a way of life...

Year: 2017 (Page 1 of 4)


Inspired by an article published on the Neptune website I decided to embark on a wholly new form of Christmas decoration this year; pinwheels.

Having restyled our sitting room in time for Christmas I took the opportunity to evolve a whole new style of festive festoons.

To make your own pinwheels take a sheet of normal A4 or A3 paper to practice on.

Draw a straight line to mark the first fold; 3/4″ from the end for A4 and 1″ for A3. 

Ensure the first fold is as accurate as possible as this will be the template for the remaining folds.

Press all the folds together and repeat this on two pieces of paper for each pinwheel.

Fold in half length ways to mark the middle of each concertina.

Using double-sided tape stick the two halves together and, using fine sewing thread, secure the mid-points.

If a patterned pinwheel is required carefully snip triangles through all of the folds.

Again, using double-sided tape stick the two folded halves together so they join and form a fan.Repeat with the mirror image so that both halves have opened out into fans which in turn form a circle.

Punch a hole in one of the folds and thread through a length of Baker’s twine for hanging.

Arrange with a choice of paper of chains, baubles, or foliage to make a display of your choice.

Whereas I chose to hang my finished arrangement above a mantlepiece it would look equally successful above a dining table.

The Winter Brocante 2017

As I left the house on Friday morning to attend the Winter Brocante at Cowdray House in West Sussex I suddenly realised that winter was upon us. It was a beautiful, bright, crisp morning, with a real chill in the air.

My good friend offered to drive us to the event as she knows the area well from when her son, as a young teenager, played polo at Cowdray Park. Settling into the comfort of her warm car, the imposing wrought iron gates opened majestically to allow our exit from the security of her swish country abode and onto the open road. We swept down past the abbey ruins and traversed the water meadows, only slowing down to negotiate the hump back bridge which allowed safe passage across the sunlit water.

We quickly arrived at the A road which bypasses Guildford and quickly allowed us to drop down onto the A286. We passed village greens, country pubs, and quaint villages, which seemed to come one after the other as we headed further south.

Leaving the village of Fernhurst behind us the road opened out and we were suddenly sweeping down through forests of golden leafed trees. Within moments we arrived on the outskirts of Midhurst and picked up signs directing us to the Winter Brocante which was set in the grounds of the grand house.

Once we had entered the grounds we were expertly directed to a parking spot on the grassy slopes along with a host of smart cars all of which had brought their passengers to this delightful home, set in the midst of the Sussex countryside.

Tents nestled into the hillside

As we stepped from our vehicle we could see (what I am reliably told) were the South Downs in the distance. Nestled immediately below the “car park” was a huge white tent which, for two days, was home to over one hundred carefully selected exhibitors.

On arrival at the entrance to the fair we were presented with wrist bands so that we were able to come and go as we wished. I found this immediately reassuring knowing that we could load the car as we felt the need, or even nip off to the Cowdray Park Farm Shop for some well deserved refreshments before embarking on more browsing.

The three antique bears by Cachepot

The first tent we entered was mostly home to antique and bric and brac stalls. Occasionally we would stumble across a gem of a stall selling the most contemporary tree decorations. One in particular had a selection of wooden whippets and sausage dogs painted in beautiful seasonal colours. Irresistible to my friend!

Handmade Bunting

Handmade crafts were on display throughout the three tents. Everything from this lovely bunting, to handmade fresh flower garlands, to original works of art.

Nancy Meiland perfumes

Nancy Meiland Parfums’ stall stood out as super sophisticated. Having explored her website since our visit I have learnt that you can have your own signature scent created which really appeals to me.

Decorative glassware

These coloured glasses reminded me of some that my mum has in her china cabinet. A must for a winter tipple.

Baubles & figs

Glass jars full of faux figs and delicate glass baubles caught my eye as well.

Pheasant feathers

I particularly liked this combination of terracotta, glass and feathers. I think winter is a great season to bring texture into the house and these simple items add warmth to an interior scheme.


These hydrangea wreaths were stunning and add another dimension to using fresh flowers to decorate your home.

I was very lucky with the hydrangeas in my garden this year and cut many blooms for the house. I had ambitions to dry some for the winter but unfortunately the frosts brought them to an abrupt end.

Helen McNiven’s rag and twig angel

Leaving the fair as the sun was low in the sky we bumped into Peter McNiven. His wife Helen makes the most gorgeous Christmas angels and sells them each year to raise money for charity. This year’s “Have A Heart” Christmas Sale is on Sunday 10th December at Old Farm Barn, Cranleigh, GU6 8LE.

Shabbism; the latest trend?

