a way of life...

Category: Tablescape (Page 1 of 2)

It’s Black & White

Social distancing – self-isolation – staying at home.

Terms that we had rarely considered before are now everyday expressions.

The message is clear – it’s black and white – we have to put into practice these disciplines when required, to keep ourselves, and our fellow human beings safe.

With Easter looming we would normally be looking forward to family gatherings or trips away. This year, however, there has never been such a good excuse to stay at home and eat chocolate!

There’s always an upside!

With my spirits lifted I restyled this dining room to accommodate the change in season. The longer days and mild weather inspired me to take down the heavy interlined curtains and replace them with unlined grey linen ones.

A similar colour table cloth from Sainsbury’s Home adorns the dining table whilst a matching runner, cut from the generous width, dresses the sideboard.

Citrine napkins from Also Home add a splash of sunshine, as do the freshly cut tulips and daffodils. Maize table mats, old-white plates, and cream coloured handled cutlery, keeps the scheme light and pared back.

The occasional pop of deep red provided by the Hellebores adds warmth to the scheme whilst hessian bunting and crackled glazed egg shape candles provide this year’s Easter decorations.

So whilst there won’t be an Egg Hunt for the children, nor a massive Sunday lunch to honour this holiday weekend, we will take comfort in the fact that we remain safe.

Surely that in itself is reason enough to raise a glass and celebrate life?

Happy Easter!

A Cushion Fetish – Surely Not?

When it became apparent that I owned enough scatter cushions to insulate our entire loft I agreed that I should not make any more purchases.

Despite that I longed to buy the cheeky Hare Knitted Cushion that I coveted at the gift shop at The Savill Garden.

It was the antidote that I needed to eliminate the post-festive feeling in our dining room.

Soft greys and baby pinks amidst spring flowers were all I could imagine.

Common sense prevailed and I set about my cupboards to see how I could bring a fresh new look to this sunny room.

I was keen to keep the lovely Andrew Martin tulip curtains hanging a little longer as the nights are still quite cold.

Rather than play up to the red tulips in the pattern however, I decided to emphasise the pink ones by choosing a selection of quieter companions.

I added some pale coloured silk Sia tulips to a vase of faux eucalyptus and soft pussy willow stems.

The red and white striped candles were replaced with plain pink ones.

Next I set the table using a pink and grey scheme which included an Ikea throw and soup bowls, my new Biggie Best wine glasses, and grey/white place mats from M&S.

In the comfy slipper chair in the corner I added a soft pink fringed cushion and a clashing fuchsia pink pad, both of which had been residing in the loft.

The last item I added was a small grey cushion which had also been providing insulation.

I’m really pleased with the end result but whilst writing this blog I have found the Hare Knitted Cushion on the Sophie Allport website.

I’m not sure that I can resist much longer!

2020 and beyond…

I’m pretty sad to see the back of 2019 as it’s been a pretty good year for me. (More about that in blogs to come).

I wonder how 2020 will shape up with all the promise of a new decade?

My Christmas Amaryllis burst into flower as the old year ended and the new one began. I hope this is a sign that we will all be blessed with a happy, healthy, and prosperous future in 2020 and beyond.

I briefly ventured into town at the weekend, and whilst not tempted by the racks and racks of reduced price garments, I was struck by this beautiful window decoration in Anthropologie.

It made me think that I may have to start collecting odd bits of wool during the coming months so that I can create this myself for next Christmas!

Happy New Year everyone!

Its Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas…

My decorative theme this year is very much about bringing the outside in…

Ornamental birds, stags, polar bears, and hares adorn the surfaces, whilst leaves, twigs, and flowers are found on the curtains, tablecloths, and cushions.

The colours of the golden beech tree’s leaves are replicated in the porch with the installation of these Neptune pillar candles. Alongside an oil based Huxley Reed Diffusor emits a subtle blend of landscape scent from a gorgeous matte brown glass bottle. The simple handmade willow wreath was my first attempt at this particular craft.

