a way of life...

Month: January 2018

By Invitation

I had hoped to be writing a stunning account of the “by invitation” Neptune Warehouse Sale that I took time out to attend yesterday. Sadly, this isn’t going to be the case as, having arrived at the appointed time, the car park was full to overflowing and the queue for the event already stretched out beyond the warehouse gates.

Optimistic queue

My only optimism was that the queue did appear to be moving so my partner and I decided to join the already chilly masses. After fifteen minutes of remaining static we decided that one of us should go back to the car as it was parked on double yellow lines, and one of us remain in the queue to preserve our place. We both checked that we had a phone signal and agreed that we would update one another electronically as the queue progressed towards the building.

Within moments the queue surged forward and I quickly sent a text to that effect. Dutifully my partner returned and stood by my side as we came to a rapid standstill! He left – and returned to the car.

I made small talk with the other people in the queue. How had I heard about the event? Was it the first time I had been? Had I travelled far? It would seem that although the event was not publiscised on the Neptune website it was not the exclusive event that we had imagined.

Our hopes lifted as people started to appear leaving the warehouse laden with bargains. They quickly loaded their cars and drove away, leaving one or two parking spaces in the now very crowded car park. I sent a message – “there’s a space now – bring the car round”. The response came back “they’re stopping all the cars from entering – it’s manic out here”.

Another surge in the crowd, and suddenly I’m through the gates and almost entering the marquee which was obviously erected, to provide shelter, for the attendees. I sent a message “we’re on the move – come now”. This time, my now very bored partner, arrived with provisions – Kit Kats and water – and joined me in the queue. Not long now, I thought.

Forming an orderly queue inside the tent

Once inside the tent it became apparent that there was no comfy seating, hot drinks, or friendly welcome, just several aisles ensuring that everybody remained in an orderly line. A smartly dressed Neptune employee did arrive with an armful of brochures, I presume for anyone who needed to be reminded why they were stood in a queue on a cold January day looking at the backs of several hundred people who all thought they were there by “invitation”.

My spirits lifted as the queue moved forward quite quickly and we were now only about numbers 101 and 102. We circumnavigated a basket of “treats” that had been thoughtfully provided, but I passed on these as I had been lucky enough to have an even more thoughtful partner who provided the much needed chocolate fix.

Sweet ‘n’ treats

We continued to wait patiently – surely it would be our turn soon. Another surge – no, just a small handful of people are let out of the holding area and into the warehouse. We seemed so close, yet so far. My feet are starting to get cold, and those around me without coats are beginning to shiver. The clouds are gathering in more ways than one.

After two hours of queuing realisation is beginning to hit. Is there going to be anything left by the time we are admitted to the revered warehouse? Is the queue to pay for any purchases going to take as long as the time it has taken to get in?

At last, we start to move again. We are the very last ones that they allow through on this particular turn and we hurriedly make our way up the steps before they have a chance to turn us away.

On entering, we are greeted by the sight of a very normal warehouse. Floor to ceiling racking full of large brown boxes, each concealing their contents, but being tended by hi-vis clad staff. Another member of staff in a pink hi-vis jacket informs us that if there is anything in the way of furniture that takes our fancy we should ask for the help from one of the “pink” assistants.

We look around. The floor space in front of the racking is sparsely populated with around a dozen similar sofas, a handful of dining tables, quite a number of partially boxed dining chairs, and a few random stools. As we venture beyond this immediate collection we find that there is a bedroom section to one side and a kitchen section to the other.

My heart sinks. My carefully made notes of the items that I might like to acquire is useless as nothing here matches my aspirations. We wander into the “accessories” area where I had hoped to pick up a rug, and perhaps some ex-display curtains. There were none; rugs had all gone, and I didn’t have the heart to ask about window dressings.

On the bright side, there were numerous faux flowers, candles, and lampshades. There was however yet another queue to pay, and when we enquired as to why we had spent so long waiting outside, we were told that it was due to the fact that it was taking so long to process payments.

We left. Any enthusiasm I had had when I left home that morning had evaporated. We had driven for and hour and half to get there which is why I felt it imperative to at least see what was on offer. My partner, by now, was really relieved when I resisted temptation and didn’t pick up a token purchase just to make the trip worthwhile.

Neptune showroom

Instead we wandered into the adjacent showroom, admired all of the beautiful room settings, used their facilities and made our way back to the car. On inspection we noticed that we hadn’t received a parking ticket, so at least that was a bonus.

As we unlocked the car in readiness to leave a reporter from the local paper asked whether we had been to the Neptune sale? Had we bagged ourselves a bargain? We held out our hands wearily demonstrating that we had completely failed in our plight. He asked how far we had travelled and gave us a sympathetic look as he scribbled some shorthand on his reporter’s note pad. Word of the sale’s popularity had obviously provoked enough interest for the Press to become involved.

I’m not knocking the Neptune brand at all, nor the fact that they chose to hold a two day sale to clear the decks for new and exciting stock. What I am a little disappointed about was the lack of communication on the day with regards to wait times and expectation. In future, I will know, that if I receive another “invitation” I will make a phone call and seek clarification with regards to what it actually means. At least that way I will be able to make an informed decision as to whether it is worth my while attending, or not.

By the way, I did ask my partner, if we could stop at the Reading Ikea on the way home. I can’t actually print his reply!

Clean Green Lines

The current trend for open plan living and clean lines has caused me immense frustration lately as I live in a country cottage which is not in the slightest bit contemporary!

It is however unique in character as it has been built from reclaimed materials and is located within the Green Belt.

I have lived here since 2005 and during that time have reinvented the interior look and feel several times over.

