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.#

Malmo & Moss is Moving House

We moved into the Malmo & Moss house on a scorching hot day in July almost exactly nine years ago. It was just me, my husband and two cats at that point. Although the cats were lucky to survive the move after they spent the entire journey around the South Circular emitting the kind of noise that I imagine would come out of Michael Gove’s mouth if he were to get his penis trapped in a lift door. Maybe they just had feline reservations about their owners moving from South to North London having only visited the area where our new house was located twice before. However, whilst they might have liked to remain #ClaphamCats we didn’t have a budget big enough to stretch to a family home in that part of the City.

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Winchmore Hill, the area of North London we alighted upon, is probably most famous for once having played host (if that is the right word) to Augustus Pinochet who was briefly exiled here in 1998. However, before you get the impression that it is some sort of haven for war criminals I should balance that fact act out by telling you that it’s other famous ex resident is Lionel Ritchie (whose crimes are mainly perm and power ballad related).

Winchmore Hill Green the pretty heart of this lesser known part of North London

Winchmore Hill Green the pretty heart of this lesser known part of North London

We moved when I was 37 weeks pregnant with our first son who arrived just two short weeks later. Whilst the move to a little known area where we had no friends just as we were about to become first time parents was definitely risky, it is a gamble that has more than paid off. Unlike Pinochet we have stuck around, seduced by lots of green open space, great schools and a street so friendly we go on holiday with our neighbours (although not John at the end of the street who I once overheard in Tesco trying to return some chicken he had purchased in 1999) .

July 2010: just two weeks after moving in we welcomed our first son

July 2010: just two weeks after moving in we welcomed our first son

Two tired first time parents and a very proud (and very young looking!) uncle in the days before the front room went over to the dark side!

Two tired first time parents and a very proud (and very young looking!) uncle in the days before the front room went over to the dark side!

The house has slowly but sure been transformed from a #SanitaryPadPurplePalace with a conservatory #StraightOuttaBrookside to a light, bright modern rustic home. We have knocked through, extended and renovated the kitchen, enlarged and overhauled the family bathroom, reconfigured the loft space and breathed fresh life into the ensuite, tiled the hallway and installed crittal style dividing doors and added hygge to the living room by going over to the dark side and installing a woodburner.

You can get a glimpse in the background of the very off message Kermit the Frog green conservatory we inherited when we moved in

You can get a glimpse in the background of the very off message Kermit the Frog green conservatory we inherited when we moved in

A couple of years (and another son later) we said goodbye to #KermitsConservatory and replaced it with a modern extension. This is it just days after it was finished

A couple of years (and another son later) we said goodbye to #KermitsConservatory and replaced it with a modern extension. This is it just days after it was finished

6 years later we still love how it has transformed the house

6 years later we still love how it has transformed the house

My favourite view looking back into the kitchen from the garden

My favourite view looking back into the kitchen from the garden

Knocking through from the kitchen to the dining room has also been a gamechanger

Knocking through from the kitchen to the dining room has also been a gamechanger

However nine years and two further sons later we are on the move once more. This time there will fortunately be no need to subject ourselves to #CatCarTorture on the South Circular as we are actually only moving five minutes up the road!

Reasons for the Move

So why are we moving? The answer can be summed up in one word really: space. Or rather a growing realisation that we could do with a bit more of it. Our existing house, unlike me, is tall but comparatively narrow. Click here to see our floorplan. We have already extended the kitchen and the loft was converted before we moved in so we have no real options left to create extra square metres we are after.

We have maximised our existing space to create a kitchen/diner

We have maximised our existing space to create a kitchen/diner

Made over and reconfigured the loft

Made over and reconfigured the loft

But alas we cannot magic up enough space for another bedroom

But alas we cannot magic up enough space for another bedroom

Our two youngest currently happily share a room but we know there will come a time when that arrangement may become less harmonious. Possibly between the ages 11-16 judging by my relationship with my own sister. Apparently having your little sister pick up the phone whenever you are on the line to your first boyfriend and sing “Let’s Talk About Sex” is not as funny as I thought it was at the time.

One day we anticipate all of the boys will want a (Scandi Forest Chic) room of their own

One day we anticipate all of the boys will want a (Scandi Forest Chic) room of their own

So when I saw a girthier house on a street we have always loved come up for sale 4 months ago with a floorplan that made heart flutter we decided to go for it.

The New House

OK brace yourself, this is the back of the new house which looks like it started a fight with pebbledash and lost. Inside it is less Scandi Rustic and more Sharps Showroom circa 1996 when fitted wardrobes were all the rage. But when I saw the floorplan I was sold. It actually currently has less space upstairs than our existing house but there is scope to add a generous loft and the downstairs space, after a reconfiguration and possible further extension, will offer us the big open plan kitchen/diner we have always wanted. And, of course, most importantly of all, I will finally be able to realise my greatest dream: a separate utility room.

My new rear end is decidedly bigger. It is the width of this house that really sold us on it

My new rear end is decidedly bigger. It is the width of this house that really sold us on it

As well as the lovely big garden complete with apple tree

As well as the lovely big garden complete with apple tree

For the boys there is a bigger garden with plenty of Wembley and Hide and Seek possibilities . Whereas the clincher for Mr Malmo was the prospect of a garage of his own. Not because he is a car nut (our family car is more likely to be quarantined by DEFRA than appear at Goodwood) but rather because he has an ever growing collection of impulse purchased power tools which will now have a home of their own. I am slightly worried I am going to come downstairs and find him jigsawing wood in his pants at 2am down there!

First on my hit list: transforming the fitted wardrobes . Decor wise everything is actually pretty neutral though and has been well cared for so it is definitely liveable if not immediately instagrammable!

First on my hit list: transforming the fitted wardrobes . Decor wise everything is actually pretty neutral though and has been well cared for so it is definitely liveable if not immediately instagrammable!

We move a week tomorrow so the next seven days are going to be spent in a haze of cardboard boxes, trips to the tip and snotty hankies as I reminisce about about all the memories we have made together in this house. We arrived as a couple and will leave as a family of five. This is the house is where our son’s first steps were taken, first words spoken and first poos on the potty (and floor) were completed. We have ticked off so many milestones, celebrating birthdays, christenings, christmases, and surviving a brush with Brian the misogynist bathroom tiler. It’s going to be emotional, not least as I have to say goodbye to my greatest ever E-Bay bargain: our £25 roll top bath.

Moving will be sweet sweet sorrow in that I will have to bid farewell to my roll top bath

Moving will be sweet sweet sorrow in that I will have to bid farewell to my roll top bath

And my copper taps

And my copper taps

So are you ready for Malmo & Moss: The Renovation Years?! My head is already spinning with ideas so over the coming weeks/months/possibly decades I am looking forward to sharing more pictures of the new place with you and my ideas for transforming it one fitted wardrobe at a time! I hope you enjoy coming along with me for the renovation ride.

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Secrets of a Successful Loft Conversion

When we first bought our house nine years ago one of the main attractions was the fact that it already had the loft converted saving us the expense and hassle of doing so. Thanks to six big VELUX windows it was flooded with light and had beautiful views out over the blossom trees on our street. However, after living in the space for a couple of years, we came to realise that whilst it was light, bright and spacious, it had about as much character as Keanu Reeves. Sorry Keanu but I have seen beige carpets with more dramatic impact that your performance in The Lake House.

The bright, bright loft conversion was one of the factors that sold our house to us

The bright, bright loft conversion was one of the factors that sold our house to us

Over the last few years we have made a series of changes to the space to de-Keanu it and it is now one of my favourite rooms in the house. So I was delighted when VELUX asked me if I would like to team up with them to share my top five tips for designing a successful and stylish loft conversion. VELUX started out by installing their first roof window in a Danish school house 75 years ago and now sell their products in over 40 countries so working with them is a Scandi dream come true for me!

We have made a series of changes to add character, warmth and texture to it

We have made a series of changes to add character, warmth and texture to it

My favourite of which has to be the addition of a scaffold plank wall

My favourite of which has to be the addition of a scaffold plank wall

I hope my tips will help anyone planning a loft conversion or struggling to inject some character into their existing space to #BeLessKeanu. I have included in my tips advice shared with me by my Instagram followers who have some pretty stunning loft conversions of their own and have some cautionary tales of misplaced internal walls, incorrectly spaced skylights and awful attics!

Tip One: Perfect Your Floorplan

There are essentially three main types of loft conversion: a simple VELUX loft conversion where the roof slope is not altered; a dormer loft conversion which allows for vertical windows and doors; or a mansard loft conversion which is less boxy in appearance than a dormer (although there are multiple possible variations on each design and VELUX windows can easily be combined with mansard and dormer style conversions as well).

Our conversion is a dormer which is a popular choice as it is often the design which best maximises available space and does not, typically, need planning permission. Although click here for more detailed Government Guidance about when planning permission might be required (my inner lawyer is still strong!). If I was to tackle another renovation and convert a loft from scratch I would be tempted to go for a Mansard conversion (budget allowing) as they are less boxy in appearance than a dormer.

Seen here from the outside our loft extension is a dormer conversion

Seen here from the outside our loft extension is a dormer conversion

Once you have decided on the best option for your space start work early on your floor plan and how you will actually use the space. Loft conversions are often full of awkward spaces and getting the most out of them often relies upon embracing and finding clever uses for them. Think, in particular, about how you will use any space under the eaves. Ours was predominantly dedicated to storage but there was a large space tucked around a corner that was left empty in which I originally had my dressing table .

Once I realised that post children I had about as much chance of sitting on Brad Pitt’s lap as I did sitting at a dressing table we converted that corner into a walk in wardrobe which has made much better use of the space. It also allowed us to get rid of a large bulky wardrobe that sat in front of one of the windows blocking the view through to the outside.

Don’t be afraid to change your mind as you go along either. @Sodia _ Haddassi _ Amma shared with me that she would regularly go up and check on her loft as it was being built even if it meant balancing on scaffold boards and as she saw how the space actually looked made several decisions to change internal walls that infuriated her builders at the time but left her much happier with the end result!

Loft conversion with reclaimed scaffold plank wall

Tip Two: Let the Light In

Did you know that according to the World Health Organisation we spend a whopping 70% of our lives indoors? When you have small children and 70% of that 70% is also spent in the company of Mr Tumble that can feel like a long long time! Sunlight is actually a natural anti-depressant so in the absence of it (and in the near constant company of Mr Tumble) it is easy to become glum! It turns out that people need daylight to help control the most basic metabolic processes, just as they need food and water. So getting the design of your loft right in terms of the number, size and position of windows can actually improve your mood, reduce your risk of obesity (although not if you , like me, keep an emergency packet of wotsits by the bed) help you get more restful sleep and boost your immunity to diseases and infections! 

