Malmo & Moss Renovation Diary: August

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

The light fitting seen in our old house

The light fitting seen in our old house

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

Here she is, our pebble dash princess…

Here she is, our pebble dash princess…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The current sun shade situation is more Sheffield Wednesday than Stockholm

The current sun shade situation is more Sheffield Wednesday than Stockholm

Apologies for the eyeful of my pebble dash

Apologies for the eyeful of my pebble dash

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

A Cantilevered parasol from the Solero range.

A Cantilevered parasol from the Solero range.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This Blog Plost was kindly sponsored by Solero Parasols

Styling my Garden for Summer

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

Saying goodbye to our first family home has been emotional

Saying goodbye to our first family home has been emotional

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

My favourite feature if our old house: the cantilevered corner

My favourite feature if our old house: the cantilevered corner

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

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

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Designing a kitchen extension for indoor/outdoor living

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer Styling with Marks & Spencer

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

Table laid with the beautiful, simple  Marlowe dining set

Table laid with the beautiful, simple Marlowe dining set

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

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

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

Peonies plate perfection

Peonies plate perfection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s go outside…….

Let’s go outside…….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Beginnings: Our New House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The garden is south facing so gets lots off sunshine

The garden is south facing so gets lots off sunshine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.