A house tour in East London full of Scandinavian and Modern Rustic style inspirationRead More
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
The bathroom ready for romance rose petals and all
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
The copper taps that were made by my builder after I saw and fell in love with some in Living Etc
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ).
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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!
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?
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!
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
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.
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)
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
Christmas can be an expensive time of year with presents, parties and panto combining to mean you have taken on the national debt of Belgium by the 1st of January. I love decorating my home for Christmas but I don’t think you need to spend a fortune doing it or to invest in loads of stuff that you are going to chuck away after Santa has set off back to the North Pole. If, like me, you are operating with more of a Morrisons than Macy’s budget then going for a Scandinavian inspired Christmas look is ideal. Our Scandinavian friends like to keep things simple and minimal and to use lots of natural foliage that you can forage from your garden or local parks under the cover of darkness.
At our recent Hygge for all Seasons workshop at the Occasional Home Store, Reena (@hygge_ for _ home) and I created a Modern Rustic/Scandi inspired Christmas table scheme featuring 3 simple ideas for table decorations inspired by our favourite Nordic instagram accounts and nature. If you are not already following our inspiration accounts then you are in for a treat
The space we were transforming for Hygge for all Seasons was a big lecture room overlooking a beautiful reservoir. It meant we were working with quite high ceilings and a bigger table than the average family would be sitting down to on the 25th December. But to show that the ideas can work in any setting I have also recreated them at home so you can see just how easy it is to do
We used a dark grey linen tablecloth kindly loaned to us by Chalk Pink Linen for the base of our table along with some of their lovely crisp fresh white linen napkins. They also do all of their linen in a gorgeous dove grey which I used when I styled my table at home. For our tableware we used earthy ceramic plates and beakers in muted neutral colours from Igigi General Store and then added interest to the table with some simple Scandi candle holders in the shape of stars from The King and I and I and for a tiny touch of twinkle some vintage crystal ones from Hellish Designs. We added a bit of Nordic drama to the table with our dramatic pampas table centrepiece and hula chandeliers.
After feasting on Bronuts from Norahs Brownies (it turns out that combining two of my favourite cakes together creates a third cake I like even more) our work shoppers went home with a luxury botanical candle from Join London which are hand poured in Jen’s South-East London riverside studio and use only natural ingredients. If you were not able to come along on the day but would like to create a similar modern rustic look for Christmas table then read on and find out how to use chicken wire, a hula hoop and fencing wire to create a Nordic Noel.
Make your own rustic advent chandelier
What you need: One hula hoop, approx 1 metre of linen or hessan, masking tape, floristry wire, mixture of faux and real foliage of your choice
Ok so you maybe reading this think a chandelier?? I thought she said this was going to be full of affordable ideas not looks to steal from the Palace of Versaille. But bear with me because the chandeliers in question are made using the humble hula hoop. I sourced mine off E-Bay for about £3 but charity shops often have them too. To cover them I used natural linen but a cheaper alternative would be to use hessian which is roughly £5 a metre.
Start by cutting the hessian into 10cm wide strips. Either tie on to the hula hoop or, for a neater look you can use masking tape to secure it in place. Wrap the strips around the hoop until it is fully covered, this is your base. The next step is to wrap a foliage garland around the hoop securing using florists wire. I used a simple garland made by Parlane that cost me £8. Depending upon how dramatic you want your hoop to look tie on mixture of faux and natural foliage (eucalyptus is good as it looks fine even when dried). I wanted mine to have a bit of drama so i tied springs of eucalyptus on pointing downwards using florists wire. Finally, cut four lengths of twine (mine were about 60cms long but it depends on the ceiling height you are working with) and tie each length on about 30cm apart around the hoop.
Once you have completed all of those steps, all you need to do is find a way to suspend it from your ceiling. I got Mr Malmo to screw a small hook in (i think I made this request after he had had a couple of beers as screwing things into plasterboard usually sets off his ‘no fucking way’ alarm). You could equally just use command hooks if you are willing to accept that at some point in December they may lose their stick and deposit a chandelier on your crackers.
Pampas Grass Table Centrepiece
What you need: 30cm x 20cm wooden box, chicken wire, plyers and 10-15 stems of pampas grass
Pampas grass has been all over Instagram this year which either means swinging is having a big revival or that there is a massive trend towards using natural dried grasses in floral arrangements. I am really hoping it is the latter as I don’t fancy throwing my car keys in a bowl and going soixante neuf with my 86 yr old neighbour George who last possessed his own teeth sometime around 1987 and favours using an outside toilet. I have seen some great ideas for using pampas in your home, from creating a stunning hanging installation (check out the account of Signe Bay for inspo) to the more suited to a surban semi option of using it in a vintage box that I have gone with.
Because the scale of the venue at our Hygge for all Seasons workshop was big with high ceilings I was able to go a bit more dramatic creating lots of height with a vintage Canadian Dry box (which I am careful never to leave Reena alone in a room with in case she disappears off into the modern rustic mist with it). However back home I used a smaller box I picked up for £10 from Sunbury antiques and a bit less grass to create a slightly pared back version.
My box was about 30-40cm long and 20cm wide. If you are struggling to source a vintage one then H&M Home also have some similar size ones with a rustic look to them. All you need apart from the box is some chicken wire, plyers and a bunch of pampas grass. I got my chicken wire online (which am fairly sure may have placed me on some sort of Interpol list) but you can also source from petshops.
Cut a roll of wire that will fit inside of your box (maybe wear gardening gloves to do so as I emerged from my skirmish with it looking like someone who had stuck their arm in a holly bush). Then basically just poke your pampas grass into the holes in the chicken wire in a manner that creates an arrangement you are happy with! If you have you mother-in-law coming round for Christmas lunch and want to avoid making chit chat with her about Barry from her Bridge group’s prostate then leave the stalks long. But if not maybe cut them to a more conversation friendly level of about 30cm. You may want to be careful about how closely you position it to candles as pampas is right up there with a shellsuit in terms of flammability.
Mini Eucalyptus Wreaths
What you need: euclyptus, wire and floristry wire.
To add some greenery into our Christmas table we made mini eucalyptus wreaths which acted as a backdrop to beautiful calligraphy christmas labels from Oysterbridge Co. My original idea was to make mini rosemary wreaths having seen them on Pinterest. I don’t know if it was because my supermarket rosemary was just too short but 45 minutes into my minature wreath making all I had was a herb heavy lap and a sprig of rosemary balder than Kim Kardashian’s bikini line tied in a circle. So I went back to the drawing board, rejected the rosemary and turned to the far more plyable eucalyptus instead.
The wire helps to create structure and it means you can secure the foliage in place using floristry wire. You can make them as big or as small as you like in terms of the size of the hoop (this idea would equally work to make hoops to hang on a wall as the wire is quite sturdy). And you can go simple or more dramatic in terms of how much foliage you add. I kept ours quite simple because we were putting the labels on top and didn’t want to detract from them. The mini wreaths will also make your christmas table smell amazing.
We would like to say a huge thank you to the 31 lovely people who came along to Hygge for all Seasons in November and made it so much fun. We have loved seeing how people have incorporated the ideas from the workshop into their Christmas decor already. We would also like to thank all of the brands that collaborated with us in providing gifts for our works shoppers (including Join London, Sevin London, Malako Skincare, Igigi General Store, Love Struck Interiors, Thornback & Peel, Kate and the Ink and Chalk Pink Linen) and items to use in our table styling (Chalk Pink Linen, Igigi General Store, Lights 4 Fun, Hellish Designs and The King and I).
If you attended our last Occasional Home Store in March you may have been mistaken for thinking it was our Christmas rather than Spring event on account of the Beast from the East blowing in and rendering Stoke Newington indistinguishable from Siberia. The extremely non spring like weather conditions temporarily transformed me into my dad for the week leading up to the event, frantically shushing anybody who came into the room whilst I was watching the weather forecast.
However, despite the fact that we were shovelling snow when we thought we would be draping spring blossom it all turned out alright on the night with loads of you lovely people coming to the West Reservoir Centre in Hackney to enjoy the array of beautiful vintage & contemporary homeware that our stallholders had battled the Beast to bring you.
Having had six months to recover from the #posttraumaticsnowstress I am now extremely excited to share with you that the Occasional Home Store will be returning to the West Reservoir Centre on the weekend of the 17th and 18th of November in association with Plum & Ashby and our gorgeous new partner Igigi General Store to bring you a festive shopping extravaganza.
In the beautiful industrial surroundings of a 1930s water filtering station we will be bringing you a handpicked selection of the very best vintage and contemporary homeware complimented by a programme of workshops and talks to inspire you to renovate, decorate and instagram your homes this Christmas. If this sounds like your idea of a perfect weekend then read on for a preview of just some of the delights we have in store for you
Plum & Ashby
We are thrilled to once again be working with Vicky and Freya, the team behind Plum & Ashby. Together with their team (including four legged friend Bertie) they work to produce a range of elegant, high quality, carefully considered products that always lift a space. Their extensive range, from washes, lotions and bath salts to hand poured candles, is made in the South of England. And we’re certainly not alone in our admiration for this brand, their fan base includes interior publications, online blogs and they were shortlisted for the Best British Design at the prestigious Elle Decoration Awards and at our last Occasional Home Store they completely sold out of their candles. This time round they will be introducing some gorgeous new scents in their range as well as stocking their highly sought after Christmas advent candle.