Our bed is position underneath our Velux windows to take advantage of the natural daylight and fresh air

Our bed is position underneath our Velux windows to take advantage of the natural daylight and fresh air

We have six large VELUX roof windows in the front sloping side of our loft and as a general rule you should aim for glazing to take up to 15-20% of your room’s floorspace to maximise the amount of natural light. We have top-hung VELUX roof windows because they open at the bottom making them a within arms reach and gives us a great view out of the windows to the blossom trees beyond.

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@KBro1979 asked what VELUX options are available if your windows are out of reach? Because of your roof height rather than you being the size of a Borrower. Fear not the answer does not involve a trapeze. VELUX has an INTEGRA® range of electric and solar powered windows that open remotely with the touch of a button. They have blinds that can be controlled this way too!

Our windows are within easy reach but it is possible to automated opening systems if yours are a little further up

Our windows are within easy reach but it is possible to automated opening systems if yours are a little further up

The position of your roof windows will likely be dictated by the shape of the roof; for example, a long, shallow room will benefit from windows spaced evenly along its length, whereas a narrow, deeper room might benefit better from fewer larger windows.  However in terms of reaping those sleep enhancing benefits consider positioning your bed close to your windows to soak up as much daylight as possible and speed up your metabolism when you have raided that emergency packet of Wotsits.

Tip Three: Create Character

Some of the loft conversions I love most on Instagram are actually the VELUX rooflight type where the shape of the roof has not been altered and cosy spaces have been created with original features such as exposed brick walls left in place.

The challenge with our dormer was that it felt very much like a new build in the worse sense of those two words. It was spacious and bright but had no distinguishing features and it often felt like we were echoing around in it. I had a couple of attempts at injecting a bit character in using “feature wallpaper” both in the dressing table nook and then also behind our bed to break up the space and create some drama. Whilst Lawrence Lwellyn Bowen may have been proud of my paste and paper efforts it wasn’t until we added the scaffold plank wall behind our bed that the space really started to come together for me. The rough sawn wood creates warmth, texture and character and I would really recommend thinking about how you can bring rougher less “perfect” finishes into your loft conversion. It might be be asking your builder to leave a wall unplastered, or by using brick slips to create the same effect or using lime wash or concrete effect paint but try and get some texture in if you can.

It cost about £250 in materials and labour but the reclaimed scaffold plank is worth every penny

It cost about £250 in materials and labour but the reclaimed scaffold plank is worth every penny

I love how cosy it makes the loft space feel at night

I love how cosy it makes the loft space feel at night

Tip Four: Glaze to Amaze

When our dormer loft conversion was carried out over 10-15 years ago white uPVC doors in dormers were as ubiquitous as Noel Edmonds. Their popularity has since gone the same way as Noel’s TV career and thankfully a host of much more visually pleasing glazing options are now emerging. When we were renovating our loft ensuite we had a little bit of budget left over a decided to say sionara to our uPVC doors, the chunky frames of which obscured our view to the garden beyond. If money had been no object I would have loved to go with either crittall style doors like those in the loft of @FallowGrey or for a sleek sliding door system like in this conversion by Mulroy Architects. 

Replacing the white UpVC doors with a picture window has transformed our loft space

Replacing the white UpVC doors with a picture window has transformed our loft space

I love sitting in this corner looking out over the garden

I love sitting in this corner looking out over the garden

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However we came up with a compromise that overall I am pretty pleased with which was to replace the doors with one large fixed picture window.  The frame is still uPVC but because it is dark grey instead of white it is not as noticeable and to be honest the difference in price didn’t justify going for aluminium on basis probably only I would notice the thinner frames. We retained the smaller opening window to the left hand side so that we still had ventilation and through draft.  The cost of doing this was approximately £1000 including labour which I consider to have been money well spent.

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Yes we did run out of floor paint ……

Yes we did run out of floor paint ……

So when you are planning your loft conversion think really carefully about your glazing options and don’t just go with what builders and loft conversion companies fit as standard.  There lots of still cost effective options out there which offer much better wow factor.

VELUX, for example, have a really cool pop out balcony window product called CABRIO ® which I discovered through this collaboration that I would love to incorporate into any future renovation I take on! When shut it sits flush to the roof like a normal window and when open it pops out to create a mini balcony , have a watch of this little video to see what I mean, is so clever!

A window that can become a balcony!

A window that can become a balcony!

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Tip Five: Zone it Like Beckham

Sadly I do not have any pictures for this section of David Beckham reclining in my loft.  The tip I want to pass on here is about how to break up your loft space into mini sections.  Our loft has a fairly large footprint overall at 21sqm but because we are semi detached it is a long but relatively narrow space at 7m by 3m. The challenge is, therefore, how to stop it feeling like a big spacious corridor. We have always had our bed positioned underneath the Velux windows because I love going to bed able to see the stars, lying back listening to the rain falling on them in colder months (and the Summer months based on this June) and opening them up for a breeze on stuffier nights. However the second section of the room originally didn’t really work for us at all. We had a massive double wardrobe on one side and then a double set of chest of drawers on the other side both of which blocked the view out of the back windows and made it feel a bit being inside a storage locker at BIg Yellow Storage.

I added a monochrome gallery wall and armchair to this corner to create a separate sitting area within the room

I added a monochrome gallery wall and armchair to this corner to create a separate sitting area within the room

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Hopefully this picture gives you a feel for how the space fits together

Hopefully this picture gives you a feel for how the space fits together

I am one picture short of a full gallery wall!

I am one picture short of a full gallery wall!

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Ideas for loft conversion velux windows

Making the alcove into a walk in wardrobe meant we were able to get rid of the bulky wardrobe, move the radiator that had been under the window to that wall instead and then put the chest of drawers where the radiator had been (still with me?!) On the side of the room where the chest of drawers used to be I have now created a seating area with a vintage armchair and side table and made this area distinct from the sleeping area by painting it a different colour and adding a gallery wall. It makes it feel as if there are two rooms within a room so if you have a large loft space or large and awkward footprint think about the different ways in which you can use the space and how you can decorate to subtly create different zones.

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So there you have it my five top tips for creating a truly instagrammable loft conversion in collaboration with VELUX as part of my paid partnership with them. Thanks to everyone who shared their loft conversion stories and questions with me to help me write this post.

Creating My Dream Bathroom with Geberit

When I started using Instagram two years ago I wasn’t actually posting pictures of interiors.  Shoes yes, random day trips to National Trust Properties yes, pictures of my pudding yes but interiors no.  The mists of time and mum brain mean I can’t actually pinpoint why I switched from posting cakes to kitchens but I do remember that it was a picture of my bathroom which first got likes other than from my long suffering friends who were probably tempted to block me if I posted another picture of a profiterole by that point.

One of the first shots of my bathroom I ever posted to Instagram. Yes I did like the Valencia filter a lot back in 2016!!

One of the first shots of my bathroom I ever posted to Instagram. Yes I did like the Valencia filter a lot back in 2016!!

Having finally got my head around hashtags a picture of my bathroom was included in a midweek montage for #MyHomeVibe and it turned out that people rather liked the curve of my copper pipe taps and cut of my metro tiles.  And whilst I do feature other rooms in my house on my account (to avoid people feeling like they are trapped in some sort of Suburban Bathroom Groundhog Day) it is always pictures of my bathroom that do the best.  In fact this photo of it, when regrammed by Apartment Therapy garnered over 70K likes and was in the top ten most liked pictures on their feed last year.  Not bad for an e-bay bargain bath and a slightly dodgy 3am paint job.

The picture that got regrammed on Apartment Therapy

The picture that got regrammed on Apartment Therapy

Aside from its Instagram popularity it is also my favourite room in the house because a) it is the only room with a lock (a not to be underrated feature when you have three boys) and b) I am pretty sure I share DNA (and a waistline) with a Walrus in that I could happily spend 23 out of 24hrs submerged in warm water.

Designing My Dream Bathroom With Geberit

So when Geberit got in touch asking if I would like to design and style my dream bathroom using their Xeno²range I didn’t need asking twice.  In fact I don’t think I even needed asking once as I said yes before they had even got to the end of the sentence!  They had me at vanity unit of my choice. 

In case you have not heard of Geberit before they are a Swiss company with a long pedigree in designing and producing innovative, high quality, long lasting bathroom products.  To use a Swiss sporting analogy, they are to bathrooms what Roger Federer is to Tennis: stylish, refined, durable and always ahead of the rest of the pack.  The only difference is they are serving up sanitary ware rather than aces.

A basin and vanity unit from the  Xeno²  range

A basin and vanity unit from the Xeno² range

The crisp, clean design aesthetic of the Xeno² range obviously tickles my Scandinavian sensibilities but what I loved about the brief was the challenge of bringing some of my signature Modern Rustic/Industrial Vintage style into play to create a bathroom which mixes Geberit products with my personality.

My Design

The building blocks of my fantasy bathroom chosen from the Xeno² range were a double vanity unit with built in basin, sleek intelligent sensor mirror, tallboy storage cupboard and a super intelligent AquaClean shower toilet.  Intelligent in the sense of its ability to leave your bits as shiny as a whistle rather than out score Steven Hawking in a Mensa test sense that is. 

The AquaClean Shower Toilet that will save you a trip to Japan

The AquaClean Shower Toilet that will save you a trip to Japan

I don’t know if you have found this but if you talk to friends and family who have visited Japan the number one thing they rave about is not the splendour of the cherry blossoms or the speed of the bullet trains but the technology the Japanese use in their toilets which come with heated seats, varying wash modes and just generally more of a brain than our standard British Bogs.  Thanks to Geberit there is no need to trek to Toyko for your derriere to experience that kind of dream experience. 

More information on all of the products featured in my dream bathroom from the Xeno² bathroom range is available here. 

I actually initially found having totally freedom to design my dream bathroom left me a little stumped!  Not in the sense of having no inspiration but more in that my inspiration cup was overflowing and my mind was boggling at all the possibilities.  To marshall my inner runaway rustic I used Canva to create a mood board for my room.  This really helped me to focus on how everything would look together and create a cohesive vision for the room (without wishing to sound too  Llewelyn Bowen).