Its latest reinvention has been inspired by a company which, to all intents and purposes, has turned its back on high gloss furnishings and mid-century patterns, to provide a pallet of materials which aim to give a home soul; Neptune.

Neptune Directory

Rather than turn away from exposed beams and less than large windows, this company embraces these features by crafting kitchens, furniture, fabrics and accessories, which enhance a home’s quirkiness.

During the autumn months, as the days became shorter, I decided that my sitting room needed an urgent facelift to keep my spirits high during, the soon to arrive, wintertime.

During the course of the year I had considered replacing the Berber carpet with something a little more exciting, and have been angling for several years now, to replace my other-half’s squishy three-seater sofa with a more modern one.

For better or worse I decided that in the cold light of day there was nothing wrong with the carpet and the sofa is just so damn comfortable that any visitors always make a beeline for it!

I decided that perhaps the room just needed to have a more cohesive feel to satisfy my whim.

To get a feel for how the finished design would be acheived I am now going to admit that I did everything back to front.

My first purchases were this gorgeous circular  mirror, table-top work lamp, and these Sage green candles.

Neptune mirror and candles; Cox & Cox work lamp

I would like to think there was method in my madness as I wanted to experiment with lighting, colours, and mirror shapes and sizes, before spending time painting walls and sewing curtains.

A photograph in the, by now, well-thumbed Neptune Directory caught my attention as it had several mirrors grouped together above a console table. It occurred to me that a similar arrangement could work equally well above a mantlepiece. With a large roll of lining paper, a pair of scissors, and one mirror already “in stock”, I set about creating the mirror shapes and sizes so that I could gauge how they would work in the available space prior to making another purchase.

Rectangular and circular mirrors

Next I turned my attention to the window dressing. The room is dual aspect with a pair of French doors opening on to the patio and two small westerly facing side windows. The previous owner had set a trend for very heavily embroidered Fired Earth curtains at all of the windows in the house. Over the years I have gradually replaced them with much lighter fabrics and colours that I have sewn myself, and generally speaking are an improvement.

Applying pencil pleat heading

Now though, I was tired of the tiny pairs of curtains that hung at the side windows as I didn’t think they did the windows justice and they were rarely drawn.

I particularly like the simplicity and practicality of rolled-up blinds so I embarked on making some along with a pair of pencil pleat curtains for the patio doors.

Linen rolled-up blind

I chose Emma linen/viscose in Sage for the curtains, and a combination of this and Finian linen in Sage for the blinds. Both were featured in Neptune’s Spring/Summer 2017 “The Green House” collection.

I love to sew and was happy to make these soft furnishings for my home but must admit that I am not as keen to apply paint to the walls. Fortunately, I have a partner who is much better at decorating than I am and he happily painted one wall in Sage emulsion whilst leaving the others painted in White Mulberry.

Wicker chair and pencil pleat curtain

Another aspect of the room that I considered long and hard was the oak tables. When we first moved to the cottage we were happy to invest in oak furniture as it  suited the style of the house. Again, with the fashion for sleeker, more contemporary lines I questioned whether they should remain or not.

Fortunately, the new lighter, brighter scheme accommodated the existing furniture very successfully as it added warmth and texture to the room. I added some leafy green coasters and napkins to tie in with the overall picture.

Although I chose to keep the oak furniture I decided to replace a heavily patterned and dark upholstered chair and footstool with wicker ones which work much better.

Oak side table

One piece of furniture which was never in danger of being replaced was my lovely Sofa Workshop sofa which I had commissioned only a small number of years before. It is just becoming softer in look and feel, and I believe it has a lot more life in it yet. The colour provides a lovely contrast to the fresh greens applied to the wall, floor, and window dressings, and adds an element of warmth.

Purple sofa

An unexpected addition to my scheme came in the form of these lovely Next cushions which my very talented daughter-in-law gave me as a Christmas present. In essence they tie the scheme together beautifully, not only with their combination of colours but also the “garden” theme to which there had been a nod in the Neptune storybook.

Next cushion on wooden box

I am very pleased with the now completed scheme. It happily combines old with new and has an abundance of natural materials which, whilst updating the look and feel of the room, does not distract from the integrity of the building itself.

I think I can successfully say, whim satisfied!

….. and breathe!

The festive season is more or less at an end for me and at last I can feel that I can breathe.

Don’t get me wrong, as there are many aspects of Christmas and New Year that I adore, especially spending precious time with friends and family.

Before I look to the year ahead I thought I would share some of my favourite memories from 2017….

The first half of the year saw my passion for painting come to the fore and I spent many a happy hour transforming some begged, borrowed and recused items.

Here are some of my favourites…..

Crackle finish candle holder

Distressed oval mirror (SOLD)

Crackle glaze occasional table and home grown hydrangeas

Painted and stencilled bureau (DISPLAY ITEM)

Painted bedside table, paper bunting, and decorative cushion

Joules inspired bathroom cabinet and mirror

Later in the year I turned my attention to handcrafting a selection of cushions. These were constructed from “free” linen shopping bags, off-cuts of fabrics, and mismatched buttons…..

Hand-crafted cushions

And when the sun shone I took the opportunity to nurture my garden, (and if I say so myself), with some very pleasing results…

Spring bulb “lasagne” (UNAVAILABLE)

Fresh herb planter

Summer patio planting (UNAVAILABLE)

I hope you enjoyed this brief look at some of my work from 2017 and if you are interested in acquiring any of the items shown  then please feel free to leave a comment on this website or to send an email.

In the meantime I am looking forward to being as creative and productive in 2018 and wish all my readers and supporters much joy and happiness.

Thank you. x

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