Igigi General Store
Do you have a favourite interiors shop that your heart skips a beat when you think about visiting it? For me that shop is Igigi although sadly for me (but perhaps fortunately for my bank balance) it is situated 150 miles away from me in Brighton. I am, therefore, incredibly excited to announce that Igigi General Store will be partnering with us on our Christmas event and bringing their distinctive brand of modern rustic homeware to the Occasional Home Store including unveiling their brand new range of Igigi designed furniture and lighting.
Owners Alex and Zoe describe Igigi as an ever evolving hub of creativity where they blend a handpicked selection of contemporary homeware with one of a kind vintage finds. From wooden bowls, baskets and spoons from Morocco to beautifully scented Turkish soaps and handwoven Kilim cushions to Balinese water pots and garments handmade from vintage fabrics.
One of our favourite things about organising the Occasional Home Store is bringing a little bit of brocante to the city by hand picking sellers that help to conjure up a marketplace in the South of France in Manor House. We love seeing how our sellers curate their beautiful finds to create instagrammable scenes in every corner. We have some of our favourites returning from last time round including beetle & WILDE, Hellish Designs (aka my mother-in-law), The King and I, Enamelama, Vintage Curator Interiors, My Nook Shop, Fabulous Vintage Finds, Grow & Gather,All the Fun of the Fair and Early Bird Vintage. But we also have some knockout newcomers: Beulah’s Attic, The Shed at Tenby and Little Wren
I describe myself in my instagram profile as Sarah Lund meets Lovejoy. This is on account of my love of mixing vintage finds with Scandinavian inspired homeware rather than because I have a thick black mullet, penchant for icelandic knitwear and encyclopaedic knowledge of Chippendale furniture. Bringing the Lund to the table at the Spring Occasional Home Store is a stellar line up of independent stores and online businesses including Home of Boho, Nabo Shop, Meylor Stationery, Peastyle, Lisa Valentine Home, Tinker Tailor, Fich Ceramics, Chalk Homeware and Ondine Ash. There is simply not space here to talk about all the amazingness that these brands are going to be bringing to the Occasional Home Store so make sure you are following @occasionalhome where we will be profiling them each individually.
Our festive Occasional Home Store will be the perfect place to get started on your Christmas shopping. In addition to amazing homeware, we have also picked a selection of broader lifestyle stalls for you to shop from in case your beloved is not a fan of cushions and scented candles. So make sure to visit the stands of Woven the Agency, Buddug, Gil Fox Hats, Meylor, Malako Skincare and Your London Florist to fill your stockings with beautiful clothes and accessories, handcrafted jewellery, one of a kind hats and head pieces, stationery, skincare, plants and succculents (Your London Florist will also have gorgeous fresh flowers to take away on the day rather than to save for Santa). And if all that shopping makes you hungry make a beeline for Norah’s Brownies who will be serving up delicious brownies and bronuts and book in for an express manicure with Minicures London to get your nails ready for the Christmas party season for just £10.
Workshops & Talks
The Occasional Home Store is not just a place to shop. We also have a fantastic programme of workshops and talks to inspire you to renovate, decorate and instagram your homes as well as hands on festive craft activities. Set out below are some of the highlights of our two day programme with more details to follow shortly.
Hygge for all Seasons
After our hugely popular Hygge for all Seasons workshops in Cardiff and London last year, I am excited to be joining forces once more with @Hygge_for_Home in association with Join, to bring you another seasonal styling workshop designed to inspire you to create a relaxed rustic home and instagram feed this Christmas.
Join us as we will be share ideas and inspiration for how to style your home the modern rustic way this festive season and then, over coffee and Fika, we will provide you with our five best instagram tips. There will be a live table styling demonstration (what could possibly go wrong), the return of our famous gifting Christmas tree (with some lovely hygge themed prizes) as well as an opportunity to ask us absolutely anything you like about instagram. From filters to followers fire away.
The workshop will run from 10:30am to 12:30pm on Saturday the 17th of November. Tickets will be £40 and include a drink, a Scandi inspired Bronut from Norah's Brownies and a luxury botanical candle from Join London. To book your place click here
We’re delighted to welcome fellow North Londoner Alex Stedman, aka The Frugality, to the Christmas Occasional Home Store! In conversation with Malmo & Moss (me aka the lightweight Jeremy Paxman of the interiors world) Alex will share the inspiration behind her hugely popular fashion-focused blog and instagram account.
Offering practical tips for those keen to follow in her footsteps, Alex will retrace the process of setting up and growing her successful blog, reflect on how her content has evolved with time and discuss how instagram has changed the blogging landscape. And, as anyone following her accounts will know, despite juggling motherhood, social media and her career as a freelance fashion editor Alex has spent the last 3 years (and all her money) renovating her Victorian terraced house in North London. As a result renovation dos and don'ts and the secrets of her interior style will also feature in our talk. Finally we will open to floor to questions – so come along and quiz the Frugality yourself.
The talk will run from 11am - 12pm on Sunday the 18th of November. Tickets are £20 and include a Norah’s Brownie. To book your place click here.
We have even more great talks up our sleeve for you as well, including top tips on how to tackle a successful home renovation or revamp from Rebecca Wakefield, interior designer and owner of Studio Fortum based on her hugely popular blog, Six Things. If you have always dreamed of owning your own business or are a small brand starting out then make sure to come along to our panel discussion with Vicky from Plum & Ashby and Emily from Aerende Store when they will be sharing the story behind building their brands, the lessons they have learnt along the way and five top tips for running a successful business (without having to approach Alan Sugar).
In addition to our programme of talks, we also have a series of hands on practical workshops planned where you can learn to make a festive scented candle with Join London, learn the basics of modern calligraphy and create your own Christmas card with Cherry Rebecca, make unique Furoshiki fabric wrapping paper with upcycling Queen Shed Homeware as well as making festive hoops and learning how to make vintage inspired Christmas decorations using paper craft with the Occasional Home Store team. More details on all of these workshops to follow soon
How to book you ticket to the Occasional Home Store
So if all that has wet your appetite and you would like to come and join us for the Christmas Occasional Home Store here is everything you need to know about visiting.
The Venue: The West Reservoir Centre, Green Lanes, N4 2HA
Getting there: The nearest tube/rail is Manor House on the Piccadilly Line (10 mins walk away) and Finsbury Park on the Piccadilly and Victoria lines and overground (15 minutes walk or 5 minutes on the 106 bus). Bus routes stopping close by include the 341/141/106.
Opening hours and tickets: We will be open 10am - 4pm on Saturday the 17th and Sunday the 18th of November. Single day tickets for either the 17th or 18th will be £5 each. A weekend ticket covering both days is £8. Although some tickets will also be on sale on the day, these will be on a first come first served basis and only those with a pre-purchased ticket will be guaranteed entrance so we would strongly advise booking in advance. CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR TICKET
*Please note that all tickets are non-refundable and tickets to the workshops do not include entrance to the Occasional Home Store which will need to be purchased separately *
Thanks to @tiatalula for the beautiful pictures used throughout this blog. We are thrilled Tia will be coming back to capture our Winter event
*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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
This blog post is sponsored by Out & Out Original who kindly provided me with the sofa set pictured
We started our kitchen renovation in 2012 shortly after the birth of our second child. At times it felt like he would be leaving for University before it was finished on account of the fact that our builder was also doing work for Chris Martin at the time and would frequently disappear at short notice with no explanation. I presume this was because Gwyneth was changing her mind about consciously uncoupling her kitchen fittings or deciding she didn’t have enough space in her ensuite for her vaginal steaming regime but who knows. By the time the project had finished we had run out of motivation and money to tackle the jungle that was the garden so for a couple of years it looked like this
It was home to a trampoline roughly the same size as Jupiter as well as a host of plastic ride on toys all missing a crucial part which meant it looked like we were setting up some sort of Tiny Trike Scrapyard. It was about as relaxing as bedding down for the night in the rainforest surrounded by poisonous tree frogs and Sting singing A Capella in your ear. However last year we finally summoned up the courage and cash to tackle getting it landscaped. We bid farewell to the #TitanofTrampolines and said hello to a nice new lawn, some contemporary raised beds and a lovely sandstone patio area. Through trial, error and frequent trips to the garden centre (it is perennial plants not platform shoes on which I spunk all my cash these days) we even managed to create what I think Alan Titchmarsh would refer to as a successful planting scheme. All of this conspired to mean that the garden is now somewhere we actually want to spend time.
With England finally enjoying temperatures in common with Spain rather than Siberia, I was, therefore, on the lookout for some garden furniture to help me create a stylish seating area. It won’t suppose you to hear that I was on the lookout for something with Scandi good looks. Think white washed wood and pleasingly neutral coloured cushions rather than plastic your bum sticks to and patterns inspired by your nan’s curtains. When I spotted this gorgeous Miami sofa and table from Out & Out Original it was a case of love at first sight
Out & Out Original are a UK-based online furniture store that supply beautiful, functional and importantly ethically sourced designs from across the world. The company was founded in 2013 by my fellow northerner Daniel Fairburn who comes with impeccable Scandi credentials having worked as a furniture designer for a Danish company for over 8 years as well as for homeware heavyweights such as Ikea and Habitat. He has curated a really beautiful collection of minimal, contemporary Nordic inspired pieces for the home and garden all of which are at the affordable end of the homeware spectrum.