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With my moodboard complete it was time to take things off the page and into the back of a sweaty battered Audi A6 estate and head up the motorway to a photographic studio in Warwick where a bathroom set, photographer, videographer and make up artist with her work cut out were awaiting me!  I was more than a little relieved to arrive without being pulled over by the police as am not sure how I would have gone about explaining the contents of the car to the boys in blue.  Yes officer that is an enormous dried flower cloud in the passenger seat and a rustic Hungarian milking stool you can see gracing the parcel shelf. 

Luckily I was not pulled over with this amount of pampa grass in the passenger seat

Luckily I was not pulled over with this amount of pampa grass in the passenger seat

Having never done anything as exciting as this before I thought it would be fun to share some behind the scenes footage with you from the day so that you can get a feel for what I was up to in a Warwickshire warehouse and to then talk you through the different elements of my dream room.  Spoiler alert soft neutral colours, warm natural textures and materials will feature rather than bright colours, clashing patterns and glitzy metallic finishes!

The Day

What initially threw me when I arrived was the fact that it was not a “bathroom” in the traditional sense that was awaiting me.  It was a bathroom within a roomset (so far so Truman Show) which meant there was no ceiling and half of the room had no walls! The next thing to get my head (and generous eye bags around) was the fact that it would be me as well as my dream bathroom captured on camera because as well as photographing the bathroom, the Geberit team have also made a clever video about my roomset to help you get a better sense of the look.   Click here to take a look at the video

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Eyebag and brow miracles worked ready to roll (looking a little like I am wearing my pyjamas)

Eyebag and brow miracles worked ready to roll (looking a little like I am wearing my pyjamas)

So it was actually quite a busy and buzzy set with a photographer and a great videography team there to capture all the action.

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As someone who has, to date, largely taken pictures on my phone, I learnt so much that day about all the tricks that professional photographers use to get the very best out of a room and space.  The positioning and strength of lighting in particular plays a huge role in how a finished photo looks.  Consequently, it will be a giant light reflecting umbrella and stage lighting rig rather than bubble bath and some new hair straighteners that will be on my Christmas list this year!  I loved seeing the shots come through on the photographer’s computer as we went along. 

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So having seen glimpses are you now ready to see the end result?  I hope so because here it is!

My Rustic Scandi Dream Bathroom scheme

My Rustic Scandi Dream Bathroom scheme

Creating a Cosy Corner

This may make me strange but I love a bit of company when I am in the bath. Not in the actual bath itself just someone to sit and chat to me in the bathroom as I bathe.  Although my three year old frequently misinterprets this bit and climbs in to join me in the actual bath with a large toy boat/collection of aged flannels/a whole toilet roll.

I loved how this corner worked out with the flower cloud

I loved how this corner worked out with the flower cloud

Having an armchair in my dream bathroom was, therefore, an essential item. The chair of my bathroom dreams is actually from Ikea.  I am a huge fan of their Soderhamn range of seating.  It has simple clean lines and a great price point whilst looking easily more expensive.  It has a lovely wide back and deep seat meaning your companion can be as relaxed on the chair as you are in the bath.  To be honest even if I wasn’t having a bath I would be tempted to sneak in and sit on it curled up with a magazine

Adding Stylish Storage

Whilst the vanity unit and tallboy cupboard from the Xeno² offer great storage (with clever features like soft close doors) I also added in some additional storage options under the sink for stowing away bulkier items like toilet rolls and towels.  To contrast with the sleek lines of the Xeno² unit I chose rougher textures such as wood and rattan to bring some warmth and texture into the room scheme.  One of my favourite places to source baskets like the ones used in these photographs is from French Brand Maisons Du Monde.  The Candian Dry box is a vintage find which I paid £10 for at Ardingly Antiques Market 3 years ago and which I could, in the interim, have sold 10 ten times over for ten times the price.  I cannot, however, bring myself to part with it!  If you are not able to find a vintage equivalent H&M Home often have a great range of vintage style/rustic storage boxes to choose from.

The Canda Dry box that is one of my most prized possessions added great towel storage

The Canda Dry box that is one of my most prized possessions added great towel storage

Lowering the Lighting

It goes without saying that my dream bathroom would feature candles.  In fact that tallboy storage unit would probably be predominantly filled with them.  Scented, unscented, real, battery operated I love them all! My current obsession are these hurricane lanterns from Marks & Spencer which have a lovely limewashed wooden base and speckled glass and create a lovely soft glow when filled with candles.  However, woman cannot read Living Etc by candle light alone so I also added two wall lights into my bathroom scheme from Cox & Cox.  I chose black to add a nod to the industrial into the room and they are, of course, bathroom rated.  They are actually outdoor lights which is a great trick to employ if you are struggling to find bathroom rated indoor light options!

I was really pleased with the industrial edge the black carriage lights added

I was really pleased with the industrial edge the black carriage lights added

The Xeno² Vanity Unit and AquaClean toilet actually also have smart motion sensor lighting built into them as well to prevent you stumbling around in the dark in the morning/middle of the night.

Turning Towels into a Feature

I know a lot of people like their towels to be neither seen or heard (a talking towel would admittedly be rather alarming) but I like mine to become a feature of my bathroom design.  They are a great way to add subtle nods to colour, pattern and texture into a room.  Using a vintage ladder to display them on is also a great way to add some height into your bathroom scheme.  There is a probably a retired builder called Dave laughing all the way to the bank after I purchased his paint splattered step ladders (possibly brought out of the back of his van by mistake/an after thought) at a car boot a couple of months ago.  The selection of towels I have featured are all from HM Home. 

H&M Home have some great towels this season including this linen striped one

H&M Home have some great towels this season including this linen striped one

Elsewhere in the bathroom I have also added soft texture and a touch of hygge in with shaggy sheepskins on the floor and bench.

 All Hail the Humble Tooth Mug

When I first met Mr Malmo he was using an aged Sheffield Wednesday Mug with a fading picture of Chris Waddle on as a toothmug.  It took me four years and two house moves to finally give Waddle the red card from our bathroom and replace him with something more Scandi than Sheffield themed.  The moral of this tale is that small details can actually make all the difference to a room and there is no reason why practical things cannot also be beautiful ones.  With this in mind, I sourced a handmade tooth mug and soap dish in earthy colours from the ceramics range stocked by socially minded small business Aerende Store.  For display rather than practical purposes I also mixed in some vintage bottles I have amassed over the years as well as some new favourite vases from the Nordic inspired range at Marks & Spencer so that I had a range of different sizes, textures and colours.

Vintage and new ceramics adding some texture to the basin area

Vintage and new ceramics adding some texture to the basin area

The basin upon which they are resting from the Xeno² range is actually made from a super soft matt material called Varicor which I have never come across before but would happily now enter into a long term relationship with. 

In Praise of [dried] Plants

I have a confession to make which may make me an insta outcast by the time you finish reading this blog: I don’t really like houseplants.  Yes they have carbon dioxide absorbing life enhancing benefits to having them around but my ability to reduce a monstera to mulch in less than a month means I just don’t dig them.  However I am not an all round nature hater in my home, I do still like to bring the outdoors in and embrace plant life I just prefer, in the bathroom, for it to be in dried rather than semi biodegraded form. I think the 1970s kinda gave dried flowers a bad rap.  Pot Pourri has a lot to answer for. But the last 12 months has seen them having a major resurgence and no-one is happier about this than me.  They add soft texture, natural colours and a bit of drama to the bathroom, require zero maintenance and need never be thrown away.  I used them in two ways in my dream bathroom design.  Soft wavy pampas grass to soften the wall the toilet was hung on and then in a super size flower cloud in my cosy corner. 

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The cloud is actually much easier to recreate than you might think, you just need a floristry oasis wreath (easily obtainable on Amazon) and then a selection of dried grasses and flowers.  Mine was made for me by Your London Florist and they use a mix of grasses and then dried hydrangea heads and roses to add in some (subtle) colour and drama.

Wall Art and the Wall Hung Toilet

I don’t know about you but I grew up in a house that had both a separate toilet (in a room no bigger than your average glovebox) and the cistern proudly on show.  With space now at a premium that sanitary set up is increasingly uncommon (I say this based on a survey of my friends houses rather than backed by official census data on the bathrooms of Britain).  With a toilet now more likely to be featured in the bathroom itself, the looks of your loo have become more important.  Geberit were actually one of the first companies to introduce and champion the wall hung loo in the UK:  stoying away cisterns and making flush plates a thing to covet not conceal.  When I visited their showroom in Warwick recently I was gob smacked by the range of flush plate options they offer.  My dream bathroom features one hewn from slate that looked completely unobtrusive and part of the general rustic theme.  Another great way to blend your toilet into your room scheme is to add art to the wall on which it is hung so people have something that draws their eye other than just the WC. 

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So there you have it the bathroom of my dreams.  Hope it has provided you with inspiration for how to style your own Rustic/Scandi bathroom paradise and how to use the Xeno² bathroom range as part of that dream. 

One Bathroom Two Ways

If you fancy seeing how the colour loving Yin to my neutral décor Yang got on with the same challenge then head over to Come Down To the Woods Blog by clicking here.  Her dream is definitely different to mine but I still found myself seduced when I saw it.  She certainly has a way with wallpaper and I don’t mind admitting that I was tempted to nip up the motorway to Leeds and purloin the Tom Dixon marble bathroom lights she included in her scheme. 

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There is also a line in her blog that made me laugh about imagining me wafting around with sheepskins, dried hydrangeas and hamman towels as I would say a solid 40 minutes of the day were spent with me either fluffing a sheepskin, positioning a hamman towel or handling a hydrangea.  You know me too well Woods….

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I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the work I have been doing as part of my long term paid partnership with Geberit.  It has been so much fun so far (in fact I kind of feel a fraud calling it work!) and I have more exciting content to share with you later this year so watch this space!

Creating a Rustic, Romantic Retreat At Home

I have a confession to make……I like Valentines Day!  I realise that probably puts me in an exclusive club of which only me, Barbara Cartland (RIP Babs) and Dolly Parton are members but I can’t help it.  I love a bit of regulated romance.  Don’t get me wrong, I totally agree with the V-Day haters when they say that romance should be about little acts of love all year round rather than the emphasis falling on one day.  But the reality is, when you both have jobs and 3 kids to parent, you are more likely to be reciting daily sonnets about whose turn it is to take the bins out than comparing each other to a summer’s day. However, whilst I like Valentines Day,  I am not really a massive fan of going out somewhere to celebrate.  Mainly because it is extremely difficult to find a teenage babysitter who is willing to give up an evening snogging her Enfield equivalent of Justin Bieber to look after our boys for the night.  So i thought I would share some inspiration for creating a rustic romantic retreat at home instead, with lots of tips that you can put into action at anytime of the year.