This natural theme extends into the entrance hall. Here I have used this stunning brown/cream Indigo & Rose throw and cushion to dress my John Sankey slipper chair. The orange rug from Ikea and lampshade from RHS Wisley add a cheerful glow to this otherwise subdued scheme.

On the window cill in the background an Ikea glass vase is filled to the brim with a combination of green, yellow, and orange painted baubles and a wooden star wreath. A choir of angels play their version of “Santa Clause Is Coming To Town” when the music box on which they stand is wound up.

Leading from the hall are the lounge and the dining room. The colours in each are quite different although both rooms are south facing so both enjoy the benefit of the low winter sunshine when it chooses to appear.

In the lounge I have chosen a frosty white colour scheme with highlights of forest green and gold. The handmade paper pinwheels, interspersed with a ski-holiday themed paper chain, set the scene. Fastened to the beams above the fireplace their shapes reflect in the two above-mantle mirrors.

The dining room is dressed with red patterned fabrics in the form of a table cloth, runner, and curtains. The Christmas tree is covered with a mix of gold decorations, white berries, and fir cones (both real and faux).

Red Amaryllis bulbs planted in glass storm lanterns are beginning to shoot out and will hopefully be in flower over the next week or so.

Gold, white, and silver painted fir cones add decoration to glass domes and dishes placed on shelves in the dining room.

Faux stems of Eucalyptus and silver painted berries sit happily side-by-side in this lovely storm lantern. These, and the wintry characters on skis, add a hint of the season to the upstairs landing.

With skiing in mind I have converted my home studio to a “cosy mountain lodge” for the duration of the holiday.

My voluntary work with my local Wildlife Trust enabled me to cut my own pine trees to put in pots outside the window. A toboggan and penguin sit outside the door to evoke a sense of a winter wonderland.

Inside the “lodge” sheepskin rugs and large scatter cushions provide a warm welcome. An ornamental antelope’s head on the wall, and a frosty white tree decorated with glass icicles, are both in keeping with the mid-winter story that is being created here.

I hope you are enjoying the loveliness of the season too and wish you much happiness into the new year and beyond.

A Day To Remember

The Design Centre Chelsea Harbour pulled out all the stops to host a Christmas Design Day on Monday this week.

Design Centre Chelsea Harbour

The central atrium had been transformed into to a snowy wonderland with snow laden fir trees and garlands of snow balls cascading from the glass dome.

DCCH Winter Wonderland

The main foyer continued the winter wonderland theme with its ski resort backdrop for diners. Anyone for a hot chocolate?

Christmas Design Day in aid of Screw Cancer

The day was packed with events to entice people to the centre to help raise awareness of cancer charity, SCREW CANCER.

The vision of designer William Yeoward, who had lived with cancer until his untimely passing in June 2019, Screw Cancer’s mission is to help cancer patients find clarity through their own journey.

With the aid of the Screw Cancer App cancer sufferers can store information specific to their illness in a single place on their phone.

Event Programme

Many of the showrooms at DCCH welcomed visitors to a day of talks, demonstrations, workshops, and delicious cuisine.

Floral Inspiration at Colefax & Fowler

I made an early start so that I could attend a demonstration hosted by The Odd Flower Company at the Colefax & Fowler studio. With Bucks Fizz in one hand and a notebook in the other I avidly watched the creation of this fabulous floral centrepiece.

My next stop on the ground floor was to Kvadrat’s showroom where we were promised the opportunity to create a Danish Pleated Christmas Heart from recycled fabric.

I can’t say this was my strength, but resident expert, Nicolina, handled the class incredibly well ensuring that everyone had a heart, or two, to take home.

Pleated Danish Hearts

Sadly, I could not spend the whole day at this tremendously special event but before I left I popped into Fox Linton to check out their Christmas Wreath Making workshop.

Stepping inside the showroom I was immediately overwhelmed by the evocative aromas of fresh spruce, pine and fir. What a fabulous way to while away an hour or so.