The Miami set for example, is £800 which includes a detachable three seater and two seater sofa which you can link together as a corner sofa or use separately. The set also includes lovely low coffee table. Equivalent sets that I was looking at from other companies were easily three times more expensive. The quality of the fabric and materials is also great and it is super easy to construct (although admittedly I was spectator rather than master builder but it certainly didn’t cause any #constructioncussing from Mr Malmo). It also comes with waterproof covers just in case you don’t have a shed big enough to accommodate a sizeable sofa (ours struggles to home a #modestmower).
Since it's arrival we have been doing lots more entertaining in the garden, having family and friends over for lunches and early evening drinks as well as just sitting out here to have coffee whilst being called upon to referee Italy vs France in the World Cup Final (as reimagined by an 8 and 5yr old in a suburban garden and sadly not featuring Thierry Henry).
Cauliflower Caesar Salad, my favourite Summer lunch
I have heard rumours that the sun is coming back and is going to hang around until October so if you would like give your garden a Scandi inspired makeover then enter the code Moss25 at the checkout for a huge 25% off ALL garden furniture (including my Miami sofa) from Out & Out Original from now until the 22nd of September
If you have enjoyed reading this blog I would be super grateful if you would spare 1 minute to vote for me in the upcoming Amara Interior Blog Awards. I have been nominated in the Best Use of Photography category click here to vote
One of the main attractions of our house when we bought it was that it had 4 double bedrooms with the loft already having been converted to create a large master bedroom with ensuite. However whilst that meant we had all the space upstairs we needed, the finish of the loft conversion was about as inspiring as the interior of a portakabin. It had clunky white pvc doors with a metal rail across the outside that lent the room a feel that was one part dentist surgery to two parts lunatic asylum. The previous owners had installed laminate wooden floors in a shade I would describe as satsuma and the ensuite was En Vogue around the same time the girl band of the same name topped the charts. I will leave the story of the bathroom renovation until another day when I have finished the course of therapy I had to embark upon following my dealings with Brian, the right wing misogynist tiler with strong views about my abilities as a housewife and the Enfield cycle lane scheme. For now let's stick with the bedroom. We carried out an initial round of cosmetic changes including painting the floors and walls and wallpapering a corner to use as a dressing table space
After a couple of years we saved up enough to get rid of the #lunaticasylumdentistdoors and replaced them with a big picture window instead which gives us an amazing view out over the garden and makes the loft extension blend (or speak as Kevin McCloud might say) much better with the contemporary style of our kitchen extension.
I also went for a darker paint shade on the walls (Dark Lead from Little Greene) and added a gallery wall to create more of a focal point. The room started to feel a little bit less portakabin but I wanted to make more a feature of the wall behind the bed so I wallpapered it with some faux wood effect wallpaper from Andrew Martin. Whilst it definitely made the room more interesting and looked pretty convincing in photographs I couldn't ignore the nagging feeling that my dad (who I usually don't defer to on decorating decisions on account of his love of #clutteredgothicchic) might be right when he said it looked a bit naff up close.
I also couldn't get this picture from my pinterest out of my head which featured a bed against a wall of reclaimed wood. I loved the texture and warmth it created. However I was pretty sure that my DIY skills didn't extend to cladding an entire wall in wood on the basis that they are yet to encompass changing a light bulb so I got my next door neighbour who is a carpenter to give me a hand. Note to self if you ask your neighbour to nail a ton of old scaffold planks to your bedroom wall he will regard you in much the same as way as if you are asking him to nail Sanitary Pads to the wall. However it was worth enduring #AlwaysUltraWallFace because I absolutely loved the finished result. If you are London based and looking to recreate the look then Forest Recycling Project based in Walthamstow is a great place to source your reclaimed wood. They have a huge stock of scaffold boards all for a reasonable price compared to some I have seen being sold on ebay for the same price as a small convertible car.
The final big change I have made is to upgrade our mattress and bed which, after 10 years and the arrival of three kids had seen a lot of action (although latterly probably less of the kind Mr Malmo would prefer!). The fabric on our old bed had started to fray and the mattress was getting saggier than my spaniel's ears. I had always wanted a button back head board but they can stray into foootballers wives territory (and alas I am not Victoria Beckham). I wanted to find one which was less Rooney and more rustic.
I therefore jumped for joy when I spotted this picture of a Button & Sprung bed in a magazine featuring not only the bed of my dreams and with a wooden wall behind it to boot! Button & Sprung are a predominantly online bed & mattress retailer (although they have a showroom in London) and all of their beds come a right to a free return within 100 days. However there is no chance I will be sending my bed back. The fabric and frame are both brilliant quality and it fits perfectly with my rustic/scandi style. It is the Foxtail in Nickel soft wool but there are a range of other great fabrics to choose from including some lovely linens and velvets in both neutral and brighter colours.
When it came to the mattress I was lucky enough to be approached by Emma Mattress and asked to try out one of their memory foam matresses. I was, I confess, initially quite skeptical when it arrived in a box that looked liked it contained a hole punch rather than a kingsize mattress but after a couple hours out of the box it was ready to roll. If you like your mattresses firm without it feeling like you are sleeping on a concrete slab then this is the baby for you. It genuinely delivers an insanely good night's sleep and having err fully road tested it so to speak, I can confirm it also copes well with activity of a slightly more vigorous nature than sleeping. If you would like to see for yourself (the mattress rather than us road testing it) then you can get £100 off any original or second generation Emma Mattress with the code Malmo100.
With the new bed and mattress in place our duvet and pillows, which had seen Mr Malmo through his student days at Manchester and somehow joined us in marital life, were seriously letting the side down. The duvet was about the same consistency as cold rice pudding and the pillows could easily have been used as sandbags should the Environment Agency require extra flood reinforcement this Winter. Their replacements are from the Secret Linen Store and it now feels like we are sleeping in Angel Delight (in the sense that the duvet and pillows feel gorgeous, light and fluffy rather us emerging covered in pink mousse of a morning). We went for a goose down all season duvet which means it has an extra layer of fluffiness you can clip on when our weather front once more steps back in line with Siberia rather than Spain. Secret Linen Store were also kind enough to gift me some of their bedding to try out.
I went for the pebble linen bedding and dove grey striped undersheet. The linen is just the right kind of no need to iron but still looks amazing slubby and I can really tell the difference in quality compared to budget linen sets I have bought in the past. I am also a sucker for beautiful packaging so I loved how all of the bedding arrived parcelled up.
There are still a few tweaks I am thinking of making to finish the renovation of this room off, including most importantly acquiring either curtains or a blind for that big picture window as am fairly sure my neighbour doesn't want to see #MalmosMuff when he is taking his bins out. But for now I am pretty happy with how it has all come together.
Many thanks to Button & Sprung, Emma Mattress and Secret Linen Store for partnering with me on this project and helping me to transform it from #SuburbanPortaKabinPants to the relaxed rustic bedroom of my dreams.
As regular Malmo & Moss blog readers will recall, when we moved into our house 7 years ago one of our first decorating steps was to paint the previously sanitary pad purple front room Farrow & Ball Wimborne White. However, the white combined with original sash windows that looked great but which were about as energy efficient as a pair of your granny's moth eaten pants, meant that we actually rarely used the room or at least not without our winter coats on. To up the hygge factor and reduce the freezer aisle at Tesco factor we laid a carpet, got shutters and went over to the dark side (on the walls) to create a cosier space that we actually wanted to spend time in without an electric blanket. With those changes complete it ceased to be #SittingRoomSiberia' but there was last change I had been hankering after making: installation of a woodburner.
We had inherited a gas fire when we moved in which, when lit, gave off about as much heat as a mouse's fart and when unlit had fake stones which our toddler was fond of stealing and then throwing around the living room cackling like a contestant at the Highland Games who has drunk too much Iru Bru.
However, just as I had started to throw myself into some serious woodburner research, a slew of headlines hit the Daily Mail which basically suggested that the sole cause of global warming was not cows, energy intensive industries or the rapid growth of the Chinese economy but too many middle class people installing woodburners. It turned out that the Daily Mail story was not actually 100% accurate. In fact it was not even 1% accurate and they had needlessly caused the kind of middle class panic that ensues when Waitress runs low on olive oil or pomegranate molasses. Sadiq Khan had expressed concern about particulate emissions from woodburners in a letter to Michael Gove but not from stoves manufactured in accordance with the latest Ecodesign standards which are designed to destroy a huge amounts of those nasty particulates meaning more of the warmth is emitted to your front room instead of vanishing up the chimney. So when you are choosing a stove just make sure it is one which complies with the Stove Industry Alliance's "Ecodesign Ready" label and you are all good. If you want to read more about it all our installers Stoake Ltd have produced a really handy Q&A.