Creating romance at home 365 days of the year

Creating romance at home 365 days of the year

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Cupid Loves to Cook

They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.  Well the way to this woman’s heart is by creating an amazing flower cloud installation “Signe Bay” style over the dining table.  This amazing creation, setting the scene for romance chez Malmo & Moss this February, was the work of the super talented Your London Florist.  The base is a ball of chicken wire suspended by a couple of hooks drilled into the ceiling.  The main elements of “The Cloud” are magnolia branches, natural foliage and dried flowers which means that this is a cloud which doesn’t have to blow away after the 14th of February.  It can stay on and be adapted for Easter, spring and beyond.  I also love that Your London Florist used tulips and roses in it which were older and might otherwise have gone to waste because they are perfect for turning the petals out on to create this great trumpet shape.

Saying I love you with a flower cloud created by the super talented  Your London Florist

Saying I love you with a flower cloud created by the super talented Your London Florist

Adding some sort pinks and greens to the kitchen with roses on the table and my favourite plates from Wonki Ware.

Adding some sort pinks and greens to the kitchen with roses on the table and my favourite plates from Wonki Ware.

One romantic table scape ready to roll

One romantic table scape ready to roll

If you are staying in for Valentines Day and have lost the number for the local Chinese then, having set your tablescape, can I suggest that you try wooing your man/woman with my favourite “I am trying to impress you by cooking something more tricksy than a Chicken Kiev” menu.  I always find that when I try and cook three courses simultaneously either 1) we end up eating at 11:47pm after I burn and have to recook at least one of the courses or 2) I forget to include a critical element of one of the dishes and it is usually the one that gives it flavour/a consistency that is not like gruel.  With  that in mind I am going to recommend ditching a starter in favour of popping open a tub of Pringles and focusing instead on the main course which is a Lorraine Pascale’s Roast Beef with Parma ham wrapped green beans .  It is almost impossible to fuck up (unless you have to clean up an overflowing potty incident shortly after putting it in the oven and forget to set a timer).

Table ready to receive Lorraine Pascale's roast beef with Parma ham wrapped green beans.

Table ready to receive Lorraine Pascale's roast beef with Parma ham wrapped green beans.

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For pudding why not try my go-to easy pudding: Gingernut, Lemon Curd and Blackberry Cheesecakes.  You can make them in advance to reduce the amount of courses you have to juggle.  It is my own creation so I will have to describe how to make it rather than linking you to a recipe so bear with me.

Ingredients

1/2 packet of Gingernuts, 20g Butter, I jar of Lemon Curd, 1 tub of Creme Fraiche, 2 Tablespoons of Icing Sugar, 2 Handfuls of Blackberries, Mint to Garnish.

Method

Put the gingernuts in a bag and pound to pieces with a rolling pin. Melt the butter in a pan and then add the gingerbread crumbs, stir until the crumbs start to come together.  Take off the heat and pat the crumbs into the base of a glass tumbler.  Then spoon lemon curd in to cover the biscuit base.  Stir the incing sugar into the creme fraiche and then spoon on top of the lemon curd before adding the blackberries on top.  Pop into the fridge to chill and set.  Get them out of the fridge about an hour before you are ready to eat them otherwise the biscuit base tends to be even more impenetrable than Hilda Ogden’s knickers. 

I love the colour combination of the green, pinks and soft grey added by napkins gifted to me by  Chalk Pink Linen

I love the colour combination of the green, pinks and soft grey added by napkins gifted to me by Chalk Pink Linen

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Eucalyptus down the centre of the table makes an inexpensive and lovely smelling garland

Eucalyptus down the centre of the table makes an inexpensive and lovely smelling garland

Romance in the Rolltop

Hands up anyone who has a husband who actually enjoys a relaxing bubble bath? It is my go-to way to unwind but on the rare occasions when I have been able to persuade Mr Malmo to join me he has looked about as relaxed as a man about to partake in a threesome with Toyah Wilcox and Dot Cotton and constantly fretted about the water temperature burning his balls.  He would, in his own words, rather go to a Simply Red concert and plait Mick Hucknall’s hair than slip into a bubble bath.  However, I personally enjoy nothing more than romancing myself in the bathroom (that is not a euphemism for masturbation by the way) by lighting all the candles sprinkling some rose petals in and pouring myself a glass of proseco.

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The bathroom ready for romance rose petals and all

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Our bathroom used to be a whole lot less romantic as, when we moved in, it was a third smaller and host to a very tired bathroom suite and some tiles decorated in a range of tile stickers that even Laurence Llewellyn Bowen would refuse to put his name to. We lived with it like that for a couple of years whilst we concentrated on renovating downstairs and then saved up enough to make it bigger by stealing a bit of space from the spare bedroom. That allowed us to separate the shower out from the bath and invest in the roll top of my dreams. I say invest but it is actually my best ever e-bay bargain at £25. It came with silver taps but I asked my builder to have a go at recreating some copper ones I had seen in a kitchen in Living Etc which just involved some copper piping and a bit of clever welding. The dark paint on the walls is Dulux Bowler Hat and the wall and floor tiles were both inexpensively sourced from Walls & Floors Ltd. It is definitely a far more romantic place to linger now

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The copper taps that were made by my builder after I saw and fell in love with some in Living Etc

The bath is one of my best ever E-Bay bargains at £25

The bath is one of my best ever E-Bay bargains at £25

If you are with me on enjoying a bit of tubtime then why not try my playlist for romance this Valentines to listen to whilst you are having a soak.

1. Extreme: More Than Words

2. The National: I Need My Girl

3. Radiohead: No Surprises

4. Cat Power: Wild is the Wind

5. Michael Kwanaka: Home

6.  Jeff Buckley: You Should Have Come Over

7. The Beatles: Blackbird

8.  Lana Del Rey: Video Games

9. Lauryn Hill: Can’t Take My Eyes Off You

10. Bon Iver: Skinny Lover 

Hope you enjoy my romantic playlist. If you have a favourite love song you think I should add to it tell me in the comments below

Hope you enjoy my romantic playlist. If you have a favourite love song you think I should add to it tell me in the comments below

Let’s Take This Upstairs

Whilst I may not have much luck getting Mr Malmo in the bath it is, unsurprisngly, much easier to persuade him to join me in the bedroom.  To be honest, as parents of three young boys, it is usually just to sleep and we are more often than not also joined by a Pre School Camilla Parker Bowles at some point in the night.  But regardless of the omnipresence of a junior third wheel, I still love my bedroom so much after it’s rustic makeover (read about that here) that it is my favourite place to retreat to in the house. 

My haven in the house: our bedroom

My haven in the house: our bedroom

Ready for romance with fairy lights and candles

Ready for romance with fairy lights and candles

This Valentines Day I may have upped the romance factor a notch or two by adding a gorgeous rustic wreath above the bed created by Your London Florist.  If you fancy having a go at recreating, then source some bendy type twigs, some sprigs of your favourite natural foliage (eucalyptus is mine) and make them into a roughly circular shape and secure with floristry wire. I always think it is nice to leave some sprigs and twigs loose for a wilder feel.  I am really enjoying using dried flowers at the moment because it means you can create things which last longer than a week and won’t drop petals on you as you sleep.  Your London Florist used some lovely dried grasses in this one which they had sprayed a pale pink.

Upping the romance factor with a rustic wreath

Upping the romance factor with a rustic wreath

I love that it can be adapted to last beyond Valentines Day

I love that it can be adapted to last beyond Valentines Day

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If you don’t fancy a rustic wreath above your bed (because you are worried about suffering a #ModernRusticConcussion if it drops on you during the night) then why not add romance with lots of cosy sheepskins, candles and fairylights instead. Or still have flowers but maybe just a smaller posy style arrangement in a jam jar or similar by the bed.

Sheepskins add romance and a touch of a Game of Thrones feel to the bedroom floor

Sheepskins add romance and a touch of a Game of Thrones feel to the bedroom floor

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Rather unromantically I have been letting Mr Malmo read a lot of porn at bedtime lately.,….Cabin Porn that is. Our big project for 2019 is installing a garden room/cabin at the end of the garden so I have been buying him lots of rustic outhouse and shed inspo books to get his creative and carpentry juices flowing. Although ultimately I think this is a job which may prove slightly beyond his joinery paygrade. If you have built your own garden room or have sourced one from somewhere else that cost less than a small terraced house I would love to know about it.

His stash of (cabin) Porn over on his side of the bed

His stash of (cabin) Porn over on his side of the bed

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So there you have it, my recipe for creating romance with your interiors.  May 2019 bring you lots of love and, in my case, the #ScandiShed of my dreams.  Many thanks to Your London Florist for collaborating with me on this blog post by gifting their services and the beautiful flowers.

Dedicating this post to Mr Malmo the long suffering, bubble bath hating love of my life

Dedicating this post to Mr Malmo the long suffering, bubble bath hating love of my life

How I Transformed My Hallway With An Affordable Alternative to Crittall

When people ask us if we can ever see ourselves moving house, Mr Malmo and I often give contrary answers. He is very much “Remain” on the basis that moving involves a) spending money and b) the very real risk of me “losing” in any move i) his collection of Sheffield Wednesday Programmes dating back to 1989 and ii) the maroon sweatshirt he loves but which I think makes him look like a cross between a teenager on day release from Borstal and a Songs of Praise presenter. My answer is also “Remain” but with the caveat that I would instantly trigger Article 50 and leave for a house with a double width hallway like this.

The spacious hallway of my dreams. Picture credit  www.livingetc.com

The spacious hallway of my dreams. Picture credit www.livingetc.com

I have this yearning for double width because our house is semi-detached and the hallway is an L Shape. You can’t see the stairs when you first come in the house as they are located in the middle of the house. If that makes about as much sense as inviting Jim Davidson to be the keynote speaker at a vegan mindfulness seminar then hopefully the two photos below will clarify what I mean.

