Sitting on the floor in my studio, surrounded by magazines from over ten years ago, I decided it was time for a serious clear out.
With the recycling bin to the ready I started to thumb through Country Living magazines circa 2002!
I was neither diligent, nor meticulous, but as an article snagged my attention I removed it from the journal and put it to one side.
Very soon I had numerous piles covering my favourite topics; interiors (of course), gardening, recipes, and travel.
“Exuberant” was a 2002 description that caught my eye, as the current trend for pared back style couldn’t be more different.
Warm, rich colour schemes, championing florals, nature, and cosy blankets, were at the heart of the featured homes.
I was immediately inspired to add some seasonal charm to our cottage. Putting on one side the pale greys and pinks of the summer I quickly uncovered a red, nature inspired, tablecloth with matching napkins.
Add to this heavy, interlined, Andrew Martin curtains, and suddenly the room felt warm and cosy and ready for the shorter days ahead.
My nod to current trends was the addition of my recently acquired cushion from ALSO Home. With its slogan, “LOVED At First Sight” I thought it added a little 21st century pizazz to the room.
Looking at photographs of prairie planting schemes with ornamental grasses interspersed with the fading colours of autumn perennials are an inspiration for next year’s planting scheme.
Currently I am allowing our garden to die back so that the seed heads will provide additional food for the visiting birds.
I also like to collect pine cones so that I can paint them with subtle metallic colours and display them in glass vessels with fairy lights and faux candles. Oh so seasonal!
A lot of the recipes that caught my eye were based on seasonal garden produce, such as pumpkins, carrots, onions, pears, and apples.
It reminded me that there were pumpkins in the allotment ready to harvest with which I could make a delicious, heart warming soup.
It is also time to collect seeds from the runner beans and pumpkins to dry and store for planting next spring.
I will leave the orange and purple carrots in the ground as a means of storage and harvest as required.
Not everyone wants to escape the UK for a dose of winter sunshine. People like me who enjoy the changing seasons will wish to stay firmly in this country and enjoy what it has to offer at this time of year.
Harsh frosts temporarily change the garden landscape into winter wonderlands whilst recent strong winds have removed many of the remaining leaves from trees to reveal skeletal formations.
I love to embrace this time of year.
The excitement of the winter celebrations that start in October and run through to the New Year are reason enough to stay here, at home, and enjoy them while they last.
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…..
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.
In a ramshackle building in the tiny village of Tongham you will find Packhouse. I’m not sure how it’s name came about but it describes perfectly this “house” which is completely packed with stylish hand picked items. Even the outside yard is full to overflowing with decorative garden miscellany.
Packhouse Antiques Tongham
Venturing there on a Saturday afternoon my first port of call was Bears Restuarant which serves a variety of light meals and refreshments. Sitting in the alfresco dining area in the summer sunshine I enjoyed a freshly made salad before embarking on my shopping expedition.
The Packhouse is a series of rooms spread over three or four floors and each room appears to be the domain of an independent retailer. This arrangement provides an enormous selection of gifts, furnishings, and clothing, as well as genuine antiquities. It is the ideal venue to buy original and unusual items for the home and garden, or to procure the perfect present.
My particular indulgence was a new lampshade to revamp an old table lamp and some faux flowers to add to an arrangement that fills a Laura Ashley jug that sits on a chest of drawers in my guest bedroom. Delighted with my purchases I made a note to self not leave it so long before my next visit.
For opening times and directions visit www.packhouse.com
I think I have Spring fever! This recent spell of unseasonably warm weather coupled with being outside in the garden led me to believe that spring, and possibly summer, were on the way. Inspired by the blue skies I wanted to spread the good vibes by sharing some of my favourite “blues”.
These lovely vintage flour pots planted with narcissi and muscari remind me of my mother’s garden where the grape hyacinths overflowed onto the pathways as the weather became warmer. I didn’t know then that they were called Muscari, but always remember being fascinated by these little blue flowers that resembled miniature bunches of blue grapes.
Curtains and blind
This pair of bedroom curtains and coordinating hand-tied rolled blind made from Laura Ashley cotton mix fabrics are perfect for bringing the colours of spring flowers indoors. Sadly, I no longer have them as they were sold with the house but I kept the matching Regatta cushions which are now in my guest bedroom.
This blue gingham tablecloth, blue Ikea bowls, and delphiniums fresh from the garden, provide a casual country setting for an early summer al fresco lunch.
I love this collection of vintage milk jugs which were on display at an Arthur Swallow antique fair at Loseley Park.
Blue and white jugs
And last, but not least, are these wonderful photographs taken at Su Gologone in Sardinia. During our stay, in the latter half of May, we enjoyed the laid back atmosphere of this wonderful experience hotel. Whether we were relaxing by the spring-water pool , sipping cocktails in the Magico Tablao bar, or star gazing from the Terrace of Dreams, it was truly captivating and the perfect venue for an early summer escape.
There are many ways of framing and hanging pictures and one method that I particularly like is grouping together similar works and displaying them as a collection. In the photograph below is a group of five watercolours which arrived with me from a number of sources. The common thread is the soft purple/blue colour palette of each painting.
The top two paintings were found in a loft in filthy dirty frames but once removed from their longterm storage these two original watercolours of the Falkland Islands were as good as new, and warranted being mounted and reframed. The painting on the bottom left is a watercolour of a mews. It was gifted to one of the residents after a complete refurbishments in the mid-nineties. It was later given to me as a present. The small print in the middle is a greetings card which is a reproduced watercolour of a viola and was sent to me by a friend. Lastly, the painting on the bottom right is a very old water colour of Shepperton which arrived unframed.
To bring these five paintings together as a cohesive group I chose similar colour mounts for each one prior to framing. The frames vary somewhat but are all fairly plain and therefore sit together quite happily.