Having reassured myself that my woodburner would not be plunging the Capital back to the Great Smog of 1952, I got to work on the fun stuff, choosing the tiles and stove of my dreams. My main dilemma was whether to keep the existing marble mantlepiece and go for some statement tiles or replace it with a more rustic looking surround and keep things more au natural in the hearth. In the end Option 1 won out because I just couldn't get these Grey Santona tiles from Bert & May out of my head and I wanted to experiment with having a bit of pattern in the house so it was either getting the tiles or getting Mr Malmo to get a huge chest tattoo of them.
I wasn't quite sure what installing a woodburner actually involved. I had visions of Bert from Mary Poppins scampering around on my roof singing chim chimmney chim chim chicheroo as he dropped a flue line down our chimney pot. Luckily this is where the lovely guys from Stoake Ltd (a local North London business) came in. The first step in the process was for them to come round a do a site visit and they then followed up quickly with a written quote setting out the installation process and how much each stage and the associated materials would cost. They are able to arrange scaffolding for you or you can do that bit yourself. We did it ourselves as it worked out a bit cheaper although that meant dealing with a guy who punctuated his conversation with farts rather than commas *Apologies to any more #SophisticatedScaffolders out there*
With the scaffolding finally up, the process of removing the existing fire surround, capping the gas supply and rendering and tiling the new opening took just 2 days. We decided to keep our existing hearth stone to keep the costs down which also saved time.
2 weeks later, just as the Beast from the East blew in, Nigel and team returned to install the stove itself. By the time I had battled the beast to and from work (which sounds dramatic but in reality just involved me walking to the station in wholly impractical shoes squeaking "gosh it is windy" every now and again) the stove was in.
I chose a Skye stove from Charnwood in a lovely cream colour which is handmade on the Isle of Wight and, in Charnwood's own words is "a new state-of-the-art stove with a remarkably efficient combustion system. It’s innovative burn technology ensures efficiencies of up to 86% and exceeds the new Eco Design standards and Defra exemption limits; allowing wood to be burnt cleanly in smoke control areas". If you have space in your hearth there is also an option to chose a version of the stove which has an integrated log store adding to it's rustic good looks. Charnwood are a family owned British company and can help you to find a trusted local installer in your area.
I am no boy scout (I look terrible in Khaki for starters) so I was a little bit worried that I would struggle with the lighting the fire aspect of having a woodburner. However, the Skye is honestly so easy to use that it renders Ray Mears completely surplus to requirements. You literally just assemble a mini pile of kindling wood around a firelighter, strike a match, shut the door and within seconds you will have a blaze ready to chuck a log on. My biggest challenge now is stopping #chriswaddlecat from blocking out all of the heat by plonking himself in front of the stove whenever it is lit and embarking on an epic clean of his feline nether regions.
As regular readers of the blog will know, we spent our Summer holiday this year in Denmark visiting both Copenhagen and Tisvildleje on the Danish Coast. It was a dream of a trip for a Scandophile like me. I came home more convinced than ever before that I am in fact a Danish Girl trapped in a Geordie Girl's body (Danish girl in the sense of a female from Denmark rather than the Eddie Redmayne man wanting to be a woman film sense). Unfortunately my actual body returned home looking less Helena Christensen and more Danny Devito owing to my excessive consumption of kanelsnegles. Whilst I am waiting for Nationality realignment surgery to become available on the NHS I thought I would share with you some of the fresh Danish interiors inspiration for the kitchen and garden that I picked up on the trip and how I have been translating it into the Malmo & Moss house now I am home.
Let's Go Outside.....
Whilst staying in Tisvildleje we stumbled upon a cafe somebody had set up on their front garden to sell their own home brewed slow drip coffee. The contrast with our own front garden couldn't have been greater. There wasn't a wheelie bin or fox poo in sight. What they had instead, which I fell more than a little bit in love with, was a garden seating area constructed out of palletts. It was totally inexpensive but looked amazing and I loved the seating cushions they had made to fit it which were a mix of muted greys and monochrome and looked great against the backdrop of abundant lavender, mint and rosemary growing in the planters.
I had already seen pallets used in other Scandi gardens on pinterest and loved them so when I got home I started scanning skips in search of some I could use to recreate the look. Luckily @vintagecuratorinteriors came up trumps before I had to go full #StigOfTheSkip. My long term plan for them is to create a coffee table on wheels but it has been a busy Summer and any time I have started the sentence "could you just pop to B&Q to get some castors" Mr Malmo has given me the kind of look that suggests I have got more chance of getting him to go on a crochet blanket making course with out 75 yr old neighbour Margery. But for now I kind of like the way the look just stacked one on top of the other.
I have also added an extra shot of Scandi to my outdoor seating area through the purchase of some new cushions and a rug. All in a mixture of patterns and textures but sticking to a monochrome palette. I sourced some of the cushions from two of my favourite independent stores for Scandi homeware, Grey September Store and Jo & Co Home, but also picked up a cushion and the rug from B&Q who, in amongst the endless drill bits and polyfiller supplies actually have some really great soft furnishings at bargain prices (this is not a sponsored blog either!). The large zig zag cushion was just £7 and the rug a mere £15.
Now that Autumn is upon us, I have also borrowed another trick from the Danes and introduced a shot of hygge to the garden with a gorgeous rusty firepit from Cox & Cox. I did a lot of research before choosing this one #firepitbore. You can easily spend hundreds of pounds but this one is just £80 and is super lightweight and easy to move around the garden. We gave it a debut burn at our tenth wedding anniversary party in October which was themed around recreating a mini version of the Woodstock festival in our garden.
Unfortunately as we are only amateur urban arsonists we did not dry our hastily purchased petrol station logs before chucking them on the fire. Therefore, instead of creating a warm blaze around which people could huddle, drink hot chocolate and chat, we instead had a smoking inferno on our hands that sent people running inside for a drink of water. I have since discovered that you can actually buy smokeless logs from Tesco should anybody else find themselves hosting a middle class party and not have twenty four hours to dry their wood out in advance.
Bringing Scandi to the Kitchen Table
I follow lots of beautiful Scandinavian instagram accounts for inspiration but my all time favourite has to be that of Signe Bay, a photographer and stylist based in Copenhagen. Her feed often features of two of my greatest Danish loves: cinnamon buns and ceramics. Our Summer holiday featured lots of both. I could have piled the car high with pottery but the reality of going away on holiday when you have 3 children is that you have to travel with essentially all of your possessions so slipping a small dinner service into the footwell was sadly not an option.
When we got home I started looking for places I could source some of the beautiful ceramics I had seen on holiday here in the UK. My inner Signe lit up when I came across Feather & Marble, a small independent business set up by Emily & Ollie in 2016 after they too visited Copenhagen and fell under the Danish spell. They now stock over 1000 handpicked items from Danish brands including the beautiful tableware of Broste Copenhagen whose Salt cup and saucer is my new favourite mug and believe me I don't bandy that title around lightly. It takes quite a cup to come along and turn my tea drinking head.
Having secured ceramics fit for a flat lay, I started researching cinnamon bun recipes so I had something #suitablysigne to serve up on my Danish table. I am not, by nature, a patient baker. If a recipe features more than 5 steps I tend to turn over. This BBC Good Food recipe for "simple cinnamon rolls" has, therefore, proved perfect for me. If I had to sum it up in 4 simple steps it would be mix dry and wet ingredients together to make a dough, roll out into a rectangle, smear huge ammounts of melted brown sugar, butter and cinnamon on said rectangle, roll up and cut into segments like a swiss roll, cook for 30 mins then cram into your mouth fresh from the oven. The slightly more detailed version is set out below should you be the kind of person who likes to know actual quantiies of ingredients, cooking times and the like.
I made them on the morning of the Occasional Home Store Autumn Fair for our stallholders and they got hoovered up very quickly. I have had a few mishaps along the way witht them though. For example, if you add more cinnamon to the dough than the recipe dictates because you don't think they will be cinnamony enough all you will achieve is giving your buns an off brown appearance that is reminiscent of a pair of corduroy trosuers your dad might wear in. Leaving them in too long/cooking them at too high a temperature has also caused me problems as then the sugar filling bubbles out and goes black leaving you with buns that look more like lumps of coal than kanalsnegle. But other than those two small glitsches I would say they are pretty much fool proof and I would love to know how you get on with making them.
Simple Cinnamon Buns
350g/12oz self raising flour
Pinch of salt
2tbsp caster sugar
1tsp ground cinnamon
100g/3.5oz butter, melted and extra for greasing
2 egg yolks
200ml/7 fl oz milk, extra for glazing
1 tsp ground cinnamon
55g/2oz brown sugar
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp butter, melted
125g/4.5 oz icing sugar, sifted
2 tbsp cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp butter, softened
about 2 tbsp boiling water
1 tsp vanilla essence
Grease a 20-cm/8-inch round tin and line the bottom with baking parchment.
Mix the flour, salt, caster sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Whisk the butter, egg yolks and milk together and combine the dry ingredients to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a large piece of waxed paper, lightly sprinkled with flour, and roll out to a rectangle 30 x 25cm/12 x 10 inches.
To make the filling mix the ingredients together, spread evenly over the dough and roll up, Swiss-roll style to form a log. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 8 even-sized slices and pack into the prepared tin. Brush gently with extra milk and bake in a preheated oven, 180C/350F, for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before removing from the tin.