The afternoon programme looked just as enticing with a packed programme of tours, crafts, and the opportunity to learn new skills.

This was certainly a day to remember!

Dare To Be Different

Everywhere I look I see images of interiors decorated in daringly dark colours, mostly to great effect.

It takes a huge leap of faith to paint a wall, ceiling, or even a whole room in a deep tone so it is perhaps worth considering a more restrained approach.

Inky blues and charcoal greys have proved very popular, particularly in Scandi and mid-century schemes. I have, however, enjoyed the more recent emergence of charred-wood browns and forest greens.

In my own home I’ve not had the courage to paint whole walls in dramatic colours as I think it would make it feel too depressing with its low ceilings and small windows.

I fully support the Farrow & Ball philosophy that sometimes painting a small, poorly lit room, in a deep dark colour can have the effect of creating a cosy, cocoon-like space. In some instances this is indeed far more successful than trying to make it into something that it is not ie. bright and airy.

For a mere mortal like myself I have settled for splashing the dark shades around in a more refrained manner.

A favourite example of this is my lovely old clock which sits beside a pretty little wardrobe in my hallway. Both are finished in Neptune’s Walnut eggshell whilst the walls against which they are set are painted in Fired Earth’s While Mulberry matt emulsion.

Leading off from the hallway is my dining room which I only recently restyled. I invested in these OKA Stafford dining chairs in Charcoal velvet to compliment my John Sankey slipper chair. The overall effect is that of a more cohesive scheme.

Once again the walls are finished in White Mulberry to ensure that the dark colours do not overpower the room.

Green is considered to be a restful colour which makes it ideal for a bedroom. I’m not sure that this theory applies to the current fashion for Forest green which is a dark hue commonly found in nature. The almost black background of this bedding below adds an air of intrigue to this otherwise calm scheme.

Taking this a step further the en-suite bathroom very much embraces shades of black. Whilst the flooring is a checker board of black and white vinyl the Clawfoot bath is painted in Farrow & Ball’s lead grey Down Pipe.

I’m really happy with my choices but realise there is certainly scope for being a bit more adventurous. That said, at least I can see the spiders against the light coloured back drop!

Whoopee It’s Winter

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.

Interiors

“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.

Winter ready

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.

Gardening

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!

Recipes

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.

Travel

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.

Fireworks over the river

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.

I hope you enjoy them too!

“D” is for Mirror

M&S 50% off sale

I’m loving these alphabet cushions which are now half price in the Marks & Spencer sale; reduced from £12 to £6.

Alphabet cushion from M&S

Unable to resist a bargain, and imagining how the trio of colours would co-ordinate with my newly stylised room, I decided to buy “D” for Dining. Tenuous, I know, but as I said, “irresistible”!

Newly stylised dining room

Happy with my new purchase I positioned it on the seat of a single chair along with a plain pistachio velvet cushion.

It was only at this time that I realised by turning it through a 90 degree turn the “D” became an arc which beautifully echoed the profile of the mirror.

A little thing, but pleasing none the less.

Dining In Style

Before. Farmhouse style dining

Living in a cottage in the current climate of pared-back schemes and mid-century style furnishings is quite challenging.

I feel as though I want to push the walls out to achieve more space.

In my dining room I have addressed this by taking a few simple steps to gain a more up-to-date and spacious style.

After. A more modern approach

It has been a gradual process but at last I have a room that, without looking cluttered, provides an armchair that overlooks the garden and a dining table that comfortably seats six to eight guests.

Comparing the two photographs above is almost like playing a game of “spot the difference” as many of the components remain the same.

Step 1

One of the first steps I took was to replace the patterned rug and curtains for plain pale grey ones. Instantly one’s eye is drawn to the view of the garden making the room feel light an airy.

Step 2

By swapping the yellow painted table for one with a plain oak top the room immediately had a more cohesive feel as the replacement table tied in with the existing dressers.

