jimmy Krankie.  Although the bathroom didn't have a bath it had a huge walk-in shower which was perfect for hosing down three mucky boys at the end of every day.

The Local Area

The apartment is located in the Østerbro neighbourhood and is about 15 mins walk from the City centre.  It is known as the old wealthy neighbourhood in Copenhagen with lots of beautiful old architecture, broad shopping streets and leafy squares with cafes and shops. Whilst it is definitely not as hip and trendy an area as say Norreborre or Vesterbro, it is super family friendly so will work well if it is first class playgrounds rather than pulsing nightclubs you are after.  If your kids are good at walking without claiming their leg batteries have run out, then take a stroll down to the lakes where there are some great restaurants and a section of townhouses so drool worthy that you will be wondering if having watched every episode of the Killing, Borgen and The Bridge will be enough to qualify you for Danish citizenship post Brexit.

Cafe Bopa was our local brunch spot.

Cafe Bopa was our local brunch spot.

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2 minutes walk from the apartment was Faelled Park which our kids completely loved. It has an adventure playground, outdoor trampoline park, beach volleyball courts, football pitches, a mini traffic roadway system, a play equipment recreation of the Danish equivalent of Buckingham Palace and vast expanses of green open space.   The home stadium of FC Copenhagen also borders the park if you have football fans in the family.  Mr Malmo took our eldest son to see a match, buying tickets on the day that cost less than £30 for both of them.  

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Make sure you tune into the blog this Autumn when I will be sharing more Malmo & Moss tips on where to eat, shop and entertain kids in Copenhagen (when you can prise them away from Nitro Blast that is) and how Danish design has influenced my interiors style at home.

Malmo & Moss: Culture Club

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.

Dan's gorgeous Scandi inspired apartment makes for a considerably more pleasing on the eye picture than me in the flume queue at Sheringham Splash

Dan's gorgeous Scandi inspired apartment makes for a considerably more pleasing on the eye picture than me in the flume queue at Sheringham Splash

August

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

Listen.
‘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.

Read.

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.

Watch.

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.

Visit.

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.


Make.

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. 

www.madeleineshaw.com
http://madeleineshaw.com/recipes/asparagus-risotto/

Malmo & Moss House: Making Over the Spare Room

Shall we really go hard at it in the spare room on Saturday night would, in my twenties, have been an offer to Mr Malmo that included matching lingerie, Marvin Gaye and massage oil. Three kids in he knows that these days it is much more like to involve removing my knickers from the drying rack that is semi permanently erected in there, hearing through the grapevine instructions to rationalise the underbed storage drawers and massaging shampoo into the carpet to try and remove evidence of a #babysudocreamrampage.  When we moved into the Malmo & Moss House 7 years ago we started by turning this room into my eldest son's nursery. Because we didn't get the keys until 3 weeks before he was born, my husband had to pretty much carry out that transformation solo, heroically wallpapering up a ladder at 2am.  Although, if I am honest, even if i didn't have a 7 pound baby eager to get out of my clunge I would probably have still just stood around decoratively holding a wallpaper brush.   

With the boys moved into new bunk quarters, the spare room became ripe for redevelopment!

With the boys moved into new bunk quarters, the spare room became ripe for redevelopment!

When we knew baby number three was on the way we decided to move the two older boys into what was then bigger spare room with this room, after a lick of Cornforth White (has a more middle class phrase ever been uttered) assuming a new identity as a temporary offshoot of the Big Yellow Storage Company.  I am going to spare you a shot of it buried underneath a mound of maternity knickers, tea towels, baby toys, dismantled furniture, tins of paint and coats because you probably have a room like that of your own that you can go into if you want an interiors reality check.  When someone was coming to stay all of that crap got temporarily shoved into the wardrobe and it looked ok but it was a bit like the maternity knickers it so often played host to in that it was a bit drab and tired.  

Temporarily tidy but all a bit bland

Temporarily tidy but all a bit bland

After a particularly steamy session in there one Saturday night when Mr Malmo went wild with the nozzle of the hoover (attached to the entrance to a vacumn bag rather than something else I hasten to add) it was enough of a blank canvas to start thinking about how we could add a bit of personality into it.   The first step I took was to try and break up the wall behind the bed a bit by stringing up some festoon lights using command hooks.  I got my festoon lights from Sainsburys homeware range.  I think they were £13 in the sale and they stock them all year round.  They are definitely not the same quality as say a set from The White Company (they are about as sturdy as an eggshell) but I think they pretty much do the job.  