Not naturally shabby

I recently read an article in the Sunday Telegraph about “shabbism”. Champions of this interior “style”, husband and wife, Emlyn Rees and Josie Lloyd, have collaborated on a book entitled Shabby: The Jolly Good British Guide to Stress-free Living.

Despite my keenness to present a home that is at all times presentable this article really struck a chord and, I am sure, will hit a common note with a lot of busy people.

My understanding of the philosophy underpinning shabbism is the ability to feel at ease in one’s home especially if you share it with children and pets!

Living with pets….

I’m not sure if this is a style that has been highly publicised or aspired to in the media. It’s certainly not one that I have seen strewn across the centrefolds of glossy magazines. Nonetheless, I imagine there is part of all of us that want a home that is welcoming to visitors whenever they knock on the door. Not a home that we are embarrassed by because there are shoes kicked off in the hall or unpacked boxes in the kitchen.

There has been a lot of press about pared-back, curated, and edited interiors, and although it has it’s place, shabbism flies in the face of neat and tidy. In essence, it is warm, friendly, and lived in. It is not a show-house but a home that accommodates a family and all that goes with it.

A place for everything

Personally, I would like to think that there is a half-way house and to achieve a sense of orderly homeliness I tend to abide by a phrase that I learnt a long time ago. “A place for everything and everything in its place”. I’m not sure if this is because I am a Gemini or that I have a touch of OCD. Most likely it is because my parents were very neat and tidy and that has rubbed off on me.

I believe good storage is the key to this particular philosophy and once you have that it is much easier to keep a house tidy. I also believe that a regular review of one’s possessions is the key to a relaxed way of life. Again, this is hard when you’re fully employed during the day, but setting time aside to declutter every now and again is time well spent.

Beautifully curated

Shabbism does not embrace electronic storage devices but relishes having a collection of books, records, video tapes, photographs, magazines and newspapers on display. I agree that these items bring personality to a home but would prefer to edit these down to my most cherished items rather than keep those that are no longer significant.

On that note I am going to take a collection of clothes, books, and discarded toys to my local charity shop.

Shabby: The Jolly Good British Guide to Stress-free Living.

Behind Closed Doors

Is your front door a reflection of the interior beyond? Is it an integral part of the “interior design”?

Front doors come in so many different styles, colours, shapes and materials it is sometimes difficult not to wonder what lies behind those closed doors.

This colourful blue door left ajar gives a clear view of the vestibule beyond which is home to this patterned wall mural. Decorated with seashells and pebbles it is clearly a home that embraces its seaside location on the east coast of Scotland.

Scottish seaside

This door is the entrance to a stunning country cottage set in a Surrey street amidst 20th century homes.  The perfectly manicured borders, filled with red salvias, immediately lead you towards the contrasting black and white door which peeks out from behind the wisteria and roses.

Surrey cottage

This smart pair of doors look very grand against the cobbled street. A passing glance gives the impression of two identical doorways. It is only when looking at the numbers on the doors that this entrance becomes quite mysterious.

Seeing double

I have had been led to believe that number 137 was once a butcher’s shop. There didn’t appear to be any evidence to support this tale until I looked at the wreath attached to the front door. On closer inspection it appears to be constructed of a mixture of feathers and fur.

Feather and fur

This Halliford town house, set back from the road, can only be viewed from afar. The enchanting set of steps lead up to the blue-grey door which has this delightful “spider web” window which is mirrored in the half-moon window above.

Spider’s web window

This open door, with plants spilling down the steps and onto the courtyard outside, is clearly an invitation to step inside. Who could resist entering this enticing florists and buying some freshly cut blooms?

First floor

With its mediterranean blue sky, and and tropical planting flanking the front entrance, it would be easy to believe that this vineyard is in the Champagne region. It is indeed home to a fabulous sparkling wine, not in the north-east of France, but here, in the south of England!

Perfectly framed

Hidden away in the village of Petworth this secret garden appears to be watered from the sturdy iron tap seen here in the foreground of the photograph. The unpretentious door is the perfect backdrop for the abundance of patio container planting.

Secret hideaway

With Christmas just around the corner many of us will be looking to decorate our homes for the festive season. This is another opportunity to express our sense of style and to brighten our front doors with a hand-tied wreath or perhaps something a little less traditional.

Traditional Christmas wreath

What could be nicer at this time of year than to wish your visitors “joy” the moment they approach your home. This less than traditional decoration suits this modern front door perfectly and is a real style statement.


Last, but not least, I couldn’t resist sharing this photograph of the front door to the Bay Tree Bakery. When both door leaves are open wide there is absolutely no mistaking what you will find behind these closed doors!

Says it all

International Wallpaper Week

As International Wallpaper Week draws to a close this weekend I thought I would share some of my favourite designs and applications with you.