The hallway as you come in the front door

The hallway as you come in the front door

The view looking backwards towards the front door. With the stairs in the middle of the house to the right

The view looking backwards towards the front door. With the stairs in the middle of the house to the right

When we first moved in the hallway was dark, narrow and a bit damp (which I realise sounds a bit like a tagline for a vaginal deodorant). My first tactic to brighten it up was by painting both the walls and floors in a lighter colour. From memory the colour I chose was Farrow & Ball’s Slipper Satin although I could be suffering from a bad case of middle class amnesia and getting my Slipper Satins and Wimborne Whites mixed up.

The hallway after my initial attempts to brighten it up by painting the walls and floors in Slipper Satin

The hallway after my initial attempts to brighten it up by painting the walls and floors in Slipper Satin

This definitely helped to bounce more light around the space but there is only so much Slipper Satin can achieve when your only source of natural light is a window on to a side alley and you have to contend with the shadows cast by the army of anoraks that come with having three boys (and a husband with a penchant for a Liam Gallagher mac). I started dreaming of a more radical solution to the problem involving replacing the wall between the hall and dining room with a crittal partition like this.

Crittal doors in the hallway of House Curious (Picture credit  www.livingetc.com  )

Crittal doors in the hallway of House Curious (Picture credit www.livingetc.com )

However, after getting a couple of quotes, I started to realise I had crittal dreams on a cornflake budget. They were coming it at around £7-10K for doors to fill a 2 x 3 metre space. It was actually Kevin my quotes guy (who had come round to price up making the opening for the doors) who came up with the idea of installing timber panelled doors instead of crittal ones. A quick Pinterest later and I realised this was a compromise I could live with. Compared to crittal the price of having bespoke timber doors made was just £2K (with the labour for knocking the wall through and making the opening about £1.5K ).

These timber doors from Plain English (pic credit  www.remodelista.com ) made me realise that there was life after crittal!

These timber doors from Plain English (pic credit www.remodelista.com) made me realise that there was life after crittal!

This is what the space looked like just before “Project Partition” began. Although it was to be hastily renamed “Project Opening” after realising the former sounded less like a plan to remove a wall and more like Hitler’s code name for his plans to annex the Sudetenland. Project Opening admittedly did have slight working title of a 1970s porno connotations but it at least had less #annexationovertones.

The view from the kitchen before “Project Partition” commenced

The view from the kitchen before “Project Partition” commenced

The night before work commenced on taking out the wall and putting the doors in

The night before work commenced on taking out the wall and putting the doors in

The builders took the wall down in stages and I have to confess that I nearly called the whole thing off after they took the plaster off the wall and left me alone with the exposed brick wall of my dreams for a night. #BareBrickBradPitt as it became known even scooped me the honours in #myhomevibe after the addition of some festive pom poms and illuminated Noel letters around Christmas time. But just like Angelina Jolie, I ultimately waved Brad goodbye with the rest of the wall being knock down and temporary supports being put in place.

For one night only: #BareBrickBradPitt in all his glory

For one night only: #BareBrickBradPitt in all his glory

It’s totally normal to decorate your building supports in the style of a Winter Wonderland right?

It’s totally normal to decorate your building supports in the style of a Winter Wonderland right?

The builders had originally thought that it might be necessary to put a steel in above the doors as it is a load bearing wall but it turned out there was already a timber beam in place that did the job which saved us a bit of money. After the opening had been made good, the bespoke doors were installed unpainted.

The unpainted doors installed and waiting for me to decide on a paint colour

The unpainted doors installed and waiting for me to decide on a paint colour

Only one of the doors opens (the furthest to the left if you are looking at them with the front door behind you) but it has hinges that mean it can be folded right back. If I was to go back in time I think I would have opted for them to be concertina doors so that we could have the option to fold all three of them all the way back. However, that is but a minor quibble because with the doors in place we now have a view straight through the house out to the garden when we open the front door and there is so much more light in the hallway.

This door folds right back but the other two are fixed in place.

This door folds right back but the other two are fixed in place.

After much deliberation about what colour the doors should be I ultimately decided to go for a really dark colour and chose Charcoal from the Valspar paint range at B&Q (not an ad!). I am really happy with that choice now but I like the fact that because they are timber I can change the paint colour to change the feel of the room in future if I wanted to. (something I couldn’t do if there were crittal!).

The finished doors in Charcoal paint by Valspar. I wanted to them to look crittal-esque which is why I went dark with the paint colour

The finished doors in Charcoal paint by Valspar. I wanted to them to look crittal-esque which is why I went dark with the paint colour

A lovely spot to hang out pretending to read an interiors book.

A lovely spot to hang out pretending to read an interiors book.

Having the doors in place lets lots more light into the hallway from this room

Having the doors in place lets lots more light into the hallway from this room

I love the new view from the kitchen with doors in

I love the new view from the kitchen with doors in

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The other big change we made at the same time as installing the doors was to replace the original floorboards with a tiled floor instead. Whilst I love wooden floors there were lots of gaps in ours so that in winter it was like being on the set of “Whistle Down the Wind”. I was really torn as to whether to go for a statement Victorian style floor with some colour in it (inspired by the picture below from Living Etc) or something more muted.

The tiles I spotted in Living Etc (Pic Credit www.balancemedesign.com) which for a brief moment tempted me to go for something bold in the hallway

The tiles I spotted in Living Etc (Pic Credit www.balancemedesign.com) which for a brief moment tempted me to go for something bold in the hallway

Ultimately I chose a monochrome design from Mosaic del Sur which at about £900 came in about £4000 cheaper than the Victorian tile option! They have proved pretty hard wearing so far. We don’t clean them with any special products (perhaps mistakenly so!) and they actually show up mud much less than the wooden floors they replaced. Every now and again I have a pang and wonder if I actually ought to have gone for polished concrete floors but that is a project for a different house me thinks, maybe one with that double width hallway that makes me trigger my Article 50

I am really happy with my ultimate choice of monochrome encaustic tiles from  Mosaic del Sur .. Sheepskin placed there entirely for instagram purposes…

I am really happy with my ultimate choice of monochrome encaustic tiles from Mosaic del Sur.. Sheepskin placed there entirely for instagram purposes…

They are a good balance between a modern and traditional tile

They are a good balance between a modern and traditional tile

Final hallway picture
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The next step in our hallway renovation is to tackle the stairs and bannisters. The sisal carpet we laid after a couple of years suffered a horrendous middle class atrocity when it had a tester pot of Annie Sloane Chalk Paint thrown down it by our toddler. Let’s just say Sloane and Sisal don’t mix. What I would actually like to do is to replace the Jackson Pollock carpet with a runner, painting the stairs and banister at the same time. The current banister is the kind of shade of mahogany that David Dickinson turns after 5 weeks on the Costa Brava so I am desperate tone it down or potentially paint it dark but even thinking about the amount of sanding required to get that project going makes me feel tired so, for now, it is on the back burner.

David Dickinson banister is on my 2019 hitlist as in the #SloaneOnSisalShitShow you can see on the stairs!

David Dickinson banister is on my 2019 hitlist as in the #SloaneOnSisalShitShow you can see on the stairs!

Hopefully this view will include the carpet runner of my dreams once I have found the motivation to sand down and repaint 30 plus stairs

Hopefully this view will include the carpet runner of my dreams once I have found the motivation to sand down and repaint 30 plus stairs

But for now I am just going to enjoy hanging around here holding an impractical hat

But for now I am just going to enjoy hanging around here holding an impractical hat

Thanks for reading all about my hallway overhaul hope it inspires you to see that you can achieve a crittall look on a cornflake budget afterall!

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A Weekend at Eden Hall Cottage, Norfolk

Does anyone remember the TV programme ‘Challenge Anneka’?  The basic premise was that Anneka Rice (sporting a blue jumpsuit that made her look like an errant Kwik Fit employee) had 48hrs to complete a seemingly impossible task like reintroducing an obscure species of Owl to the UK or persuading Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen to wear beige.  It sadly disappeared from our screens some time around 1994 but I think the BBC should bring the show back and set Anneka a new challenge. Find a holiday cottage near the coast in the UK that sleeps 10-12 people (without anyone having to sleep in a drawer) with interior’s that don’t look like the inside of your Auntie Pat’s conservatory all for less than £5000 a week.  I suspect it would make reintroducing that obscure owl look like child’s play.  But fear not Anneka, I’ve got this one.  In my little black book of holiday cottages is a place that ticks all of those boxes and more: Eden Hall Cottage.

The gorgeous back porch of  Eden Hall Cottage  which is a traditional flint cottage on the North Norfolk coast

The gorgeous back porch of Eden Hall Cottage which is a traditional flint cottage on the North Norfolk coast

About the Cottage

The cottage is located on the North Norfolk Coast on the so-called secret side (i.e. the stretch that is not overrun with men called Tarquin down from London for the weekend who are partial to red trousers).  Eden Hall’s owners are Vicky and Chris White.  If I tell you that Vicky is the founder of the beautiful home and lifestyle brand Plum & Ashby you will start to appreciate that this is going to be a pretty special place.

Edenhall as it looked when Vicky and Chris first went to view it

Edenhall as it looked when Vicky and Chris first went to view it

Vicky, Chris and their dog Bertie live in Olney (Bedfordshire) but have always been regular visitors to the Norfolk coast.  They got engaged there and, in 2015, they started to look for a property they could turn into the coastal holiday home of their dreams.  After two years of searching and several close misses, in November 2017 (on their shared birthday) they went to view Eden Hall Cottage and fell in love. 

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The Renovation

It took some vision to see it’s potential as a beautiful beach bolthole because it was, at the time, completely run down with rats in residence and a random toilet in the middle of the drive.  However they were able to look past the loo and having secured the property, brought an architect on board to help them restore it to it’s former glory. Their ambitious goal was to have the property ready for its first visitors by the summer of 2018.   

The inside of the property had seen better days but the potential was easy to see

The inside of the property had seen better days but the potential was easy to see

Some gorgeous period features were still shining through the gloom

Some gorgeous period features were still shining through the gloom

Having hired a team of local builders following a tender process, their first step was to strip the property back to it’s bare bones (including taking out and replacing all of the upstairs floors the joists of which turned out to be rotten).  This is what the cottage looked like when I first popped round “Kevin McCLoud” style at the start of their renovation journey.