The festoons instantly injected a bit of interest

The festoons instantly injected a bit of interest

With that job done I turned my attention to the bedside tables.  They were a couple of fairly non descript numbers that we bought for our first flat back when I was a #Living EtcVirgin. They were, brace yourself, originally a shade of pine that I would describe as akin to Dale Winton just back from a week in Marbella. Once I had popped my Living Etc cherry I hastily painted them Pavilion Grey in a bid to Farrow & Ball away the Winton.  However, because I am the kind of impatient painter that dips a paintbrush in without a second thought to masking tape, dust sheets or priming I managed to paint the drawers shut.  Consequently retrieving anything from the drawers was the kind of challenge they liked to set people on the Crystal Maze when they wanted to watch an accountant in a jumpsuit try and restrain himself from saying the words cunting hell on pre-watershed television. 

Spot the #DuluxWeldedDurexDrawers

Spot the #DuluxWeldedDurexDrawers

The dressing table in its previous home in our main bedroom. Just to reassure you that is a curatin pole not crow bar you can see peaking out from under the bed.

The dressing table in its previous home in our main bedroom. Just to reassure you that is a curatin pole not crow bar you can see peaking out from under the bed.

Having finally jimmied the drawers open using the type of tool favoured by teenager car jackers, and disposed of the contents (which included some aged condoms which if used would almost certainly have led to the birth of our 4th child) the #DuluxWeldedDurexDrawers were taken to the tip.  Does anyone else's husband enjoy a trip to the tip almost as much as a blow job? In their place on the left hand side I brought down from our bedroom a dressing table which was the first piece of furniture we ever bought together.   Although Mr Malmo has never been a very big fan of it because apparently in his words it has shades of something Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart would have sat at whilst powdering his wig. I think it works really well in the spare room though with the style of our Loaf bed (and am sure Amadeus would have sided with me on this one inbetween whiping up preludes).  On the otherside of the bed we reconstructed the desk that used to be downstairs before Project Partition happened (future blogpost coming on that one!).

A lovely spot for Mozart to powder his wig

A lovely spot for Mozart to powder his wig

My attention turned next to a subject in which I could complete a doctorate: cushions.  I wanted something which created a bit of texture and drama so when I was on a work trip in Cardiff I thought all my Christmases had come at once when I popped into TK Maxx and spotted two of their divine Mongolian fur cushions in the sale for half price.    Unfortunately they are each the size of a small Mountain Yak so the only carrier bag that would contain them was a pink bag for life plastered in pictures of dogs in camp spectacles.  I think it is probably the first time the security guard at the Welsh Government Building has had  to X-Ray scan soft furnishings for explosives in a bag that looked like something Dame Edna Everidge might take with her to the lauderette.  Having wrestled the Yaks all the way home from Cardiff on the train I realised when I got home that they are in fact not the smokey grey I had intially thought they were but had a distinctly greenish tinge to them, a bit like a Yak that had fallen a pond....However I have actually really come to like the colour and it fits really nicely with the rustic wood of the tables and bed. 

With the soft furnishings in hand I turned my attention to the bed linen.  One of my absolute favourite instagram accounts belongs to @teawithruby who has the most beautiful antique bed and really gorgeous slubby (is that even a word?!) linen bedding in smoky colours.  The charcoal linen set I chose from Piglet In Bed fitted the #SlubbySleeping bill perfectly!  They do a lovely range of durable low maintenance linen bedding that gets softer and softer with wear and most importantly of all doesn't require me to iron it for it to look good!

The beautiful bedroom of @teawithruby

The beautiful bedroom of @teawithruby

Slubby Sleeping Goals achieved thanks to Piglet in Bed.

Slubby Sleeping Goals achieved thanks to Piglet in Bed.

It was all coming together nicely but I wanted it to have a bit more of an industrial/boho edge inspired by some of my favourite instagram bedrooms.  Although I don't have bare bricks to work with (unless I start tearing chunks of plaster away from the walls which I suspect would be about as popular with Mr Malmo as my cauliflower burgers) I really like the earthy industrial feel they add to Reena of Hygge for Home's bedroom.  I decided to add that feel through the use of rustic reclaimed wood instead like the gorgeous bohemian bedroom of Kate Young.  A trip to our local salvage yard resulted in us returning with some suitably distressed planks and the owner 22 Stone Tony laughing all the way to the bank as he took our cash for what transpired to be the bench he used to saw up wood on to sell to yuppy renovators.

Rustic woods and linen bedding getting my modern rustic pulse racing.

Rustic woods and linen bedding getting my modern rustic pulse racing.

