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 & Moss Sleeps: Five go Brocanting

Growing up, our Sunday night ritual was crumpets in front of the fire and a tv double bill of Antiques Roadshow followed by Lovejoy.  Consequently my knowledge of antiques extended to either Chippendale desks fenced to dodgy Russian oil barons by Lovejoy and Tinker or baroque art that someone found in their Granny’s attic and claimed they would never sell until they discovered it was worth £250K.  The BBC budget never stretched far enough for Lovejoy to go on a tour of the South of France, so, until I met my mother-in-law  age 23 (who has her own homewares business) I thought Brocante was some kind of infectious chest disease rather than a type of distressed vintage.

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