Innovative fabric company bluebellgray launched their first wallpaper collection at Decorex 2016. This oversized floral design provided a stunning backdrop for their exhibition stand.

Kippen Mural wallpaper by bluebellgray at Decorex 2016

Also on display was a colourful collection by Dutch design house Ottoline. Modern pop art imagery adorned the walls and furniture at this popular venue.

ottoline wallpaper and fabric

The café walls showcased more digitally printed designs by bluebellgray.

bluebellgray wallpaper adorning the walls of the café

bluebellgray’s first wallpaper collection

Whilst colourful floral prints add pizzazz to an interior sometimes a more pared back look is preferred. In this instance look no further than Farrow & Ball who have a vast collection of block printed patterns that work seamlessly with their range of richly pigmented paints.

Farrow & Ball neutral groups

Heal’s room divider

Wallpaper has many applications. Conventionally it might have been used to decorate a whole room whereas a more contemporary approach might be to apply it to a statement wall, to a room divider, or to a piece of furniture.

Using more than one design can often work well as can be seen here with these patterns from Cole & Son Cabaret collection.

Cole & Son Cabaret wallpaper

This Orla Kiely retro print paper provides the perfect backdrop for this hand painted dresser. The up-lighters emphasises the citrus tones.


Laura Ashley is a brand well known for it’s collection of coordinating interior furnishings and finishes.

summer palace cranberry

These mood  boards were created for a client who had a rich red statement wall that she wished to incorporate into an updated scheme. Florals and stripes are a particularly successful combination.


geranium pale cranberry

Another of my favourite wallpaper designs is The Dresser by artist Emma Bridgewater for Sanderson. I love the cheery characters, duck egg blue background, and the collection of Emma Bridgewater china placed carefully on each shelf.

Sanderson wallpaper

I hope you have enjoyed my contribution to celebrating International Wallpaper Week and that it has provided some inspiration.

The Country Brocante Store

Earlier in the year I was invited to the Country Brocante Fair at the Cowdray Estate but unfortunately due to a prior commitment I was unable to attend. To make up for this missed opportunity I wrote a note to self to visit The Country Brocante Store in Midhurst, West Sussex.

The Country Brocante Store, Midhurst

As summer has drawn to a close I found myself not far from Midhurst and decided to make a small detour to the store. I was not disappointed as it housed a lovely mixture of antique and vintage pieces, lots of pretty textiles and an abundance of decorative arts. 

The store, which opened in April 2016, gives small businesses a permanent and affordable home on the high street.

Whilst browsing I discovered that the next Country Brocante Fair will be held at Daylesford Organic Farm in Gloucestershire on Saturday, September 23rd from 9.30am.

This is one in a series of five fairs that are held across the UK throughout the year. These include the Big Summer and Winter Shows held over two days, which are hosted in prestigious venues such as Petworth Park, the Cowdray Estate and Daylesford Organic Farm.

I have now made a note in my diary to attend the Big Winter Fair which is being held at Cowdray Park on Friday 24th to Saturday 25th November. I am sure this will be the perfect place to purchase some truly unique and exquisite Christmas gifts.

For more details and to purchase tickets visit: https://www.thecountrybrocante.co.uk/the-big-winter-brocante


Wisley Flower Show 2017

Wisley’s late Summer Flower Show ran from the 4th – 9th September. For me this was perfect timing as I had booked some annual leave and was able to attend the show with my mum. Herself a lifelong keen gardener, she inspired my sister and I to take an interest in gardening from a very early age.

Late summer flower power

I have very fond memories of the Dahlias and Stocks that filled the borders in the south facing rear garden in late Summer, and the meticulously pruned standard roses at the front of the house.

To this day I love to grow a selection of Dahlias for cutting and bringing them indoors to provide colourful and seasonal displays.


Anyone who follows my musings will know that another of my favourite plants is the Allium. So easy to grow, and so many varieties to choose from, these ornamental blooms add colour and character to borders in the Spring and early Summer.

Red Mohican Allium

I was delighted to find this Red Mohican Allium at the Wisley Flower Show as it is not a variety that I was previously familiar with. I have already earmarked a border where, once planted, I will be able to view it from the kitchen window as Winter gives way to the warmer Spring weather.


For those people who would prefer to relax in the garden I discovered this incredible range of Scandinavian Redwood furniture manufactured by Pepe in Evesham, on the edge of the Cotswolds.

This is not the run of the mill furniture that you would find at your local garden centre as it is only sold at shows like the Wisley Flower Show or direct from the manufacturer. Each piece is designed and built to achieve maximum lumbar support, so not only does it look incredibly stylish, but it is extremely comfortable too.