Beautiful Bare Brick Boho Bedroom inspiration from  @hygge_for_home

Beautiful Bare Brick Boho Bedroom inspiration from @hygge_for_home

I love how  @kateyoungdesign  uses texture to create warmth in her bedroom

I love how @kateyoungdesign uses texture to create warmth in her bedroom

22 Stone Tony's Planks stand proud in the corner next to the rehomed desk.

22 Stone Tony's Planks stand proud in the corner next to the rehomed desk.

I also decided to keep all of the artwork black and white to create a crisp, clean impact with prints from Desenio doing the honours.  I can't quite decide whether to have some more artwork above the bed and if so whether to go with one big print, a mini gallery wall or a picture shelf with a small selection of different size prints or alternatively whether to go with a bit set of vintage antlers there instead to provide a further nod to the nordic.  Would love to know your thoughts.  Would it look too busy?  We were originally intending to turn our #YuppySalvageHaul into shelves in the alcoves but that would mean the festoons couldn't hang down the sides so I think I have changed my mind about it.  

I have added a real olive tree in beside the bed whilst I continue the search for a faux one which doesn't require me to take a bridging loan to afford it.  I have recently received a tip off that Ikea may have one so I am hoping that there has not been a middle class stampede to my local branch since this faux foliage rumour started doing the rounds.  

On the right hand side of the bed in these pictures are a set of vintage pegs that are displaying a throw and a lovely cage light I got from Of Special Interest.  In reality my husband has an infuriating habit of using these pegs as the resting place for a waterproof coat he has which makes him look like a cross between a 1990s indie band member and a bird watcher, sort of Bez meets Bill Oddie.  The trunk below them is one of my favourite vintage finds from Newark collectors market, where I also got the old French Railway Station clock which adds some extra monochrome interest.

Completing the industrial touches on the other side of the bed are some old Mars tins which have been outside until recently so picked up quite a bit of rust although I personally think that just adds to their character.  I bought them about 5 years ago from a man at Newark who had literally hundreds of them so I am always kicking myself that I only came away with three which was the most I could fit under the pram at the time.  I think Bugaboo are really missing gap in the market by not designing a pram with a huge undercarriage for vintiquing mums on the go.

The mars tins and a  John Lewis  sheepie to add some more texture and warmth under foot

The mars tins and a John Lewis sheepie to add some more texture and warmth under foot

The copper legged stool from  Sainsbury's  adds an extra industrial touch

The copper legged stool from Sainsbury's adds an extra industrial touch

The La Lune print is a recent purchase from  Desenio

The La Lune print is a recent purchase from Desenio

The cage lights were from a little shop in Canal St Martin on the Il de Re

The cage lights were from a little shop in Canal St Martin on the Il de Re

The Cushion Yaks provide nice contrast to my Florence Bouvier cushion from  Lisa Valentine Home

The Cushion Yaks provide nice contrast to my Florence Bouvier cushion from Lisa Valentine Home

The final touch I added recently after a rock n roll Thursday night trip to Enfield Town B&Q, was this Scandi inspired carpet runner which was a total bargain and neatly disguises where my middle son went rogue with his freshly sudocreamed bottom when 18 months old. Sudocream and wool fibres go about as well together as Theresa May and chocolate brown leather trousers.  Oh and am also very happy that we no longer have the 1980s doors that were all over the house when we first moved in which were reminiscent of doors the Corkhills used to slam during arguments on Brookside circa 1988.  This beautiful reclaimed one came from 22 Stone Tonys yard aka Stoneage Salvage on the way to Cuffley.

To the left of the bed as you walk in the door are a set of Ikea wardrobes constructed by Mr Malmo to which he added bespoke chipboard doors.  They are a very marmite feature of the room with my dad surpisingly numbering amongst their fans despite them being decidely non cluttered gothic, his signature interiors style.  They tend to create what I like to describe as the "shit why the hell did they do that face" in most guests.  I can't decide whether I want to leave them like that, paint them, or wallpaper them with tin effect paper like the panel hanging on the wall that caught my eye on the Rockett St George website.  What do you guys think? Let me know in the comments below whether you are #TeamChipboard or #TeamTin.

 

Malmo & Moss Diary: The Occasional Home Store Autumn Fair

3 weeks before the birth of our first son we moved from South to North London in search of a family house we could afford without assuming a debt the size of Germany's GDP. We left behind many of our closest friends who were die hard South Londoners and thus regarded Enfield as a spot on the map somewhere near outer Mongolia.  I was, therefore, a bit worried that it was just going to be me and the baby with Mr Tumble for company.all day.   So when we arrived for our crash NCT course in an old Quaker Hall I was desperately hoping to meet some kindred spirits to avoid becoming overly acquainted with the contents of Mr Tumble's spotty bag.  After an uncomfortable first 90 minutes of the class when the word vagina was said about 113 times more than I wanted to hear it in the company of 10 strangers, we took a tea break.   It was then, over an intensely stewed cup of PG tips and a soggy Rich Tea that I met Sally,  my kindred spirit.   It turned out that as well as both drinking our teas black and both being able to name all of Jordan and Peter Andre's children we also shared a love of vintage homeware.

Bottle blondes who love black tea it was meant to be!

Bottle blondes who love black tea it was meant to be!