Sift icing sugar into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Place the cream cheese and butter in the centre, pour over the water and stir to mix. Add extra boiling water, a few drops at a time, until the frosting coats the back of a spoon. Stir in the vanilla essence, then drizzle the icing over the rolls. Serve warm or cold.
Recipe reproduced from BBC Good Food.
When we moved into the Malmo & Moss house 7 years ago, we inherited a colour scheme with lashings of lilac, the kind of shade favoured by sanitary pad and vaginal wash manufacturers. Once we had the keys one of our first steps was to de Always Ultra the walls. As this was 2010 aka 'The Days before Downpipe' going over to the dark side was more likely to be a reference to accidentally crossing the A10 and ending up in Ponders End than applying inky hues to your walls. So we played it safe and went Wimborne White on the walls in the front room and slipper satin on the floorboards.
Having said sayonara to #SanitaryPadPurple we were intially happy with the newly decorated living room but, after a while, the combination of the white with draughty floorboards and sash windows insulated with cotton wool started to make it feel like quite a cold room. After we had the rear extension done to create a kitchen/family room, we started to notice we were using the front room about as often as any of the 25 different fitness dvd I have ever bought.
Our mission was to find a way to make it warm and cosy whilst retaining the Scandi look I love. The boringly practical first step was getting a carpet. In my twenties I was 100% Team Stripped Floorboard but, as time has gone by, I have realised that in some spaces I like to feel a tread between my toes. Olga at the carpet shop' was desperate to sell us one of those velvet effect carpets favoured by premiership footballers, Russian oligarchs and high end brothels (although obvs have never actually been inside one of those so that is probably a wild sex carpet stereotype) but, much to her chagrin, we went sheep over synthetic and got a loop wool one instead. The next step in upping the warmth was getting rid of the shonky old radiator that was on the wall behind the sofa and replacing it with a vertical one that could actually release heat into the room. This was an easy project if you ignore the fact that it fell off the wall in the middle of the night initially.
We went for a dark grey radiator because the other huge change we decided upon was going over to the dark side with the colour on the walls. By that point in 2016 we were pretty much the only people in North London not to have a downpipe feature wall. But when I brought a sample of it home I just couldn't shake the fact that, in our front room, there was a weird green tinge to it. So we went back to the Farrow & Ball drawing board and ended up going even darker with Railings. Because Mr Malmo and I possess the cutting in skills of a pair of toddlers let loose in a crayola factory we got the pros in to apply the paint whilst we went away for the weekend.
I was nervous about returning home to see the results, as the last time I had gone over to the dark side was age 13 when I went the full De Niro and died my hair black to play a minor member of the Sharks in West side Story. Growing up in the North East with a shade of pale skin that is one shade off albino I was perhaps an unusual choice to play as a Puerto Rican and the black hair merely lent me an air of bus station goth instead of hot blooded latino. Happily this dalliance with the dark side worked out a lot better and we have no #RailingsRegrets. Everything looked just instantly more dramatic and because we have big Edwardian sash windows we get plenty of light in the room so it never feels gloomy. Well I say that but my 10 year old niece does refer to it as Auntie B's black front room so maybe it is a little more batcave than I think it is.
Having bold walls has made me a little bit bolder about what I put on them too. Like this giant wall hanging I fell in love with in the home of @sara_lou_c on instagram (watch out for house tour coming to the blog soon). It seems that I am not the only one to have fallen head over wall hanging heels as Sara has now set up a lovely website selling them called Fern Art & Interiors. Whilst it had been love at first sight for me I was a little bit concerned that Mr Malmo would not experience the same level of lust but it turns out he is more of a modern bohemian than I gave him credit for as it didn't even come close to setting off his "What the f#uck have you bought now alarm". He is also a massive fan of the new, stylish magazine storage solution I was sent by Life Of Riley as we were previously a couple of Living Etcs away from being buried under a magazine mountain.
The other big change we made was to replace our oldest sofa which was purchased in the Designers Guild sale nearly a decade ago but had never really recovered from the 4 month's Mr Malmo's brother spent sleeping on it when he had just finished Uni. Not because he was spilling kebabs and bodily fluids on it (although to be fair he might have been age 21) but because our cat weed on it and his possessions everyday until he finally moved out. It seems that we had some sort of #CatConservative on our hands who had strong views about the young people of today pulling their bootstraps up and going out to work rather than watching repeats of the Brittas Empire on our sofa. Top of my dream sofa shopping list was a dove grey velvet button backed chesterfield until I remembered that we have 3 boys and that owning a velvet sofa was another thing to add to the "maybe in another 15 years time list" along with driving a car that doesn't look like a variety club minibus and going to work without a bad case of #BananaCrotch. Having come to my senses, we compromised on the Dixie sofa from Loaf in a brushed cotton finish and it is such a comfy sofa.
There are still a few more bits and pieces I would like to do to finish the room off. The biggest of which is swapping the gas fire for a woodburner #MiddleGlassLifeGoals. But whilst we save up for that on my more immediate hit list is a new pendant light as I am not sure the chandelier works in here anymore. What do you guys think? Is it too delicate for the Batcave?
My best friend at University was Northern Irish so, in between discovering that if you put Baileys into Sambuca it creates a drink that tastes a lot like vomit suspended in petrol, I heard a lot of tales of Finn McCool and the Giants Causeway. My dad's family are actually all Northern Irish but my Grandma Phoebe was the family Black Sheep so we didn't go back to Belfast when I was growing up. Although that didn't stop me alluding to relatives off the Shankill Road if I was trying to sound a bit gangsta at high school (which wasn't really required that much growing up in a small market town in Northumberland). Whereas at one time Eamon Holmes represented the pinnacle of Northern Irish totty, these days Jamie Dornan has a new generation of ladies rushing to storm Stormont. However, since joining Instagram I have discovered that as well cuddly news presenters and sexy TV pyschopaths, Northern Ireland also has a strong stock of stylish lifestyle bloggers of which my absolute favourite is Emma of @littlewoodlife.
Emma grew up not far from where she lives now with husband Andrew and their three kids although, as Emma points out, nowhere is too far away from anywhere else in Northern Ireland. Where Northern Ireland is definitely far away from if you don't use a plane to get there is London. 13 hours away to be precise. I discovered this 10 years ago after my irrational aviation fear lead me to elect to travel to a wedding in Belfast by a combination of Megabus and ferry. 5 minutes after pulling out of Victoria Coach Station a large Balkan man in the seat behind me whispered through the gap in the seats "You look nice" causing me to spend approximately 12 hrs and 48 mins of the journey wondering whether i would be able to use my doors keys as numchucks should he try and abduct me when we stopped at the services in Stoke-on-Trent.
Having taught in a fairly gritty secondary school for some years before becoming a blogger am fairly sure Emma would have had my Balkan Bus Pervert sorted out in no time. Think Michelle Pfieffer in Dangerous Minds and Mrs McCluskey from Grange Hill all rolled into one feisty Northern Irish package. Sticking teaching out long enough for husband Andrew to qualify as an architect, the Pfieffer McCluskey years also helped the couple get on the property ladder. First with a little semi which was then traded in for a detached house doer uper. Having gained a taste for renovation, Emma and Andrew seized the opportunity to build their own home when a plot of family land came up. I really need to encourage my mum and dad to become more expansive land owners, my dad hasn't even succeeded in securing a coveted council alottment yet because, in his own words, not enough people are dying in their local area.
Although it does not sound like building a house is a walk in the park from Emma's description of a build that took place amid redundancy, sick children, a bout of pneumonia and the death of a rabbit. It sounds a bit like an episode of Grand Designs set in Watership Down! Project managing the build themselves meant forging close relationships with tradesmen working on the job. A little closer than Emma would have liked in the case of Neil the decorator who plastered whilst providing blow by blow updates on the condition of his prostate as well as criticising the work of any and all other tradesmen working on the job (including Andrew). An obssessive aversion to mess meant he did at least dry clean his dust sheets although was arguably in the wrong profession if he didn't like getting his hands dirty
After one update too many on his enlarged prostrate Emma paid him off and employed a decorator with no interest in sharing the details of his down below affairs with her.The end result is, however, a gorgeous, warm and inviting family home which Emma has decorated in a style I am going to coin "Scandi Classic Cotswold Farmhouse Luxe" (trips off the the tongue I think you will agree!). Whites and creams create a great backdrop to show off features that add personality and texture to their home such as the parquet flooring in the hallway that was reclaimed from a newspaper office in Fleet Street ( if that floor could talk!), a stunning exposed Belfast brick wall in the living room and gorgeous old cast iron radiators throughout.
They also have the woodburner of my dreams in their Living Room which is on my house wishlist if I can just stop buying cushions long enough to save up for one. Should M15 ever discover that the key to defeating ISIS lies in smothering them in soft furnishings then I would be the lynchpin of the Cushion Counter Terrorism Strategy. Or maybe i will just have to find a woodburner that can burn both logs and cushions.
Emma's inspiration for the soft, luxe interior comes from reading lots of US based lifestyle blogs with Gal Meets Glam, Barefoot Blonde, Love Taza and Somewhere Slower being particular favourites. If you have ever wondered what it would be like to live in a Pink Clapboard house in Charelston with one of those wraparound verandas then Gal Meets Glam is the blog for you. Be warned, you will come away with serious pastel home and swooshy hair envy.