The upstairs landing and staircase. The entire upper floor had to be removed as part of the renovation and replaced after the joists were found to be rotten

The upstairs landing and staircase. The entire upper floor had to be removed as part of the renovation and replaced after the joists were found to be rotten

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Vicky and Chris kept and restored the original brick fireplace

Vicky and Chris kept and restored the original brick fireplace

The Interiors

By the time Malmo McCloud returned to stay as one of their first guests in October 2018, it was virtually unrecognisable.  With the renovation complete, the cottage has five double bedrooms (three of which are ensuite), a stunning kitchen diner with vaulted ceilings, a relaxed sitting room with open fire, a family bathroom with a gorgeous cast iron roll top bath and a boot room and separate utility.  There is a lovely secluded patio garden at the front and a large lawned area at the back (perfect for letting our pack of lad labradors off the leash). 

Vicky battled her builders to have vaulted ceilings in the kitchen/dining space that is at the heart of the house

Vicky battled her builders to have vaulted ceilings in the kitchen/dining space that is at the heart of the house

The rowing oars are a subtle nod to the cottage’s coastal location

The rowing oars are a subtle nod to the cottage’s coastal location

The family bathroom blends contemporary and vintage features with a huge rolltop bath to relax in

The family bathroom blends contemporary and vintage features with a huge rolltop bath to relax in

Vicky said that her aim for the interiors was to create an English take on an American beach house and it is a triumph of Nantucket come to Norfolk.  The walls are painted in a pallet of clean minimal neutral colours which act as the perfect backdrop to some seriously luxurious furnishings from brands such as Neptune, Rowen & Wren, Also Home and the White Company.  There is not a jaunty anchor or whimsical shell in sight. 

The relaxed sitting room is at the front of the house and opens on to a secluded patio courtyard garden

The relaxed sitting room is at the front of the house and opens on to a secluded patio courtyard garden

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The star of the show has to be the duck egg blue Humphrey Munson kitchen which is at the heart of the house and fabulously well equipped.  I loved the way that Vicky and Chris had chosen to leave sections of the original flint walls exposed in the kitchen to provide a rustic contrast to the contemporary units. 

The Humphrey Munson kitchen Vicky chose in duck egg blue works perfectly with the flint walls left exposed

The Humphrey Munson kitchen Vicky chose in duck egg blue works perfectly with the flint walls left exposed

The perfect shelfie

The perfect shelfie

Those flint walls

Those flint walls

Marble worktops and brass taps add a vintage edge to the

Marble worktops and brass taps add a vintage edge to the

We stayed at the house as a group of ten (with 5 friends rather than 5 children I have previously failed to mention in case you are wondering).  The layout of the cottage is perfect for groups of friends or families..  Upstairs are two generous double bedrooms (one of which is ensuite) and a further single with bunk beds and some lovely touches for children staying like a minature teddy version of Bertie the dog. Upstairs is also host to the family bathroom of dreams which has Georgian style panelled walls, a huge roll top bath and gorgeous brass taps. The bath products are all from Plum & Ashby’s beautiful range made in the UK.

The upstairs ensuite bedroom with gorgeous striped headboard and exposed wooden beams

The upstairs ensuite bedroom with gorgeous striped headboard and exposed wooden beams

I have this thing with the amazing honeycomb tiles on the floor in the ensuite

I have this thing with the amazing honeycomb tiles on the floor in the ensuite

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The second upstairs double bedroom which is a great size

The second upstairs double bedroom which is a great size

The family bathroom with fabulous Georgian style pannelling

The family bathroom with fabulous Georgian style pannelling

The lovely single bedroom complete with bunk beds and lots of thoughtful touches for junior guests

The lovely single bedroom complete with bunk beds and lots of thoughtful touches for junior guests

I love that Vicky and Chris were able to keep the original window frames

I love that Vicky and Chris were able to keep the original window frames

Downstairs are two further double bedrooms both of which are ensuite.  This layout meant that those in our party with kids could sleep upstairs whilst those without occupied the bedrooms downstairs so that they were spared a 7:30am wake up by the Octonauts/Fireman Sam/Mr Tumble emptying his spotty bag.

One of the downstairs double bedrooms. I love the panelling painted in a lucious dark green

One of the downstairs double bedrooms. I love the panelling painted in a lucious dark green

Pinstripe cushions from Also Home up the comfort levels in all the bedrooms

Pinstripe cushions from Also Home up the comfort levels in all the bedrooms

The bedrooms are all beautiful but the one to fight over is definitely the master suite off the kitchen which has both a four poster bed and roll top bath of it’s own.  It is set off the kitchen/diner and is like a mini hotel in it’s own right. I loved the vintage boathouse sign that hangs above the doorway to this room adding a nod to the coast.

Prepare to duke it out for who gets to sleep in the stunning master bedroom

Prepare to duke it out for who gets to sleep in the stunning master bedroom

The four poster bed of my dreams from the White Company in the master bedroom

The four poster bed of my dreams from the White Company in the master bedroom

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A peek into the ensuite which has a roll top bath of it’s own

A peek into the ensuite which has a roll top bath of it’s own

And a shower to with marble metro tiles

And a shower to with marble metro tiles

We all then enjoyed big communal breakfasts together with papers around the huge kitchen table which can easily seat 12.  Bacton, where the cottage is based has a small local shop which stocks all of your bread/milk/Sunday papers essentials. Though it is not the kind of the place where you will be able to source artisan pate or gluten free granola so maybe stock up in advance if those things are your daily essentials.

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Evenings were spent slobbed out on the two huge comfy sofas in front of the fire. The zinc coffee table is truly a sight to behold, I am pretty sure that it may be bigger than one of our bedrooms at home. If you have been out taking the sea air during the day then coming back and running a bubble bath in the stunning main bathroom of an evening is also to be recommended.

The living room with open fire and that zinc coffee table!

The living room with open fire and that zinc coffee table!

I love all of the subtle nods to coastal decor that Vicky has included in the cottage without it ever feeling beach themed

I love all of the subtle nods to coastal decor that Vicky has included in the cottage without it ever feeling beach themed

Settle down on one of the two huge sofas and enjoy a film

Settle down on one of the two huge sofas and enjoy a film

The kind of bath you want to linger in with Plum & Ashby products on tap

The kind of bath you want to linger in with Plum & Ashby products on tap

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The Surrounding Area

If you can bring yourself to leave the comfort of the house then there are two stunning (and nearly deserted) beaches close by.  The one at Carts Gap has a little café and Happisburgh boasts a Lighthouse and an excellent playground.

The seafront in Bacton on a slightly stormy day

The seafront in Bacton on a slightly stormy day

The lighthouse at Happisburgh which is just ten minutes drive from the house

The lighthouse at Happisburgh which is just ten minutes drive from the house

Bacton woods close to the house offer excellent dog walking/Gruffalo hunting opportunities and if you are in need of a National Trust top up then Felbrigg Hall is just 10 minutes away.  The delights of the rest of the North Norfolk coast are also within easy reach with Holt (a lovely Georgian market town) just twenty minutes drive and beyond that gems including Wells on Sea, Blakney, Stiffkey, Holkham and more.

The harbour in Blakeney a lovely place to visit about an hours drive from the cottage

The harbour in Blakeney a lovely place to visit about an hours drive from the cottage

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HUge open skies and miles of sand on Holkham beach

HUge open skies and miles of sand on Holkham beach

Disclosure 5 minutes after this idyllic mother and son photo was taken he did an emergency poo in a sand dune

Disclosure 5 minutes after this idyllic mother and son photo was taken he did an emergency poo in a sand dune

We enjoyed a delicious pub lunch at The Victoria at Holkham and then a run on the vast and beautiful beach.  We also called in at Stiffkey Stores for a coffee and spot of modern rustic interiors shopping.  The kids loved a) the cabins for sitting in outside and b) the excellent selection of sweets for less than 50p on offer. I should also mention that the Gunton Arms (rated in the Top 50 places for a pub lunch by [    ]) is also just ten minutes away from the house.  Be sure to reserve a table well in advance of your stay though as it gets really booked up!

The  Victoria Inn  at Holkham where we enjoyed a delicious pub lunch

The Victoria Inn at Holkham where we enjoyed a delicious pub lunch

Stepping inside  Stiffkey Stores  in like stepping into my Modern Rustic paradise

Stepping inside Stiffkey Stores in like stepping into my Modern Rustic paradise

Some of the beautiful displays in  Stiffkey Stores

Some of the beautiful displays in Stiffkey Stores

So Anneka hang your jumpsuit back up and return to presenting the Sunday Morning Sizzle on Radio Colchester as this is one challenge I have solved without your helicopter even having to leave Broadcasting House.  If you would like to book a stay at Edenhall Cottage click here you can also follow the cottage on instagram here. We were lucky enough to be guests of Vicky and Chris when we stayed but at less than £2000 for a stay even at the height of peak season it is a complete bargain compared to anything I have found of similar size/quality anywhere else in the UK!

*We did not pay for our stay at Eden Hall but I was not asked to produce any content in return for our stay. I am writing up our stay for the blog because it is genuinely one of the nicest places I have ever stayed and I wanted to share it with you *

My Living Room Makeover Plans

Do you have a room or area of your house that is off limits for Instagram? Without wishing to sound too Joseph Fritzl, our “hidden room” is our dining room. I call it the dining room because 8 years ago when we first moved in (and prior to doing the kitchen extension) this is where our kitchen table used to be. Once the extension was complete we moved the table to the bottom end of the kitchen, opened up the wall between the kitchen and this room and made it into a second living room. Confused?

This side of the room often pops up on Instagram as it features one of my favourite additions to the house: these faux crittal doors

This side of the room often pops up on Instagram as it features one of my favourite additions to the house: these faux crittal doors

The kitchen table which has been relocated to the new extension

The kitchen table which has been relocated to the new extension

I want to say I will artfully sketch you a floor plan in charcoal so you can see how it all fits together but unfortunately I have drawing skills that are on a par with those of a worm drunk on tequila so I am hoping that these next photos will help to make things a bit clearer!

The kitchen used to be accessed by a narrow door to the left of this picture. Knocking out more of the wall and shifting the entrance has allowed lots more light into the “dining room”

The kitchen used to be accessed by a narrow door to the left of this picture. Knocking out more of the wall and shifting the entrance has allowed lots more light into the “dining room”

Opening the artist formerly known as the dining room to the kitchen has made a huge difference to our family life and we use it lots as a relaxed family living room but this space very rarely graces the grid for the following reasons:

1) It is home to a toy storage unit which regularly belches out brightly coloured plastic objects and which can only be moved with the assistance of a small crane or Hulk Hogan

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Thanks to Hulk Hogan for popping round and helping me move it for the purposes of this blog. The whimsical rustic ladder was all Hulk’s idea.