After the first intense period of motherhood passed when conversation revolved around shades of shit rather than chaise lounges we got our non baby produced shit together enough to think about pursuing our passion for all things old and interesting (excluding Des O'Connor to be clear) and took a stall together at a local vintage market.  We enjoyed it is so much that inbetween getting Sally to tell me, for the 417th time,  the story from her BBC runner days about when she blow dried Nicky from Westlife's hair, we started to dream about putting together an event of our own in the Quaker meeting hall where we had first met.  

Some of the lovely vintage bits that @so_sally_vintage took along to our stall together

Some of the lovely vintage bits that @so_sally_vintage took along to our stall together

Malmo & Moss stock from the early days

Malmo & Moss stock from the early days

Sally's most popular items are always her bus destination blinds which mean she has a strong insta following amongst the bus spotter community!

Sally's most popular items are always her bus destination blinds which mean she has a strong insta following amongst the bus spotter community!

A couple of years passed and although our pelvic floors got weaker as we gave birth to our second (and in my case third) children, the dream just got stronger.  Enter Beth.   Her stall was often opposite ours and featured a beautifully curated mix of quirky curiosities but whilst we ogled it from afar it wasn't until we got chatting during a drop in trade one Saturday that we realised that she too lived in Winchmore Hill and, in a happy piece of coincidence, used to both edit the wonderful Selvedge magazine and organise their fairs which are renowned in London and beyond.  Suddenly the idea of organising our own event started to look a little bit less like something Duncan Bannatyne would laugh out of the Dragons Den and more like something Peter Jones would give a serious ponder.  

The kind of beautiful items we used to ogle on Beth's Little Game stall

The kind of beautiful items we used to ogle on Beth's Little Game stall

Her home is just as beautiful

Her home is just as beautiful

As is her photographic styling, picture by Katya de Grunwald

As is her photographic styling, picture by Katya de Grunwald

Several Monday night meetings around our three kitchen tables later, the Occasional Home Store was born.  An event which will bring the best in both vintage and contemporary homeware to our little corner of North London along with some delicious food and drink to sustain you whilst you shop.  Over the last few months Beth has grappled with Wix to build us a lovely website whilst Sally has become an overnight expert in event licensing, insurance, food hygiene and pretty much every other sensible thing that i forget to think about when I am getting overexcited about how great it is all going to look on instagram.

My kitchen table aka OHS Headquarters

My kitchen table aka OHS Headquarters

Thank you to the wonderful Tia Talula (@tiatalula) for being patient when it took about 1000 shots to get a photo when it didn't look like at least one of us was being tortured/trying to hold in a fart

Thank you to the wonderful Tia Talula (@tiatalula) for being patient when it took about 1000 shots to get a photo when it didn't look like at least one of us was being tortured/trying to hold in a fart

 

And as for me?  Well I have been working my way through our wishlist of dream vintage sellers, contemporary designer/makers and interiors shops we would like to pop up at the OHS and spent a lot of time pinching myself as one by one they have all said yes.  All my Modern Rustic Christmases came at once when Kay of Kinship Creative DC (aka the Modern Rustic Madonna) said she would love to come along and run a workshop for us on how to blend Scandi and Vintage pieces to create a Modern Rustic home.  But it didn't stop there, within a fortnight that workshop had become a double bill with Kate Watson-Smyth aka superstar interiors blogger Mad About the House who will be imparting ten top tips to improve any room for those lucky enough to have bagged one of the limited places available.

Styling from a previous Kinship Creative workshop which gives me the complete interiors horn.

Styling from a previous Kinship Creative workshop which gives me the complete interiors horn.

Sign up to our workshop and you will go home armed with tips to transform your rooms into beautiful spaces like this, the gorgeous sitting room of Kate Watson Smyth aka Mad About the House (image taken from her instagram @mad_about_the _house)

Sign up to our workshop and you will go home armed with tips to transform your rooms into beautiful spaces like this, the gorgeous sitting room of Kate Watson Smyth aka Mad About the House (image taken from her instagram @mad_about_the _house)

The final icing on the cake came when Vicky, the owner of the beautiful home and body brand Plum & Ashby, said she thought our event sounded great and that they would love to collaborate with us on putting it together.  So on the 9th of September, in association with Plum & Ashby, the doors of the first Occasional Home Store event will be opening at 10am in St Peter's Church Hall, 10 Langham Gardens, N21 2DN.  Our OHS venue is just 2 minutes away from Grange Park overground station which connects to Finsbury Park in just 10 minutes from where you can access the Victoria and Piccadilly Lines.  It is also just 10 minutes drive onto the M25, North Circular or M11 so wherever you are coming from we should be within easy reach (unless you are coming from the Isle of Skye in which case I admit the transport might be more tricky). We are feeling equal parts hugely excited and hugely terrified at this point in time so I would love it if you guys could come along and hold my hand for the day.