Although their house is located in the beautiful Northern Irish countryside, it is actually only 20 minutes from Belfast which, over the last 5 years, has benefited from huge amounts of regeneration and is now a buzzy, lively little city with beautiful parks and plenty going on. Those there to Dornan spot (or Eammon spot if you prefer your men chunkier and with greater experience in presenting news items about telepathic dogs) should also take time to visit the University area for quirky coffee shops and brunch stops or the Cathedral quarter for bars and restaurants. Belfast is also home to the Titanic exhibition which was recently voted the number one tourist attraction in the world. I still can't watch the film starring Leonardo de Caprio and Kate Winslet after going to see it with my then boyfriend age 17 who cried through the final third whilst I remained uncharacteristically dry eyed and ended up being offered tissues by a woman in the row in front. Nobody wants another woman to have to mop up their man with Kleenex.
With her parents having been savvy enough to invest in a holiday home in the South of France the Littlewoods often swap County Amagh for the Cote D'Azur, although Lake Como is giving La Croisette a run for it's money after Emma fell in love with it's stunning scenery and laid back vibe last Summer. When in France, favourite places to eat include Angelina in Paris (which, elasticated trousers alert, serves white hot chocolate to die for), or Les Garcons in VilleFrance for delicious dinners in a courtyard surrounded by jasmine. Slightly less French (but right up my fatty treat street) is Emma's favourite bakery back home called Donuts from the Pocket opposite the QUB in Belfast. Having checked out some of their amazing specialities online, I think it would have to be renamed "All the Donuts In my Mouth" if i got within 25 metres of it.
Emma and I share another love beside donuts: Ryan Gosling. Although, Emma would complete her celebrity threesome by inviting Hugh Jackman to join her and Ryan, whereas I would be asking the Gosling to budge up to make room for Lovejoy. Give me a dubious mullet and a penchant for fencing Ming Vases over all those werewolf issues any day. Although Hugh would find himself out in the cold if Emma's other celebrity male crush came rocking into town. Yep, it turns out that having once sold merchandise at his concerts, Emma also has a little soft spot for thigh slapping guitar wielding country music star Garth Brooks. A man with a mullet even Lovejoy could not compete with. On that bombshell I will leave you to go follow Emma's instagram or read her blog for further peeks inside her gorgeous home (and slightly dodgy CD collection).
Shall we really go hard at it in the spare room on Saturday night would, in my twenties, have been an offer to Mr Malmo that included matching lingerie, Marvin Gaye and massage oil. Three kids in he knows that these days it is much more like to involve removing my knickers from the drying rack that is semi permanently erected in there, hearing through the grapevine instructions to rationalise the underbed storage drawers and massaging shampoo into the carpet to try and remove evidence of a #babysudocreamrampage. When we moved into the Malmo & Moss House 7 years ago we started by turning this room into my eldest son's nursery. Because we didn't get the keys until 3 weeks before he was born, my husband had to pretty much carry out that transformation solo, heroically wallpapering up a ladder at 2am. Although, if I am honest, even if i didn't have a 7 pound baby eager to get out of my clunge I would probably have still just stood around decoratively holding a wallpaper brush.
When we knew baby number three was on the way we decided to move the two older boys into what was then bigger spare room with this room, after a lick of Cornforth White (has a more middle class phrase ever been uttered) assuming a new identity as a temporary offshoot of the Big Yellow Storage Company. I am going to spare you a shot of it buried underneath a mound of maternity knickers, tea towels, baby toys, dismantled furniture, tins of paint and coats because you probably have a room like that of your own that you can go into if you want an interiors reality check. When someone was coming to stay all of that crap got temporarily shoved into the wardrobe and it looked ok but it was a bit like the maternity knickers it so often played host to in that it was a bit drab and tired.
After a particularly steamy session in there one Saturday night when Mr Malmo went wild with the nozzle of the hoover (attached to the entrance to a vacumn bag rather than something else I hasten to add) it was enough of a blank canvas to start thinking about how we could add a bit of personality into it. The first step I took was to try and break up the wall behind the bed a bit by stringing up some festoon lights using command hooks. I got my festoon lights from Sainsburys homeware range. I think they were £13 in the sale and they stock them all year round. They are definitely not the same quality as say a set from The White Company (they are about as sturdy as an eggshell) but I think they pretty much do the job.
With that job done I turned my attention to the bedside tables. They were a couple of fairly non descript numbers that we bought for our first flat back when I was a #Living EtcVirgin. They were, brace yourself, originally a shade of pine that I would describe as akin to Dale Winton just back from a week in Marbella. Once I had popped my Living Etc cherry I hastily painted them Pavilion Grey in a bid to Farrow & Ball away the Winton. However, because I am the kind of impatient painter that dips a paintbrush in without a second thought to masking tape, dust sheets or priming I managed to paint the drawers shut. Consequently retrieving anything from the drawers was the kind of challenge they liked to set people on the Crystal Maze when they wanted to watch an accountant in a jumpsuit try and restrain himself from saying the words cunting hell on pre-watershed television.
Having finally jimmied the drawers open using the type of tool favoured by teenager car jackers, and disposed of the contents (which included some aged condoms which if used would almost certainly have led to the birth of our 4th child) the #DuluxWeldedDurexDrawers were taken to the tip. Does anyone else's husband enjoy a trip to the tip almost as much as a blow job? In their place on the left hand side I brought down from our bedroom a dressing table which was the first piece of furniture we ever bought together. Although Mr Malmo has never been a very big fan of it because apparently in his words it has shades of something Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart would have sat at whilst powdering his wig. I think it works really well in the spare room though with the style of our Loaf bed (and am sure Amadeus would have sided with me on this one inbetween whiping up preludes). On the otherside of the bed we reconstructed the desk that used to be downstairs before Project Partition happened (future blogpost coming on that one!).
My attention turned next to a subject in which I could complete a doctorate: cushions. I wanted something which created a bit of texture and drama so when I was on a work trip in Cardiff I thought all my Christmases had come at once when I popped into TK Maxx and spotted two of their divine Mongolian fur cushions in the sale for half price. Unfortunately they are each the size of a small Mountain Yak so the only carrier bag that would contain them was a pink bag for life plastered in pictures of dogs in camp spectacles. I think it is probably the first time the security guard at the Welsh Government Building has had to X-Ray scan soft furnishings for explosives in a bag that looked like something Dame Edna Everidge might take with her to the lauderette. Having wrestled the Yaks all the way home from Cardiff on the train I realised when I got home that they are in fact not the smokey grey I had intially thought they were but had a distinctly greenish tinge to them, a bit like a Yak that had fallen a pond....However I have actually really come to like the colour and it fits really nicely with the rustic wood of the tables and bed.
With the soft furnishings in hand I turned my attention to the bed linen. One of my absolute favourite instagram accounts belongs to @teawithruby who has the most beautiful antique bed and really gorgeous slubby (is that even a word?!) linen bedding in smoky colours. The charcoal linen set I chose from Piglet In Bed fitted the #SlubbySleeping bill perfectly! They do a lovely range of durable low maintenance linen bedding that gets softer and softer with wear and most importantly of all doesn't require me to iron it for it to look good!
It was all coming together nicely but I wanted it to have a bit more of an industrial/boho edge inspired by some of my favourite instagram bedrooms. Although I don't have bare bricks to work with (unless I start tearing chunks of plaster away from the walls which I suspect would be about as popular with Mr Malmo as my cauliflower burgers) I really like the earthy industrial feel they add to Reena of Hygge for Home's bedroom. I decided to add that feel through the use of rustic reclaimed wood instead like the gorgeous bohemian bedroom of Kate Young. A trip to our local salvage yard resulted in us returning with some suitably distressed planks and the owner 22 Stone Tony laughing all the way to the bank as he took our cash for what transpired to be the bench he used to saw up wood on to sell to yuppy renovators.
I also decided to keep all of the artwork black and white to create a crisp, clean impact with prints from Desenio doing the honours. I can't quite decide whether to have some more artwork above the bed and if so whether to go with one big print, a mini gallery wall or a picture shelf with a small selection of different size prints or alternatively whether to go with a bit set of vintage antlers there instead to provide a further nod to the nordic. Would love to know your thoughts. Would it look too busy? We were originally intending to turn our #YuppySalvageHaul into shelves in the alcoves but that would mean the festoons couldn't hang down the sides so I think I have changed my mind about it.
I have added a real olive tree in beside the bed whilst I continue the search for a faux one which doesn't require me to take a bridging loan to afford it. I have recently received a tip off that Ikea may have one so I am hoping that there has not been a middle class stampede to my local branch since this faux foliage rumour started doing the rounds.
On the right hand side of the bed in these pictures are a set of vintage pegs that are displaying a throw and a lovely cage light I got from Of Special Interest. In reality my husband has an infuriating habit of using these pegs as the resting place for a waterproof coat he has which makes him look like a cross between a 1990s indie band member and a bird watcher, sort of Bez meets Bill Oddie. The trunk below them is one of my favourite vintage finds from Newark collectors market, where I also got the old French Railway Station clock which adds some extra monochrome interest.