Thanks to Hulk Hogan for popping round and helping me move it for the purposes of this blog. The whimsical rustic ladder was all Hulk’s idea.

2) There is a 1980s radiator stranded behind the sofa shitting on every shot with it’s Soviet Era bad looks (although it does come in incredibly handy for resting a mug of tea on). In all seriousness as well limiting my insta possibilities it’s current location means it is mainly heating the back of the sofa rather then us.

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My temporary radiator cover up solution!

My temporary radiator cover up solution!

3) The kids treat the sofa as both a trampoline and dinner table meaning it looks like the kind of two piece suite you often find in a mini cab office that has been sat on by 27,876 15 stone men called Keith eating kebabs whilst waiting for a cab.

But I have some plans for this space which may see it making more of an appearance on Instagram in 2019 which I thought I would share with you here (mainly to give myself a kick up the arse to get on with them)

The sofa in all of it’s banana and butter stained glory

The sofa in all of it’s banana and butter stained glory

Hoping that my mum isn’t reading this blog as I know she will be telling me off for having my shoes on the sofa!

Hoping that my mum isn’t reading this blog as I know she will be telling me off for having my shoes on the sofa!

Step One: Re-positioning the Shits On Every Shot Radiator

This is 95% because all of the heat it emits gets lost behind the sofa and 5% because it limits my insta possibilities in it’s current position (ok maybe more like 75%/25% but still…). Kevin my quotes guy has been round to suss out alternative positions and assures me it can fairly easily be removed from this wall and a new vertical column radiator positioned on the wall leading to the kitchen instead. I haven’t mentioned this plan to Mr Malmo yet on the basis that it involves taking floorboards up and he will probably therefore receive it as warmly as an invitation to set his own pubic hair on fire. There were some murmurings from Kevin about BTUs (which I believe relates to heat output rather than the currency of Moldova) which may slightly restrict the choice of radiator I can go for but I am thinking of either a white or light grey one so that it is not too noticeable in it’s new location.

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The re positioned radiator will go on the wall to the right in this picture

The re positioned radiator will go on the wall to the right in this picture

Step Two: Pimp My Wall Rustic Industrial Style

With the radiator shot cock block out of the way I am planning on making the wall behind the sofa more of a feature wall. Not in the Lawrence Lwellyn Bowen flocked wall paper sense obviously. It will not surprise you to learn that I have a more rustic/industrial plan up my sleeve. I currently have three of these gorgeous old Brooklyn ceiling tiles on the wall but I now want to go large and cover the whole wall with them. I know that you can now get wall paper with them printed on but I really want the texture and feel of the real deal. My inspiration comes from Baileys Home and Garden where they have done this to stunning effect. Nailing 50 of them to the wall should be simple right? If in the big room reveal it actually turns out to be a feature wall of LLB’s new satin flocked wallpaper you will know that it has turned out to be anything but.

Ceiling tiles on the bar at Baileys Home and Garden as captured by @kinshipcreative_dc

Ceiling tiles on the bar at Baileys Home and Garden as captured by @kinshipcreative_dc

I picked up three of these beautiful Brooklyn ceiling tiles at Sunbury antiques fair a couple of years ago.

I picked up three of these beautiful Brooklyn ceiling tiles at Sunbury antiques fair a couple of years ago.

Only need to find another 49 of them now…..

Only need to find another 49 of them now…..

Step Three: Saying Goodbye to the Seatdrop Sofa

There is a school of thought that says that we should hang on to the minicab office sofa until the boys are of an age when they are able to eat a banana without nearby surfaces ending up looking like they have a bad case of fruit based thrush. However, I am going with a different more visually pleasing school of thought that says that if we have the corner sofa of my dreams in a smoky grey velvet they will love it so much that eschew their previous #badbananamanners. Has anyone else combined velvet soft furnishings and three boys without having to take a Valium anytime they go near it?

Trying to demonstrate to the boys that the sofa is for sitting pretending to read a coffee table interiors book on rather than trampolining

Trying to demonstrate to the boys that the sofa is for sitting pretending to read a coffee table interiors book on rather than trampolining

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Step Four: Trimming down the Toy Storage and Creating a Magazine Library

We are currently in the midst of a lengthy rearrangement and redecoration of the boys bedrooms which make building the Taj Mahal look like a quick project. Once that is complete I am hoping to relocate the current toy storage holder upstairs and replace it with something that belches plastic less frequently (ideas on a postcard please!). I would then love to add some more picture shelves to this wall to display some of my abundant collection of interiors mags because what woman doesn’t love to get her Kinfolk out for the lads? Although do you think that having more picture shelves might be too much with the wall of many rustic tiles as well?

This stunning shot from the home of @bloggabis is inspiration for my picture ledge extension

This stunning shot from the home of @bloggabis is inspiration for my picture ledge extension

The wall to the left is where I am envisaging the additional picture shelves going

The wall to the left is where I am envisaging the additional picture shelves going

But do you think it will be too much with my rustic tile feature wall as well?

But do you think it will be too much with my rustic tile feature wall as well?

Modern Scandinavian kitchen diner

So there you have it my Living Room makeover plans for 2019.  Apologies for the slightly analogue presentation of them.  Learning how to create a digital mood board is one of my life goals for 2019 after I have nailed more regular (by which I mean more frequently than twice yearly) maintenance of my bikini line and the art of loading the dishwasher so that it doesn’t look like it has been done by Gazza upon returning home from a night on the lash.

 

Five ways to grow your Instagram (without also losing your mind)

My Instagram Journey So Far

I started idly dipping my toe into Instagram in late 2016.  I was on maternity leave with my third son and looking for something to help pass the time that didn’t revolve around the contents of Mr Tumble’s spotty bag. I have never really been one for Mumsnet.  I can’t get over the feeling that it is slightly wrong to be discussing baby poo with strangers online so I thought I would try out Instagram instead.  I never set out with a grand plan, goals or a strategy.  It was just me sharing pictures of my bathroom and finding, to my surprise, a community of fellow interiors fans who liked the cut of my rolltop bath and shared a love of metro tiles and blow job gags.

The very first instagram post of my bathroom, complete with metro tiles, copper taps and a dodgy instagram filter!

The very first instagram post of my bathroom, complete with metro tiles, copper taps and a dodgy instagram filter!

Since posting that first murky shot of my bathroom 2 years ago I have gained 80K followers, had my pictures regrammed on some of my all time favourite Instagram accounts such as Apartment Therapy, seen my home featured in My House Beautiful and 91 Magazine, collaborated with some of my favourite interiors brands and been lucky enough to go on trips to and write about some amazing places including Malmo (my spiritual Scandi home).

The beautiful street of Torekov in Southern Sweden, which I was lucky enough to visit this year as a guest of Visit Sweden in the UK and Malmo Town

The beautiful street of Torekov in Southern Sweden, which I was lucky enough to visit this year as a guest of Visit Sweden in the UK and Malmo Town

Instagram has opened up many amazing opportunities for me. Including the opportunity for Malmo to go to Malmo!

Instagram has opened up many amazing opportunities for me. Including the opportunity for Malmo to go to Malmo!

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In the last 9 months I have also started, for the first time, to earn money from my Instagram and blog. Not the kind of money that enables me to make Ryan Gosling an ‘Indecent Proposal’ he would actually accept (although Ryan if I have misjudged this and you would in fact be my Demi Moore for £20 and a Grab Bag of Roast Beef Monster Munch call me).  But the kind of money that means that my dad no longer tells me to stop wanking over pictures of other people’s cushions (not literally I stress).

Picture from a recent collaboration with Visa to promote the local high street and independent businesses at Christmas

Picture from a recent collaboration with Visa to promote the local high street and independent businesses at Christmas

However, I have also discovered that whilst Instagram can build you up it can also knock you right back down again and, in the grip of algorithm angst, it can become easy to lose sight of why you started using the app in the first place.  So finding myself with five minutes free when no-one is asking me to wipe their bottom (I have told Mr Malmo he really need to start doing his own) I thought I would share with you five lessons I learnt in 2018 about how to grow your Instagram without losing your mind in the process. 

Serve up a Killer Shot

Errr duhh Malmo isn’t that the whole point of Instagram? It is but it is a basic principle I confess I have at times been guilty of forgetting!  When a post bombs it may well be because the evil algorithm has hidden you down the back of the Instagram sofa but sometime the truth is that actually you just served up a bit of a shit shot! Take this one of my bedroom for example.  At the time I thought I was unleashing #gridgoals but it struggled to get past 1K likes and then died.  But when I look back at it now I can see that I totally over did it with the filters, zoomed in too close on the bed cutting out the windows to the right and shaving off half of the bedside table.

Over filtered, over exposed and went down like an lead balloon!

Over filtered, over exposed and went down like an lead balloon!

In comparison in this shot I showed more of the whole room so you can see the bed in context and told more of a story in the image (in this case wife eats croissants in bed and sets off husband’s over sensitive crummy alarm).  I also edited the picture in a much lighter way.  Same room, different picture, different result with this picture receiving over 6k likes

A rustic bedroom revamp later and a much lighter, brighter photo saw this photo do much better

A rustic bedroom revamp later and a much lighter, brighter photo saw this photo do much better

Filters Can Be Your Friend Afterall

In my last blog about Instagram back in 2017, I wrote that I had learnt to go easy on the filters after an early addiction to adding borders to my images that made them look like they were trapped behind #beigebars.  But what I have learnt this year is that filters and editing tools (if used less cack handedly) can turn a photo from meh to marvellous.  They also allow you to create a look and feel to your feed that people start to identify with your pictures making them stand out from the crowd. 

The #beigebars from my early instagram career!

The #beigebars from my early instagram career!

I have started using third party apps like Snapseed and VSCO to edit my pictures and my goal for 2019 is to get to grips with Lightroom.  They have a much wider selection of preset filters to chose from than Instagram and allow a broader range of edits you can make to a picture.  It has been trial and error ( I still get it wrong sometimes as shown above) and you may prefer to leave you pictures au naturel. However, since making this change to the style of my pictures they have got picked up and regrammed by some huge interiors instagram accounts like My Interior, Apartment Therapy, Home Adore and Room Porn.  Those regrams have added about 1000 followers a time to my account.