Part of my plan was to create a quiet, contemplative corner where I could sit and read a book, or where I could sit and gaze out into the garden as the sun rose in the early morning.

John Sankey slipper chair

My John Sankey slipper chair seemed to be the ideal seat for his purpose however once in position it did not leave much circulation space which was a problem. It became apparent that the table could not remain central to the room; it would have to be moved away from the armchair to allow access to the door to the garden.

This created two issues; firstly the dresser would have to be moved and secondly the central light pendant would have to be taken down and an alternative light source found. These were not tasks for the feint hearted!

Step 3

Moving the dresser was not too terrible. Once emptied I slipped a soft mat beneath it and was able to slide it across the floor. (I should add this did entail putting most of the dining furniture in the garden pro-temp but at least it was a dry day).

Step 4

My solution for a replacement light source was to buy an arc floor lamp. There was a huge number to choose from but I settled for this moderately priced one from Heal’s. Putting it together was quite tricky so I was very relieved when its arc spanned the table perfectly.

Heal’s arc floor lamp

Turning my attention back to the dresser I was really pleased with its new position below my lovely black mirror. A pair of black lamps provide soft lighting.

Quite by chance I stumbled upon an image on the Neptune website. The picture was of a row of console tables placed on top of a run of kitchen worktops. It was stunning and as a consequence my brain went into overdrive as I thought about the Baker’s rack that was sitting in my store collecting dust.

Step 5

Without further ado I retrieved the rack from its dusty corner and measured its dimensions. Not wishing to take a chance I lay it on some cardboard on the floor and drew around its shape.

Baker’s rack template

Armed with template I was able to determine how much adjustment the rack would need for it to provide the perfect home for my “bar”.

With the legs cut down and toughened glass shelves manufactured to fit the unit I placed it atop the dresser. Ta dah…

The last items to be sourced for the room were some new dining chairs. I spent much time looking at the options, even considering benches at one stage.

Step 6

Finally I opted for six Charcoal coloured Stafford chairs from OKA. New this season they match perfectly with the black accessories in the room, including my much loved slipper chair. Their simple shape combined with velvet upholstery and metal studs match the room very well.

Linen slip cover for OKA Stafford Chair

I also invested in a set of natural linen slip covers thus providing protection and/or a completely new scheme should I desire.

Guest ready

Finally, the room was guest ready and the first diners enjoyed supper at our’s at the weekend.

I’ll raise a glass to that!

Pumpkin Soup

Our pumpkin crop was a big success this year. Brought on early by the long hot summer our first, and biggest, pumpkin was ready for harvesting in August.

Encouraged by our budding gardener, Finlay, this was our second year of growing these giant vegetables from seed, and it was far more successful than the first.

Keen to show Finlay the benefits of growing his own food we decided to turn some of our later crop into soup. We selected two of the smaller pumpkins as they didn’t look as though they would make very impressive lanterns, and set to work.

We combined two recipes to come up with our final concoction:

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 800g pumpkin, peeled and roughly diced
  • 700ml vegetable stock
  • Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
  • Half a teaspoon cumin powder
  • Half a teaspoon mild curry powder
  • 150ml double cream
  • Fresh bread to accompany

METHOD

  1. Gently heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in thick-based saucepan.
  2. Once the oil is hot add the onion and garlic, frying them on a gentle heat until the onion softens.
  3. Add the diced pumpkin to the pan and cook until it starts to soften, about 10 minutes.
  4. Pour the vegetable stock into the pan and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 15 minutes or until the pumpkin is very tender.
  6. Add the cumin and curry powder and stir in.
  7. Pour the cream into the pan and bring back to the boil.
  8. Remove from the heat and purée with a hand blender.
  9. For an extra-velvety consistency pour the soup through a fine sieve.

    Garlic and onion ready for the pan

Peeled and diced pumpkin

Extra-velvety pumpkin soup

I’m pleased to report that everyone enjoyed their autumnal treat even though our Indian summer prevailed and temperatures were unusually high for this time of year.

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