To gauge how best to hang them on the wall I firstly laid them out on the floor in an arrangement that I was happy with. Next step was to measure the overall area that would be needed to hang the pictures, and work out how this would be positioned on the wall, taking into account the heights and widths, as well as the wall lamp and radiator.
Layout decided I measured each picture and worked out its relationship with each of the others and positioned the picture hooks accordingly. I was immensely pleased with the end result and felt that grouping the pictures together as a whole was a success.
The current trend of staging pictures on shelves and mantlepieces rather than permanently hanging them on walls is much more relaxed. This appeals to me as it enables collections to be changed and rearranged much more easily and causes a lot less damage to walls. This may well be my next project!
Some people love it and some people hate it but for me wrapping presents is a real pleasure. Finding the time is not always easy but this year I have found it easier as some presents were despatched earlier than others and therefore wrapped in plenty of time.
I guess the other reason some people find it such a chore is due to the cost of the materials required. Having bought a gift it is often a financial burden to spend more money on the requisite wrapping paper, gift tags and ribbon.
Polka dot ribbon from random packaging
This year I found that I had quite a lot of paper leftover from last Christmas so rather than buy new I decided to jazz it up a bit with a variety of bits and pieces that I picked up whilst in and out of shops and fairs.
One of the High Street shops that turned out to be particularly useful was Tiger. For very little money I bought a pack of six miniature brown carrier bags; three rolls of satin ribbon in red, blue and purple; and a pack of tiny wooden Christmas trees. I think each item was about £1 so for £5 I had plenty of choice when it came to jazzing up my parcels.
Last year’s paper jazzed up with Waitrose tag & snowflake, and Tiger satin ribbon and wooden tree
Next stop Waitrose where I bought a pack of gift tags, ribbon, string, and tiny wooden snowflakes. These were a little more pricey but not outrageous. Lastly, I bought three packs of plain white gift labels and two rolls of embroidered ribbon from The Loseley Rural Crafts Christmas Fair that I had the pleasure of attending in November.
I always re-use the gorgeous gift and bottle bags that I am given as they are far too lovely to throw away. This year I did splash out and buy some new bottle bags from Tesco, purely because they appealed to me. I find gift bags are really handy as it so much easier to put pressies in these, especially if they are an awkward shape, and much less time consuming. I have also found that bottle bags are not just for bottles; they are ideal for wrapping packs of socks which are an absolute must for the man in your life!
Tesco bottle bag
My final tips, which I’m sure you’ve heard before is to keep ribbon from any random packaging you receive and to use greetings card to make into gift tags. Chocolate boxes often come tied with a ribbon and many boutique carrier bags have ribbon handles. By using the picture, or part of the picture, from last year’s Christmas cards to make gift tags you will not only save a pile of money but give gifts that are truly individual and help save the planet into the bargain! What more could you ask for.
Despite the sunny days and mild temperature there’s no denying that autumn is in the air as the clocks go back this weekend. The afternoons will be shorter and the evenings longer as sunset is brought forward by an hour. Don’t despair as this is a wonderful time to put the garden to bed and enjoy the cosiness of being indoors.
I have stripped the beds of their summer-weight quilts and aired them in the autumn sunshine before packing them away for the next few months. Winter blankets have been removed from trunks and spread around the house to use as we snuggle up in front of the telly.
The shorter days needn’t be dreary as I’ve dusted down my favourite lanterns and votives and put in brand new tealights to add a glow to the mantlepiece.The last of the summer blooms have been cut and brought indoors to add seasonal colour and fragrance.
I’ve taken great pleasure in editing my wardrobe. A handful of summer items have been kept to one side just in case I manage to get away for a sunshine break this month but on the whole winter woolies have replaced summer t-shirts and my favourite boots are taking centre stage as they have been pulled forward from the depths of the cupboard; reheeled, revived, and ready to go.
I don’t celebrate Halloween in my house but what a magnificent excuse to decorate with spooky cobwebs, oversized spiders, and gloriously carved pumpkins. I know a lot of people will be celebrating this festival this weekend and will enjoy the spectacle that will besiege local homes and businesses.
All in all I love hunkering down for the onslaught of winter and look forward to the start of the preparation for Christmas and making plans for New Year’s Eve celebrations (already!).
This coming month there are a multitude of Christmas fairs offering unusual gifts that are often hard to find on the High Street. Amongst my favourites are The Spirit of Christmas at Olympia, The Christmas Fair at Ascot Race Course, The Medicine Garden Christmas Shopping Evening in Cobham, and The Rural Crafts Association “Crafts For Christmas” at Loseley Park.
With my invitation in hand I made my way to The Mall Galleries in SW1 to the opening of the Royal Society of Marine Artists’ annual exhibition in London.Over 400 works of art are on display, ranging from the most fabulous photo montage images, to the most stunning paintings. Bright red sails; children in rock pools; crashing waves; colourful hulls; and lots, lots more seascapes to prolong the feeling of summer.
My particular favourite was The Fisherman’s Hut by Haidee-Jo Summers. Unlike the majority of works on show it depicted an interior setting with a view of the sea through the window. Contemporary in style, with sunflowers in a vase and union jack bunting in the alcove, it really caught my eye.
It would seem I wasn’t its only admirer as it has been awarded the Mall Galleries bookshop greetings card award 2016. As such, it has been reproduced as a greetings card to promote the Royal Society of Marine Artists and is available to buy in the gallery’s bookshop.
President of the RSMA, Elizabeth Smith introduced Elizabeth Meek MBE to officially open the exhibition on Tuesday afternoon. It runs from then until October 8 and is open every day between 10am and 5pm. Painting demonstrations and hands-on workshops tutored by Society Members will be taking place during the exhibition. Full details can be found at www.rsma-web.co.uk