A picture of my bathroom taken nearly two years ago

A picture of my bathroom taken nearly two years ago

The bathroom picture which scored over 70,000 likes when regrammed by Apartment Therapy in my now signature “Malmo & Moss” style.  It has been regrammed over 50 times on other accounts and accounted for a fair old whack of my Instagram growth in 2018

The bathroom picture which scored over 70,000 likes when regrammed by Apartment Therapy in my now signature “Malmo & Moss” style. It has been regrammed over 50 times on other accounts and accounted for a fair old whack of my Instagram growth in 2018

Fuck the Numbers

I am not going to pretend that I don’t care the number of likes my posts get or the number of followers I have.  The ping of a blue notification can be intoxicating! But what I learnt the hard way this year was that if the number of likes and follows you get becomes your main motivation and validation then Instagram can fairly quickly go from thriller to killer. 2018 started out well for me, I had a couple of pretty big regrams and gained 4.5K followers overnight when the Frugality mentioned me in her stories.  But then out of the blue my account suddenly ground to a halt. For the first time I was losing more followers than I was gaining and my pictures attracted a fraction of the likes they had been getting when my account was much smaller.

2018 got off to a good start with this picture of my kitchen being regrammed by @interior_delux

2018 got off to a good start with this picture of my kitchen being regrammed by @interior_delux

My first thought was that I had been shadow banned but I was still showing up on hashtags and after the normal two weeks it would take for shadow ban to elapse I was still in insta purgatory!  I drove myself crazy trying to work out what I had done wrong googling “why does Instagram hate me” and reporting the problem with pleading messages along the lines of “Dear Instagram please can I come off the naughty step".

My pictures started receiving far fewer like than ones like this, posted in my earlier instagram days when I had far few followers

My pictures started receiving far fewer like than ones like this, posted in my earlier instagram days when I had far few followers

It was frustrating to watch what felt like everyone else surge past me whilst my account went into reverse.  I had got totally sucked into a “race” mentality.  But then my husband put it all into perspective for me by reminding me of ‘Wanted’.  A truly terrible action film starring Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy from the late noughties.  The first 30 mins or so of the film are an enjoyable enough action caper in which Jolie and McAvoy team up to defeat a mysterious bad guy. But then it is revealed that the bad guy they are battling is, in fact, a weaving loom of the type that might appear in an episode of Cranford. The weaving loom in this analogy is of course the algorithm. 

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In the absence of a degree in computer science (or even a basic understanding of Microsoft excel) it will remain a mystery to me.  So instead of worrying about  followers I didn’t have, likes I wasn’t getting or how big other accounts were growing I decided to focus instead on engaging with the followers I do have and creating content that I think they will like and which I am proud of. That is what my stay in insta jail taught me and I have been happier and enjoyed insta much more ever since.  Which brings me to my next point.

Get Authentically Social

Getting regrammed by Apartment Therapy may have been one of my highlights of 2018 but so was the night when, home alone and relaxing in my favourite #FlaccidPenisFlanelettes, I shared a picture of them and asked people to show me their favourite #PyjamasPenisesLoveToHate in return.  I received over a hundred entries into the Boner Crusher Hall of Fame with nightwear featuring everything from fleecy festive owls to erection extinguishing ice skating penguins that had me howling with laughter.

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I didn’t share my pyjamas as part of any grand Instagram engagement strategy. I shared them because Mr Malmo was out and I was sitting on the sofa eating doritos and fancied some bants.  Instagram is “social media” and I am sure you have all read advice which says that the best way to grow your account is to be social and engage with other accounts.  There are many different ways you can go about that.  You can comment “love this” or “nice room” on as many accounts as you possibly can before you get thumb fatigue.  But the rather long winded point of my flaccid penis pyjama story is that when you forget about being strategic and make your followers laugh, or share something that allows you to build real rapport with the people following you they stop being a number and instead become your tribe, your champions and, in many cases, your friends in real life! 

Step away from your Phone

“Put Phone Down Mummy”. Four words spoken to me by my toddler this Summer which, combined with my stay in insta jail, caused me to reassess my relationship with Instagram. Prior to that point I had posted religiously every day at the most “insta” appropriate time and driven Mr Malmo mad by constantly being heard to say “just give me a minute whilst I” insert one of “reply to this comment, check my DMs, post this to stories”. Instagram had become like a job and it was zapping the fun out of it for me (not to mention those around me!). I already have a job (in sustainability) that I enjoy very much and I realised that whilst Instagram has brought me some amazing opportunities I don’t want it to become my full time career. And I certainly don’t want to miss out on times with my family worrying about the algorithm or how my posts are performing.

So young and yet so wise.  Sometimes a toddler can help you see things in a different light.  And sometime they just want to wipe banana on your clothes and stay up all night.

So young and yet so wise. Sometimes a toddler can help you see things in a different light. And sometime they just want to wipe banana on your clothes and stay up all night.

Moments like these don’t happen when you are glued to your phone (although technically I was holding the phone at the time to take the photo but you get the point I am trying to make!)

Moments like these don’t happen when you are glued to your phone (although technically I was holding the phone at the time to take the photo but you get the point I am trying to make!)

So I did what my toddler suggested and put my phone down. I now take at least 1 or 2 days off a week from posting and do it at times that fit in with family life rather than being preordained by Instagram insights. My account has not fallen off a cliff. I am still being offered opportunities and my account is still growing. Maybe not as fast as others that post more frequently but that is ok with me. Whilst Instagram does seem to penalize you if you disappear for long periods, a day or two off a week doesn’t seem to have angered the insta gods too much. Indeed I think my engagement has been better since I stopped posting as frequently, maybe because it is a case of absence makes the heart grow fonder?! To quote a truly great philosopher (Ray Winstone in the Paddy Power adverts) when the fun stops stop. Whether it is for a day, a week or a month a little insta break every now and then can sometimes be what you need to get your mojo (and sanity) back.

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So there you have it, my advice, for what it is worth, on how to grow your instagram without losing your mind (or being a dick). Thank you to every one of you who follows me, banters with me and encourages me on a daily basis.

Mood board your perfect space with Corian® Design

*This blog post is a paid advertorial with Corian Design*

When we extended and renovated our kitchen back in 2012 I had just given birth to our second son and was about to embark upon a career change that would involve forfeiting two thirds of my previous salary (remind me why I thought that was a good idea again?!).  That meant we were working to quite a strict budget and so there were certain items on my wish list that I had to compromise on.  Worktops were one such item. 

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I had my heart set on marble, concrete, or Corian surfaces but it was a case of champagne taste and lemonade budget. In the end,  we ended up going for wood.  Five  years later,  I still regret that decision.  It is not that I don’t like the wood it is just that I don’t love it and I have been slowly working on persuading Mr. Malmo that it would be a good idea to upgrade the worktops ever since.

The worktop in the holiday home we recently stayed in during a trip to the Netherlands made me regret my original wooden worktop choice!

The worktop in the holiday home we recently stayed in during a trip to the Netherlands made me regret my original wooden worktop choice!

So when Corian® Design asked me to try their new Moodboard Maker tool I jumped at the chance!  I am one of those people who is literally unable to visualise anything using only my imagination so the Moodboard Maker is the perfect tool for me.

Who is  Corian® Design?

Corian® Design is a  designer and manufacturer of high quality Solid Surfaces which are made using a blend of minerals and acrylic and can be shaped into literally any design or size you want.  There are over 100 different colours and patterns available to choose from so whatever your interior style there will be an option that will work for your space. 

The Corian Moodboard Maker

If you are ever having a bad week at work or the kids are winding you up,  forget yoga, pilates or meditation and get mood boarding!  It may be less likely to tone your abs, improve your core or flexibility, but I think it is one of the most relaxing and therapeutic things you can do as it allows you to escape from reality for a little bit and get in touch with your creative side. The mood boarding I have done in the past when planning out room schemes has been of the analogue variety in the sense that it involved pritt stick, scissors and lots of ripped out pages from magazines.  I was really keen to try the much less messy digital version.

An introduction to the Moodboard maker

An introduction to the Moodboard maker

I am not naturally good with technology.  Actually, I am naturally terrible with technology.  I have an innate ability to crash an app at 50 paces and I think the IT guy at work has now started fielding my calls to avoid the almost daily questions I have about how to use Microsoft Excel.  Therefore, when I say if I can use the Corian Moodboard Maker tool, then anyone can. I really mean it!  It is super simple and straightforward.   The end goal is to create a visual mosaic with several  pieces that represent different surfaces, textures and materials to create a design story for your space. 

The first step in the process is to choose a style that you think best represents you. The options include Organic, Minimal, Relaxed, Modern, Refined, Bohemian or Edgy.  The different styles come with a different range of inspiration pictures to choose from. But, you can also upload your own images to the tool quite  easily to give you extra choices and personalization.  I played around with Organic and Bohemian styles but in the end decided on Minimal as I felt it best captured my Scandi-inspired look. 

My kitchen and the existing wooden worktops

My kitchen and the existing wooden worktops

You then have a blank Moasaic shape with several  different segments to fill.  The first step is to pick a Corian® Design swatch that you want to showcase and then you can build the rest of the mosaic around it.  You can select more than one Corian® Design Solid Surface swatch if you are struggling to narrow down your options or want to play around with the look and feel.   I chose Corian® Solid Surface in Silver Gray and Arrowroot because I am most drawn to these two and am struggling to make a decision.

Corian Moodboard Maker

You then fill up the rest of the segments either using the bank of pre-existing images available in the tool or by uploading your own images which could be anything that inspires you, it doesn’t have to be strictly interiors related.  So if you have of a beautiful sunset from your holiday that you really like the colours/feel of then add it into the mix. 

I used a combination of images from my own home (both room shots and close ups on textures such as the front of one of my cupboards) and then also drew upon some of the existing Corian images as they blended really nicely with my own pictures. 

Photo credit Vintage Piken

Photo credit Vintage Piken

I used a picture of the front of one of my kitchen cupboards because I like the distressed wood

I used a picture of the front of one of my kitchen cupboards because I like the distressed wood

You can easily drag and drop images in and switch them around if you don’t think you have the right combination.   Et voila one finished moodboard which you can download to your phone or computer, share on your social media platforms, pin to your Pinterest board for your project or even order a framed print of!  Here’s my final moodboard:

My final mood board created with the  Corian Moodboard Maker

My final mood board created with the Corian Moodboard Maker