Completing the industrial touches on the other side of the bed are some old Mars tins which have been outside until recently so picked up quite a bit of rust although I personally think that just adds to their character. I bought them about 5 years ago from a man at Newark who had literally hundreds of them so I am always kicking myself that I only came away with three which was the most I could fit under the pram at the time. I think Bugaboo are really missing gap in the market by not designing a pram with a huge undercarriage for vintiquing mums on the go.
The final touch I added recently after a rock n roll Thursday night trip to Enfield Town B&Q, was this Scandi inspired carpet runner which was a total bargain and neatly disguises where my middle son went rogue with his freshly sudocreamed bottom when 18 months old. Sudocream and wool fibres go about as well together as Theresa May and chocolate brown leather trousers. Oh and am also very happy that we no longer have the 1980s doors that were all over the house when we first moved in which were reminiscent of doors the Corkhills used to slam during arguments on Brookside circa 1988. This beautiful reclaimed one came from 22 Stone Tonys yard aka Stoneage Salvage on the way to Cuffley.
To the left of the bed as you walk in the door are a set of Ikea wardrobes constructed by Mr Malmo to which he added bespoke chipboard doors. They are a very marmite feature of the room with my dad surpisingly numbering amongst their fans despite them being decidely non cluttered gothic, his signature interiors style. They tend to create what I like to describe as the "shit why the hell did they do that face" in most guests. I can't decide whether I want to leave them like that, paint them, or wallpaper them with tin effect paper like the panel hanging on the wall that caught my eye on the Rockett St George website. What do you guys think? Let me know in the comments below whether you are #TeamChipboard or #TeamTin.
I was thrilled when my husband agreed to a last minute holiday to Cornwall this Easter. First and foremost because it is one of my favourite places in the world but secondly because it meant I could sneak in a visit to the home of Lucy Whitehouse on the way down. Her modern Scandi inspired house in Wells is one of my absolute Instagram favourites. New to the blogging game I was hoping to turn up on Lucy’s doorstep rocking a cool, creative and vaguely Parisian vibe. Unfortunately the M4 had other plans and after spending 2 hours in a traffic jam in a car with three small children I turned up instead desperate for the loo and rocking a look that was much more frazzled mum than French ingénue. I also realised when I took off my shoes that in my haste to get out of the house, I had mistakenly pulled on some novelty socks my mum got me for Christmas that had flying pigs all over them. So far so not Juliet Binoche. Luckily Lucy was a lovely as her house so I will stop talking about my bladder and bad socks and introduce you to her gorgeous home instead.
After growing up in Edinburgh, going to University in Newcastle and moving to London as a graduate surveyor, Lucy ended up in Wells after meeting husband Paul at an army ball in Middle Wallop whilst he was both dressed as a woman (it was a Halloween Ball I should point out at this stage.) and wearing the same dress as the friend that Lucy was with that evening. Paul is excitingly a helicopter pilot, the kind of profession that action movies starring Tom Cruise get made about as opposed to banking law (my husband's chosen profession) which is more BBC4 documentary about the collapse of Enron territory.
Their current home was built in the 1930s and used to be a farmhouse to a Dairy but had been badly redeveloped around the Millenium by owners with a penchant for mustard shagpile, peach wallpaper and vertical blinds. Despite being initially put off by a weird layout and 1970s porn movie set decor, a combination of light spacious rooms and a location staggering distance from Well's city centre won the day and Lucy and Paul moved in just days after the birth of their second daughter.
They quickly set to work renovating the place to produce a more family friendly contemporary open plan layout. During this process the name Fred and the date 1887 was discovered etched into one of the walls and, despite raised eyebrows from the builders, Lucy has left it exposed to create a talking point in the downstairs loo. I have to confess i didn't notice it when I burst in there to relieve my traffic jam bladder but that is probably because I was staring in horror at my airbound porcine novelty socks (note to self to ask Hexham branch of Fatface not to admit my mother during the sale as the socks join some cut price fingerless gloves I was also gifted which make me look like an alpine cross between Michael Jackson and Fagin).
Despite the Victorian toilet graffiti, the house otherwise lacked period features so Lucy and Paul decided to embrace this and go for a light, modern Scandi look with white walls, pale floors and lots of light flooding in through the huge bi-fold doors in the kitchen/living space. The doors provide access to a lovely big deck and garden which is perfect for their two daughters Mariella (4) and Beatrice (2) to run around in. Alas for Wells, Lucy has put her student streaking days behind her and whilst at one time she was regularly to be found sprinting starkers down Jesmond High Street after a night on the toon, these days she keeps her Middle Wallop firmly under wraps when out in the garden. Growing up in the North-East I never managed a streak of Jesmond High Street but did nearly catch hypothermia of the fanny wearing an indecently short miniskirt on a night aboard the Tuxedo Princess in December.
Putting a brief flirtation with Shabby Chic behind her (well in the garage to be precise) these days Lucy is firmly a Scandi gal at heart with not a distressed pastel coloured piece of furniture in sight. It is Scandi with a vintage/industrial edge though with e-bay and flea market finds looking right at home alongside the cool, calm nordic colours. Inspired by an episode of Grand Designs that featured a house with climbing walls, secret passage ways and hidden passages ways for the kids, Lucy has tried to incorporate some of those fun touches into her house, with Beatrice getting a secret reading nook in her bedroom and Mariella a secret fairy kingdom under the stairs. Although apparently Lucy's west country builders hadn't caught that episode of Grand Designs because the request for the reading nook met with the kind of reaction I would reserve for someone asking me to nail sanitary pads to their front door. Lucy must have a better #KellyHoppenRestingBitchFace than me because she duly got her reading nook which makes Beatrice's bedroom a brilliantly fun space.
Lucy's favourite places to shop include La Redoute, Maisons du Monde, H&M Home, Rockett St George, Bath & West Flea Market, charity shops, Ikea, Ebay and MonPote Home in Bristol. I think the Scandi gods must like Lucy because she seems to have managed to track down some really great Ikea finds which I swear have never graced the aisles of my Edmonton local. Although that was the store where someone lost their shit trying to bag a £50 leather sofa on opening day and stabbed another customer so maybe they dare not stock the instagram cat nip weaved baskets for fear of a shoot out.
Whilst I was trying to look like Mario Testino (sans the camera skills, close relationship with the Royal Family and Peruvian accent of course) I asked Lucy to tell me a bit about her home city of Wells. Pub quiz fact to be stored away, Wells is in fact England's smallest city but instead of tower blocks and inexplicably complicated one way systems it has a beautiful Cathedral and a Palace with a Moat surrounding it. It was also the backdrop of the film comedy Hot Fuzz. A term which I discovered when researching this piece that you should be very careful about googling unless you are keenly interested in the pubic hair of Brazilian porn stars as well as the cinematic back catalogue of Simon Pegg. As the wife of a huge Hot Fuzz fan (to clarify am talking about the film rather than the Brazilian Porn Star pubes now) I decided to keep this information under my hat so that our brief time in Wells was not spent trying to track down places where Simon Pegg duelled with murderdous village busybodies. If we had been visiting in Summer I much preferred the sound of the openair cinema and theare events staged at the Bishops Palace.
Food wise, Lucy recommended a great sounding industrial style dive bar called Subhouse that has both great atmosphere and great burgers and helps her to feel like there is a little slice of London in her corner of the West Country. I also liked the sound of Da Luciano in Wells which is family owned and includes a welcome from Nonna with your Pizza. It also apparently serves deep-fried dough balls, a dish which would almost certainly cause Deliciously Ella to have a gluten induced meltdown but which sound right up my quinoa averse street.
Further afield Chez Bruce in Wandsworth is one of Lucy's favourites (it used to also feature on my friend's restaurant top 5 until her husband fell sleep mid meal when she was berating him about not putting enough effort into their marriage) and she also loves a pre-dinner martini in Dukes, the Mayfair bar where Ian Fleming allegedly decided James Bond would be a Martini Man. Before children (BC) when Lucy was being romanced by husband Paul, Clos Maggiore in Covent Garden also used to be a firm favourite for French food in a magical setting full of trees and twinkly fairly lights. It is also just around the corner from the Royal Opera House should you, unlike me, be able to sit through one without 2 minutes in wishing it was in English and about 2 hours shorter.
Lucy's bedroom style makes great use of a statement wallpaper and since I visited a new bed has arrived in the spare room so things are looking even more stylish. Her dream holiday destinations when she can tear herself away from these lovely rooms include Cape Cod, Malyasia and Singapore with the Andaman on the Island of Langkawi being Lucy's absolute favourite hotel. Having googled it I think it could become my favourite hotel too if I can just persuade Mr Malmo that a long haul flight with 3 young children would be an enjoyable experience instead of right up there with pulling his pubic hair out with tweezers as something he would like to do.
Having popped my house tour cherry with the very lovely Lucy I said goodbye and went off to find the boys, wondering if I could get away with reprogramming the SatNav to detour past Bristol Ikea on the way to Bodmin without Mr Malmo noticing.