Some of Plum & Ashby's beautifully packaged products, you can see why I was doing cartwheels when they said they would like to be involved!

Some of Plum & Ashby's beautifully packaged products, you can see why I was doing cartwheels when they said they would like to be involved!

Until then (to give you an incentive to come along that doesn't involve my clammy hands) I wanted to share with you just a few of the amazing sellers we have coming along on the day and to give you a peak into some of their homes so you can see how their style translates from stall to semi-detached. Look out for more glimpses through the keyholes of our fabulous stallholders in future blog posts.  

Of Special Interest

Of Special Interest is a Crouch End interiors institution. Offering a prodigious range of elegant pieces for the home, the store has grown from its early incarnation as junk shop. Over the last two decades owner Belinda Fulton has taken over two neighbouring shops as their owners moved on and then the annex behind when it came up for rent. Her loyal customer base (including me!) can choose from antique European furniture sourced in Holland, stylish lighting, mirrors and irresistible impulse buys in the form of candles, kitchenware and faux foliage.  Her home is every bit as stylish as her shop and if you would like to see more of it be sure to have a look at Malmo & Moss Meets: Belinda Fulton

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I start mentally moving furniture around my house as soon as I step inside Of Special Interest because I instantly want to buy things like these beautiful drawers

I start mentally moving furniture around my house as soon as I step inside Of Special Interest because I instantly want to buy things like these beautiful drawers

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Beetle & WILDE

Beetle & WILDE is a vintage emporium that delights in blurring the boundaries between art, anatomy, natural history & design - adding drama and intrigue to interiors with an eclectic mix of cultures, periods, styles & scale - from Victorian wunderkammer curiosities to mid century classics and quirky modern finds. If you’re the kind of person who longs to linger in the Natural History Museum past closing time you will love what Beetle & WILDE have to offer and I am certain you will love owner Caz's sultry, darkly sexy home even more. 

Parquet floor of dreams in Caz's fabulous kitchen

Parquet floor of dreams in Caz's fabulous kitchen

A cornucopia of curiosities will be coming with Caz to the Occasional Home Store

A cornucopia of curiosities will be coming with Caz to the Occasional Home Store

Wicker & Weft

Baskets are definitely in the category of “items you simply can’t have too many of” – they are just so useful. And they last – a toy basket can become a home for a yarn stash, a picnic or a pet! Since becoming a Mum, Mim English Morgan  founder of Wicker & Weft feels more aware of society's 'throw-away' nature. “I want to play a tiny part in preserving skills and teaching the value of using something beautiful with a story." Her traditional handcrafted goods are sourced from workers paid a fair wage; not out of pity, "but because their time and skills are worth it.” Mim's home is a 1960s bungalow which acts as the perfect neutral backdrop for her beautiful baskets.  Whilst there are big renovation plans in store for the future, I love how calm and serene it feels already.

Mim's beautiful bedroom

Mim's beautiful bedroom

One of Wicker & Wefts gorgeous handcrafted baskets

One of Wicker & Wefts gorgeous handcrafted baskets

Wicker & Weft's baskets in &Hobbs, another one of our exciting pop ups.

Wicker & Weft's baskets in &Hobbs, another one of our exciting pop ups.

To see more details of all of our exhibitors hop over to our website www.occasionalhomestore.com and make sure to follow @occasionalhome to hear all of the latest announcements.  Over the next month I will be out and about sourcing more finds for my own Malmo & Moss stall and trying not to keep everything that I buy for myself instead #failedvintagemogul. Here are just a few of the things I have hunted out to bring along so far.

As you will notice from this picture the ladder from picture above is already looking very at home in my bathroom....

As you will notice from this picture the ladder from picture above is already looking very at home in my bathroom....

Beautiful 18th Centry entomology drawings 

Beautiful 18th Centry entomology drawings 

Hope that has helped wet your appeitite.  Sally, Beth and me and my clammy hands very much hope to see you on the 9th of September when we open the doors of the Occasional Home Store for the very first time!  If you have any questions at all about the event please do drop us an e-mail at occasionalhomestore@gmail.com or DM @occasionalhome and make sure to check out our website www.occasionalhomestore.com

Malmo & Moss Meets: Lucy Whitehouse

I was thrilled when my husband agreed to a last minute holiday to Cornwall this Easter. First and foremost because it is one of my favourite places in the world but secondly because it meant I could sneak in a visit to the home of Lucy Whitehouse on the way down.  Her modern Scandi inspired house in Wells is one of my absolute Instagram favourites.  New to the blogging game I was hoping to turn up on Lucy’s doorstep rocking a cool, creative and vaguely Parisian vibe.  Unfortunately the M4 had other plans and after spending 2 hours in a traffic jam in a car with three small children I turned up instead desperate for the loo and rocking a look that was much more frazzled mum than French ingénue.  I also realised when I took off my shoes that in my haste to get out of the house, I had mistakenly pulled on some novelty socks my mum got me for Christmas that had flying pigs all over them.  So far so not Juliet Binoche.  Luckily Lucy was a lovely as her house so I will stop talking about my bladder and bad socks and introduce you to her gorgeous home instead.