Pepe Garden Furniture

Saving the best to last I couldn’t resist enhancing the colour in this photograph of these Agapathus to really make the blues and pinks “pop” out from the page. This display by RHS Chatsworth, 2017 Master Grower, was my absolute favourite. The colourful blooms, set on pebbles, in front of the blue and white shed provided a real seaside feel.

Awesome agapanthus

With that thought in mind, we left the show for the return journey to the south coast where my mum resides. All in all, with the assistance of the Wisley team providing easy parking and transportation for those with mobility issues, we had a fabulous day out and will certainly look at returning next year.


Cowdray – Wow day!

Cowdray, famous for its polo, has so much more to offer. A recent visit to the Heritage site in West Sussex was an amazing experience so much so that I would describe it as a total wow day!

Our first port of call was to the ruins of the tudor manor which was mostly destroyed by fire in 1793. Untouched until the early 20th century many original features remain intact and provide an astonishing insight into tudor architecture.

The mansion was reopened to the public in 2007 with the help of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant and can now be visited during the summer months on Thursdays, Fridays, Weekends and Bank Holidays.

Unfortunately, the tea shop was not open to the public as a wedding was taking place in the grounds. This turned out to be to our advantage as we were directed, via a short drive, to the Cowdray Farm Shop Café.

Here we sat on the terrace in the late summer sunshine and enjoyed freshly made carrot cake, sausage rolls and pork pies, washed down with a refreshing cup of tea.

Had we arrived a little earlier in the day we might have chosen to eat lunch inside the café. The extensive menu serves freshly made meals using locally sourced produce. It has recently been awarded a silver rating in the West Sussex ‘Eat Out Eat Well’ initiative.

Cowdray plants

Never one to miss a shopping opportunity I wandered into the Farm Shop itself. Here we were able to buy  sweet and savoury treats from the deli counter to take home with us, and at the butcher’s counter, where we were spoilt for choice, we settled on some venison sausages and teriyaki duck breasts.

As well as selling a vast range of comestibles the shop also boasted a gift area which was stocked with a colourful range of kitchenware, greetings cards and miscellaneous garden items.

Surprisingly, I actually started my Christmas shopping. Obviously, I can’t let on what I bought as it has to remain a surprise for a few months yet! I can however let on that I bought this unusual plant for myself which I will keep as a reminder of my visit to the Cowdray Estate.

Retail Therapy – greetings cards from The Country Brocante Store, Midhurst

Leaving the confines of the park we headed out on the A272 towards Petworth. This turned out to be a fabulous road through open countryside which soon took us to our next destination. Famous for its antique shops we spent a pleasant hour or so wandering around the streets popping in and out of the various emporiums.

Antiques in Petworth

Before stopping for an end of afternoon refreshment I wandered into The Hungry Guest delicatessen which was like a Tardis. Windows decorated with ferns, flamingoes, and fresh produce ran the whole length of the shop. Once inside there was a cheese shop, a wine shop, and even somewhere to sit and have a cup of coffee!

Once again, my eagle eye spotted the perfect Christmas present and another small purchase was made.

The Hungry Guest, Petworth

Our last stop was this charming tea shop where we managed to scrounge a quick cuppa just before closing time.

Time for a cuppa

Utterly sated we jumped in our little red sports car and drove home via the Surrey Hills. Wow!

Nearly home


Summer Food & Craft Market

On Monday 28th August, Bourne Valley garden centre will be holding its annual Summer Food & Craft Market.

Flushed with success after their recent outing to the Albury Produce Fair, The Edit by Langdon Hyde Design will be in attendance at the Bourne Valley show.

Bourne Valley Craft Market flyer

Exhibiting and selling a range of lovingly hand-crafted items the stall will be situated in the craft marquee from 11am until closing time at 4pm.


Bank Holiday Monday at Bourne Valley is an event open to the whole family. Aside from the craft marquee there will be lots of local food stalls, a falconry display, and Brooklands radio broadcasting live.


For more information visit www.bournevalleygardencentre.co.uk

Soho Home at Liberty London

My Discovery Trail blog of March 19 made reference to Soho Home, the interiors offshoot of Soho House. Reading the August edition of House & Garden magazine I note with interest that Soho Home have now opened their first retail space at Liberty London.

Soho Home

The information page on Liberty’s website reads “Soho Home, the interiors collection from Soho House, has arrived at Liberty on 4. With a curated collection of furniture, tableware, textiles and accessories, inspired by or used in the Houses worldwide, our latest destination space on 4 allows you to add touches of Soho House polish to your interior, with an emphasis on quality, design and attention to detail.”

To read more go to www.libertylondon.com

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