When I was trying to decide which of my neighbours to feature as a house tour on my blog, my first thought was obviously George, the octogenarian jehovah's witness from number 11 who still has an outside toilet, net curtains and, collected in his backyard, everything made of wood or cardboard that we have left out for recycling over the last 7 years. Unfortunately George was busy taking his beloved K reg Vauxhall Vectra out for it's annual spin around the block so I was forced to go with Tania and Andrew's place instead, starting with their gorgeous, sultry Abigail Ahern inspired sitting room.Read More
When I was growing up I used to want to be a vet. This was despite the fact that bovine animals kind of freak me out and so having to put my hand up their anus would probably cause me to have the kind of panic attack that Lawrence Lywellyn Bowen would suffer if you asked him to decorate a room without using any flocked fabric. With that dream dead in the water I moved on to environmental law where ironically my first case involved defending a rogue meat renderer (aka the people who turn dead cows into dog food/soap/cleaning products). My real (bovine free) dream is, however, to open my own interiors shop selling Scandi/Vintage items against a backdrop of soothing whites and greys somewhere by the sea (not Skegness just to clarify). Bar the absence of ocean, Belinda Fulton’s shop Of Special Interest in Crouch End, London, pretty much sums up my dream. Belinda agreeing to let me come and look round her house for my blog was, therefore, on a par with Ryan Gosling turning up on my doorstep and offering to give me a naked footrub (to clarify he would be the naked one in that scenario as not sure I would be able to enjoy said footrub if I was worrying what Ryan might be thinking of my overgrown lady garden and mum tum).
Since discovering OFSI 5 years ago, I think I have spent, on average, about 33% of my monthly salary in there. When on maternity leave, I seriously considered asking Belinda to erect an electric fence around the entrance to prevent me from frittering my meagre statutory maternity pay away on candle holders and gloriously realistic yet still reasonably priced faux foliage instead of nappies and baby wipes.
Belinda started off life in Malpas in Cheshire but has been a city dweller ever since leaving home at 18. She is, like me, more of a gastro pub and café than fields and sheep kind of lady. I start to get sweaty when I am more than 5 miles away from a café with a filament bulb, bare brick wall and flat white (I don’t actually drink them, I just like to know I am somewhere urban enough to serve them). After studying textile design at Leicester (whilst secretly really wanting to do Fine Art), Belinda moved to North London with her then husband buying a flat and opening the shop together. It started off life as a junk shop selling a mix of auction house finds and their own possessions. If I had sold my possesions age 24 it would essentially have been a shop full of Ikea crockery, posters of Kurt Cobain and Bob Marley (RIP Kurt and Bob) and a CD collection that lent heavily upon the work of 90s Indie Bands. Despite divorcing they still run the business together today, a fact I marvel at. Running a business with my significant ex boyfriend would almost certainly have ended in me wanting to run over him in a tractor (as it was he was lucky to escape with my best friend just using his tooth brush to clean the toilet when we parted ways). Though, to be fair, it sounds as though Belinda has been tempted to reach for the tractor keys herself a few times over the years.
These days she is happily married to husband Lewis (who, along with daughter Mack (18) she describes as the love of her life). She spotted him in a bar over twenty years ago and plucked up the courage to ask him out, figuring she would be unlikely to be returning to that bar again so had nothing to lose. Luckily he said yes and turned out not only to be a great cook but also a builder too. He has carried out pretty much all of the renovation work on their house himself and is currently in the process of building them a studio in the garden. Am thinking that I need to persuade Mr Malmo to swap professions if I want to progress my own Grand Design dreams. Working in banking law he could whip me up a great loan finance agreement if I wanted to buy a shopping centre in Grimsby but a studio in the garden not so much.
Belinda was living in a one bedroom flat in Tottenham at the time and managed to persuade Hampstead boy Lewis to leave the Heath behind and come and join her. When Lewis was away on a work trip to Greece, a pregnant Belinda spotted their current house and loved the garden so much she put in an offer that day. She therefore met Lewis from the station slightly nervous about telling him that a) she had bought them a house and b) that said house was opposite the slightly notorious Broadwater Farm estate. Luckily he took the news well and they have never looked back, loving living sandwiched between two beautiful parks and surrounded by warm, friendly people from all walks of life. In fact I am wondering if I can borrow Belinda’s West Indian neighbour Hyacyinth who brings her a bottle of wine if she has had a bad day (unlike my octogenarian Jeovah’s witness neighbour George, who is more likely to pop round with a copy of the Watchtower and tell me that the world is about to end).
Like all good wives skilled in the art of “Renovation Deception”, Belinda promised Lewis when he viewed the house that they would wait until after the baby was born and they had lived in the house a while before embarking upon any major renovation work. Needless to say Belinda was still pregnant when she set started removing doors and demolishing a polysterene mock brick fireplace. Over time a loft extension was added which is now Mack’s domain and, when Lewis finishes the garden studio, Belinda is looking forward to having somewhere to paint again.
What I loved so much about Belinda’s house is that whilst it is ridiculously stylish it is also most definitely a family home, with the stunning gallery walls that line the stairs mainly featuring daughter Mack’s artwork from age 3 onwards (Mack seems to be far handier in the art department than me though, a gallery wall featuring my early and, if I am honest, current artwork, might look like Morph had been let loose with a crayon after one too many Barcardi Breezers). Throughout the house there is a great sense of light and space as doors have been removed so that as you step into the hallway you can see straight through to the garden beyond and clever tricks like a glass panel on the stairs keep the light flowing through the rest of the house.
Although Belinda can never see them leaving Tottenham, if they were to move it would be down to their little place in St Ives (insert link) which they head to whenever it is not rented out or perhaps to a warehouse in the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham with it’s vibrant mix of old buildings and beautiful metal cladded armadillo type modern architecture. I feel like I should give Birmingham another chance as Belinda is not the only person to sing its praises to me. I just have terrible memories of the environmental consultants conference I was forced to attend there 5 years ago where, inbetween talks about the latest developments in contaminated land identification (pointers it smells bad and your hair stands on end when you step on it) I was forced to watch two balding middle aged men called Colin and Andrew put on a medieval jousting display. 3 hours of my life I will never get back and the image of paunch straining to escape chainmail is still seared on to my retina.
Over the years Of Special Interest Interiors has grown from a junk shop into the interiors gem it is today, taking over two neighbouring shops as their owners moved on and then the annex behind when it came up to rent. Lewis has also joined the business, taking on many roles, including, on occasion that of Judge Judy if the Of Special Interest Exes are locking horns. In the shop, Belinda is inspired by the Dutch look of muted colours mixed with gorgeous natural textures but I love the fact that nothing is too regimented and it is very much not the kind of shop where entering with a buggy causes the owner to pull a face at you like they have just accidentally chewed a 3 year old piece of bubble gum.
As a fan of concept stores that mix interiors with fashion, gardening and other lifestyle products such as Daylesford Organic, Belinda would love, if she had the space, to be able to offer something similar in Of Special Interest Interiors (although without the hefty price tags found at Daylesford along with hordes of chauffeur driven Range Rovers and women called Clarissa Fortesque-Bowles-De Montfort-Hedges). Having fallen in love with some gorgeous Spanish jewellery at a recent Trade Show, Belinda may yet dip a toe into Daylesford waters or, alternatively, if it doesn’t sell, be turning up at work like Crouch End’s answer to Mr T (if Mr T favoured delicate Catalan crafted jewellery in muted colours). When she is not in the shop, Belinda loves both Instagram and Pinterest and enjoys following both interiors and artists accounts. Favourites include Cornish Artists like Kurt Jackson and Gareth Edwards, the interiors photographer Paul Massey (whose holiday home in Mousehole I have a stonking insta crush on), Hans Blomquist and Sally Denning (whose other account Black Shorestyle is also one of my all time favourites).
Local places Belinda likes to eat out include the Banc Café in Downhills Park minutes from their house. Our kids love this park as it has a mini roadway for scooters and bikes that they can zip around whilst you tuck into Union Coffee, big breakfasts and roast lunches. Although Belinda is a veggie (having grown up as the daughter of a butcher and being put off meat by early encounters with offal and other dubious offcuts) if Lewis is missing meat they go to The Westbury in Turnpike Lane or The Maynard in Crouch End, both of which do great burgers. Down in St Ives favourites include it’s Porthmeor Beach Cafe,The Alba and Porthminster Kitchen.
As well as letting me look round her amazing home, I must also take this opportunity to thank Belinda for having introduced me to the wonders of Primark pleather leggings. I spotted her wearing some on a previous visit to her shop and was delighted to discover they were £6 from Wood Green Primarni rather than £600 from Armani. Their ability to make me feel a little bit like Chrissie Hynde whilst also being wipe clean have made them a “Rock Mum” wardrobe staple (even if my husband never fails to ask if my legs have been abducted by Doreen from Birds of a Feather when I wear them).
Whilst it may yet be a few years before I am Open All Hours (as a shopkeeper that is) drinking tea and chatting with Belinda in her lovely garden has helped keep my dream alive. I now just need to convince Richard Branson instead of spending billions trying to fly Clarissa Fortesque-Bowles-De Montfort-Hedges and pals into space he should, instead, be investing his cash in my coastal modern rustic interiors empire. Failing that, maybe the shop will have to be in Skegness rather than Salcombe.