After growing up in Edinburgh, going to University in Newcastle and moving to London as a graduate surveyor, Lucy ended up in Wells after meeting husband Paul at an army ball in Middle Wallop whilst he was both dressed as a woman (it was a Halloween Ball I should point out at this stage.) and wearing the same dress as the friend that Lucy was with that evening. Paul is excitingly a helicopter pilot, the kind of profession that action movies starring Tom Cruise get made about as opposed to banking law (my husband's chosen profession) which is more BBC4 documentary about the collapse of Enron territory.   

Their current home was built in the 1930s and used to be a farmhouse to a Dairy but had been badly redeveloped around the Millenium by owners with a penchant for mustard shagpile, peach wallpaper and vertical blinds.  Despite being initially put off by a weird layout and 1970s porn movie set decor, a combination of light spacious rooms and a location staggering distance from Well's city centre won the day and Lucy and Paul moved in just days after the birth of their second daughter.   

All traces of mustard shagpile removed, only "The IG Rug" from LaRedoute to sink toes into now

All traces of mustard shagpile removed, only "The IG Rug" from LaRedoute to sink toes into now

I loved the way Lucy had mixed the texture and patterns of her cushions

I loved the way Lucy had mixed the texture and patterns of her cushions

They quickly set to work renovating the place to produce a more family friendly contemporary open plan layout. During this process the name Fred and the date 1887 was discovered etched into one of the walls and, despite raised eyebrows from the builders,  Lucy has left it exposed to create a talking point in the downstairs loo.  I have to confess i didn't notice it when I burst in there to relieve my traffic jam bladder but that is probably because I was staring in horror at my airbound porcine novelty socks (note to self to ask Hexham branch of Fatface not to admit my mother during the sale as the socks join some cut price fingerless gloves I was also gifted which make me look like an alpine cross between Michael Jackson and Fagin).

The Ercolesque kitchen bench was one of my favourite features of Lucy's home

The Ercolesque kitchen bench was one of my favourite features of Lucy's home

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Despite the Victorian toilet graffiti, the house otherwise lacked period features so Lucy and Paul decided to embrace this and go for a light, modern Scandi look with white walls, pale floors and lots of light flooding in through the huge bi-fold doors in the kitchen/living space. The doors provide access to a lovely big deck and garden which is perfect for their two daughters Mariella (4) and Beatrice (2) to run around in.  Alas for Wells, Lucy has put her student streaking days behind her and whilst at one time she was regularly to be found sprinting starkers down Jesmond High Street after a night on the toon, these days she keeps her Middle Wallop firmly under wraps when out in the garden.   Growing up in the North-East I never managed a streak of Jesmond High Street but did nearly catch hypothermia of the fanny wearing an indecently short miniskirt on a night aboard the Tuxedo Princess in December.

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Putting a brief flirtation with Shabby Chic behind her (well in the garage to be precise) these days Lucy is firmly a Scandi gal at heart with not a distressed pastel coloured piece of furniture in sight.  It is Scandi with a vintage/industrial edge though with e-bay and flea market finds looking right at home alongside the cool, calm nordic colours.  Inspired by an episode of Grand Designs that featured a house with climbing walls, secret passage ways and hidden passages ways for the kids, Lucy has tried to incorporate some of those fun touches into her house, with Beatrice getting a secret reading nook in her bedroom and Mariella a secret fairy kingdom under the stairs.   Although apparently Lucy's west country builders hadn't caught that episode of Grand Designs because the request for the reading nook met with the kind of reaction I would reserve for someone asking me to nail sanitary pads to their front door.  Lucy must have a better #KellyHoppenRestingBitchFace than me because she duly got her reading nook which makes Beatrice's bedroom a brilliantly fun space.

Lucy's favourite places to shop include La Redoute, Maisons du Monde, H&M Home, Rockett St George, Bath & West Flea Market, charity shops, Ikea, Ebay and MonPote Home in Bristol.  I think the Scandi gods must like Lucy because she seems to have managed to track down some really great Ikea finds which I swear have never graced the aisles of my Edmonton local. Although that was the store where someone lost their shit trying to bag a £50 leather sofa on opening day and stabbed another customer so maybe they dare not stock the instagram cat nip weaved baskets for fear of a shoot out.  

I need to find somewhere in my house to have this gorgeous hummingbird wallpaper. am wondering if pencilling footballs onto the beaks of the birds would mean i could sneak it into the boys bedroom

I need to find somewhere in my house to have this gorgeous hummingbird wallpaper. am wondering if pencilling footballs onto the beaks of the birds would mean i could sneak it into the boys bedroom

Whilst I was trying to look like Mario Testino (sans the camera skills, close relationship with the Royal Family and Peruvian accent of course) I asked Lucy to tell me a bit about her home city of Wells.  Pub quiz fact to be stored away, Wells is in fact England's smallest city  but instead of tower blocks and inexplicably complicated one way systems it has a beautiful Cathedral and a Palace with a Moat surrounding it. It was also the backdrop of the film comedy Hot Fuzz.  A term which I discovered when researching this piece that you should be very careful about googling unless you are keenly interested in the pubic hair of Brazilian porn stars as well as the cinematic back catalogue of Simon Pegg.  As the wife of a huge Hot Fuzz fan (to clarify am talking about the film rather than the Brazilian Porn Star pubes now)  I decided to keep this information under my hat so that our brief time in Wells was not spent trying to track down places where Simon Pegg duelled with murderdous village busybodies.   If we had been visiting in Summer I much preferred the sound of the openair cinema and theare events staged at the Bishops Palace.  

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Oh hello parquet flooring of my dreams

Oh hello parquet flooring of my dreams

Food wise, Lucy recommended a great sounding industrial style dive bar called Subhouse that has both great atmosphere and great burgers and helps her to feel like there is a little slice of London in her corner of the West Country.  I also liked the sound of  Da Luciano in Wells which is family owned and includes a welcome from Nonna with your Pizza.  It also apparently serves deep-fried dough balls, a dish which would almost certainly cause Deliciously Ella to have a gluten induced meltdown but which sound right up my quinoa averse street.  

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Further afield Chez Bruce in Wandsworth is one of Lucy's favourites (it used to also feature on my friend's restaurant top 5 until her husband fell sleep mid meal when she was berating him about not putting enough effort into their marriage) and she also loves a pre-dinner martini in Dukes, the Mayfair bar where Ian Fleming allegedly decided James Bond would be a Martini Man.  Before children (BC) when Lucy was being romanced by husband Paul, Clos Maggiore in Covent Garden also used to be a firm favourite for French food in a magical setting full of trees and twinkly fairly lights.  It is also just around the corner from the Royal Opera House should you, unlike me, be able to sit through one without 2 minutes in wishing it was in English and about 2 hours shorter.

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Lucy's bedroom style makes great use of a statement wallpaper and since I visited a new bed has arrived in the spare room so things are looking even more stylish.  Her dream holiday destinations when she can tear herself away from these lovely rooms include Cape Cod, Malyasia and Singapore with the Andaman on the Island of Langkawi being Lucy's absolute favourite hotel.  Having googled it I think it could become my favourite hotel too if I can just persuade Mr Malmo that a long haul flight with 3 young children would be an enjoyable experience instead of right up there with pulling his pubic hair out with tweezers as something he would like to do. 

Having popped my house tour cherry with the very lovely Lucy I said goodbye and went off to find the boys, wondering if I could get away with reprogramming the SatNav to detour past Bristol Ikea on the way to Bodmin without Mr Malmo noticing.

Malmo & Moss Meets: Tania Morris

When I was trying to decide which of my neighbours to feature as a house tour on my blog, my first thought was obviously George, the octogenarian jehovah's witness from number 11 who still has an outside toilet, net curtains and, collected in his backyard, everything made of wood or cardboard that we have left out for recycling over the last 7 years.  Unfortunately George was busy taking his beloved K reg Vauxhall Vectra out for it's annual spin around the block so I was forced to go with Tania and Andrew's place instead,  starting with their gorgeous, sultry Abigail Ahern inspired sitting room.  

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Malmo & Moss Meets: Belinda Fulton

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).

Gallery Wall
Hallway

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.

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Living Room

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.  

Kitchen, Dark Interiors
Kitchen, Dark Interiors
Kitchen Shelfie

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. 

Kitchen lighting
Candelabra
Open Plan Kitchen

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). 

 

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Button Back Sofa
Original artwork

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.

Picture Shelf

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.

Button Back Bed
Study
Fireplace, Buddha

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.

Of Special Interest Gallery Wall

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. 

Loft Conversion

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).

 

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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.

Outdoor Space
Outdoor Space

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.

 

Moving into the Malmo & Moss House

My love of interiors was sparked around the same time I met my husband.  Not because he was a stylish bachelor with great taste in cushions.  On the contrary, he lived in a room in a shared house with 3 other men who had so little in the way of soft furnishings that it looked like they were constantly waiting for a knock on the door from a Baliff.  I still have recurrent nightmares about the bathroom bin that overflowed with "sticky" tissues and the army of pubic hair that marched towards you whenever you turned the shower on.  No, the love affair began after he took me home to meet his parents for the first time.  His mum runs her own vintage interiors business called Hellish Designs and it was a bit like discovering that Kelly Hoppen is your mother-in-law (with a great eye for vintage instead of a resting bitch face).  

I nearly proposed on the spot to my husband when I saw this room at his parents house

I nearly proposed on the spot to my husband when I saw this room at his parents house

The strong mantelpiece game genes don't seem to have been passed on to Mr Malmo....

The strong mantelpiece game genes don't seem to have been passed on to Mr Malmo....

So many gorgeous corners to choose from

So many gorgeous corners to choose from

And lovely spots to sit in

And lovely spots to sit in

By the time we bought our first place together 3 years later, I was an avid reader of Living Etc and a regular attender at vintage fairs like Newark and Lincoln and itching to ditch my husband's extensive collection of black ash furniture from his student days and decorate our first flat together.  And it definitely needed decorating.  We bought it from a slightly eccentric older lady who lived there alone.  It was a one bed flat but, when looking around, she cheerfully informed us that her guests never minded sleeping down in the cellar on a campbed. Am not sure if her guests were escapees of Joseph Fritzl who were just glad she left the door unlocked but we always found ours preferred the sofa instead.  We put a new kitchen and bathroom in, spruced up the garden and gave thanks every day that we woke up and the flat hadn't been burnt down by a fire started by the pottery kiln of Julie, our elderly upstairs neighbour who was constantly churning out ceramics that looked like the private parts of a Giraffe (think Ghost but with Demi Moore's Grandma playing the lead role....).  Bar an incident where we woke up one morning to discover a human poo and some some soiled trousers on our doorstep (my brother-in-law who was staying with us at the time still denies being the 'Doorstep Shitter'), we had a very happy 3 years in the flat.   In 2009, we found out we were expecting our first son so started looking to swap the flat for a house.

This is the kind of house I had in my head when we started looking

This is the kind of house I had in my head when we started looking

Nantucket tastes with a Nandos budget.......

Nantucket tastes with a Nandos budget.......

In 2009, we found out we were expecting our first son so started looking to swap the flat for a house. With Balham by then having upgraded its Budgens to a Waitrose and sightings of people wearing red trousers and boat shoes having been reported, it quickly became apparent that houses in SW12 were out of our price range.  I started to read the Homes & Property section of the Evening Standard as avidly as a teenage boy did Zoo or Nuts magazine and eventually alighted upon the area of Winchmore Hill.  A place which approximately 1 in 372,089 Londoners have actually ever heard of.  I would like to say that we came on extensive field trips to assess the area, honed it down to a few preferred streets and made close links with local estate agents.  The truth is I popped over there once for a cup of tea with a friend  and strayed no further than 50 metres from the station. We then came back one Sunday together and bought the first house we saw. 

Cherry blossom on the Green (and a phone box that smells like the inside of a tramps's underpants).

Cherry blossom on the Green (and a phone box that smells like the inside of a tramps's underpants).

The Kings Head Pub, the Beverly Hills of N21 on a Saturday night.

The Kings Head Pub, the Beverly Hills of N21 on a Saturday night.

Sadly this beauty is not our house which is a few notches down when it comes to kerb appeal.

Sadly this beauty is not our house which is a few notches down when it comes to kerb appeal.

I think what helped us to make such a quick decision (apart from the fact there was a baby imminently about to come out of my vagina) was the fact that the house had period features, 4 really big bedrooms (some others we had looked at would have been considered cramped even by a hamster), and a large garden.  It did have a slightly dated kitchen and a conservatory on the back that looked like it had been nicked off the set of Brookside, but we figured we would sort those out in due course.  Well, in truth I figured that.  Mr Malmo would probably still be happily catching the sun in Sinbad's suntrap being slightly more renovation averse/sensible than I am. After several twists and turns along the way, we finally got the keys three weeks before the baby was due.  Six years, three kids and two sets of builders later, it no longer looks quite as much like a filming location for Brookside (unless Sinbad has developed a taste for modern architecture after watching a few episodes of Grand Designs).  Tune into future blogposts to find out more about our renovation journey (to borrow a phrase from X factor) and the results. 

Sinbad's Suntrap is no more

Sinbad's Suntrap is no more

Goodbye conservatory hello cantilevered corner

Goodbye conservatory hello cantilevered corner

I got the fridge of my dreams, let's gloss over the fact that it only has capacity for 2.5 fish finegrs at any one time

I got the fridge of my dreams, let's gloss over the fact that it only has capacity for 2.5 fish finegrs at any one time

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Copper pipe taps, causing builders to roll their eyes since 2012.....

Copper pipe taps, causing builders to roll their eyes since 2012.....