Five ways with a photo frame

GOSH I’m really pushing the creativity boat out today. Photo frames.

This post is about dressing your home up without having to spend a fortune. We’re all on that slippery slope into spending lots over Christmas, and we’re being extra cautious at the moment with the wedding and house extension looming.

ribbaBut there are cheap and simple ways to show your home some love – especially as long lost relatives start popping round for mulled wine – and one of them is a black or white photo frame. Who needs a £50 high street canvas when you can make your own and refresh it with every season, or mood? With A4 Ribba frames starting from £6 at Ikea, there are loads of ways to lift your interior:

If you fall in love with a wallpaper pattern but it’s way too out there for the living room, why not stick it in a frame? It provides the pattern or background you want without you needing seven tubes of paint and a fine art degree to create it yourself. Why not:

  • Cut a slogan, word or shape out of it, and stick it in the middle of your white background?  You’d be surprised how arty and cultured some words can look when typed in Cooper Black and flowered up.
  • Fill your frame with it and draw over it, to liven up a simple pen sketch. The artwork below was inspired by a graffiti drawing of a girl on The Calls in Leeds. I did the black and white version first, on the basis that she was an arty city girl, and reworked her a few months later for a friend who wanted a retro look. You don’t have to do a canvas – just use a thick marker on your wallpaper and pop it into your frame.



Glitter – as much as I would like to shower in the stuff – doesn’t always scream class. But take it easy, and match it with enough crisp white, and you’re practically designing for The White Company. Gold or silver will make the most timeless design, as will going for a simple shape over anything too complex. Try a glitter heart in the middle of the page, a great pout, or a word. Not great at drawing cool letters? Write the word you want on a desktop/laptop, turn the screen brightness up, and pop your paper over the screen. The outline will show through most paper thicknesses, so that you can trace it.

Create your own quote

You don’t have to live life according to someone else’s inspirational quotes. If you have your own, you can easily make something of it using (LOW tech) Microsoft Powerpoint or (lovely tech) Canva.


It’s a free tool that allows you to create an image of any size to suit your frame, and add in a huge range of fonts, symbols, lines and images. Find a design you like and download a high quality version, then print it off on a decent printer. Hey presto. And it’s a simple enough process to create a new piece whenever your mood changes.


Do you have a favourite poem, or song verse? Use it to create a shape on your page. As beautifully demonstrated by the lyrics to Baby Got Back below, (what can I say – it’s been a busy Saturday) you can pull your words into a long strip down the page, or group a verse into the centre of your frame. Sometimes words are enough.



fernWho needs a needy plant when you can pop some faux (or dried) greenery into a frame? I love the idea of layering strands of fern, or even cuttings from your Christmas tree, into a frame. Without any fuss, words, contrast, or glitter, you’re creating a frame full of lovely green texture that doesn’t just have to sit on a windowsill or table. Arrange your cuttings over green paper, or so that none of the white behind shows though, for a lush frame that takes the lovely feeling of having house plants up onto your walls, too.

Have you lifted your look with a quick and easy interiors trick? I’d love to hear about it and see the results – feel free to share below or on Twitter @a1ex_b.





Hand painting leopard print tableware

I wrote a while ago about the leopard print trend that refuses to go away (HOORAH!), and how you can build it into your room décor if you just cannot acceptably buy another leopard print item of clothing.

Inspired by this, I used a day off work to sharpen up our tableware and create some hand painted bowls featuring the nation’s favourite print.

Although you’re usually advised to hand wash hand painted pots to preserve the colours – so a little impractical for those (me) who rely on a dishwasher – they work really well as occasional tableware. So I chose to make two ‘swoosh bowls’ with a white exterior and printed interior. Here they are waiting for their makeover…


Colour-wise, we all want something that’s going to work with existing crockery and place settings, but continue to work if we ever upgrade. So I went for a crimson, black and dark grey scheme that fits with some treasured TK Maxx serving bowls we stumbled upon last Christmas. It’s strange when you apply the paint, as the colour changes significantly and becomes much more vivid when the bowls are fired. All you can do as you paint is have faith and just keep going, in the knowledge that the colours will change and everything will look much better after some time in the kiln.




Here they are after three hours of painting dots (it’s a killer). I was not at all sure how they’d turn out at this point.


And here’s the finished product. To be completely honest, it just looks like blobs or flowers  to me. I like them, but I think I can work on my leopard print skills. Who knew it was so hard to work with blobs?!


Fancy creating something similar? If you’re in and around Leeds, try Jackrabbits Pottery in Roundhay. They have a range of items to paint from egg cups to tealight holders, vases to huge serving bowls, and can talk you through the process if you haven’t been before. They also have hot drinks and cakes while you paint, as a consolation prize if your print turns out like mine 😉

From lighthouse to lamp

I think everyone, at some point in their life, succumbs to the nautical bathroom trend. We really went for it as a family in the ’90s, and I almost fell back into the trap about a year ago in The Range.

lighthouse-originalIn an effort to rescue our plain Jane downstairs bathroom before we give it a complete makeover, I fell for a rustic wooden lighthouse.

It’s not really us, though, and the way that dust sticks to anything wooden in bathrooms gives me the heeby jeebies.

So (of course..) I decided to make it into a lamp. Still with a nautical look, naturally, but glossed up so it’s still fun but much more subtle. Here’s what you’ll need and how to do it – it doesn’t have to be with a lighthouse:

  • Choose your item. You’ll need it to have a flat top at least 2cm in diameter, or you’ll need to be able to make a flat surface for your light fitting to sit on. I did this by chopping the top of the lighthouse off.

Chop top.jpg

  • Remove any decorations from the lighthouse – you can sand down any flaked paint or scratches later.
  • Drill a vertical hole about 1cm in diameter into the centre of the flat surface, from the top to the bottom. This will allow you to connect your wires up to your lamp fitting.


  • Feed the wire up through the hole, from bottom to top, so that the wire is sticking out of the top.
  • Feed the wire through the round brass bracket, then, using your three screws, screw the bracket to the flat top.
  • Now, feed the wire through the white part of the bracket. Thread each of the exposed ends of the wire into the holes in the black part of the bracket. It doesn’t matter which wire goes into each hole – just twist each screw so that the wire stays in place.
  • Screw the white part of the bracket onto the brass bracket, and then the black part onto the white.
  • Turn the item over and, using the saw and chisel, make a small gutter from the hole at the bottom to the edge of the item. The wire will slot into this so that the lamp sits flat on a surface.
  • Now it’s time to test your handiwork!  Pop the bulb into the fitting and switch it on. All good?
  • Using sandpaper or a handheld sander, smooth the surface of your lighthouse to remove any rough edges or flaky paintwork. Once smooth, give it a good brush down and wipe with a very slightly damp cloth, to remove any dust.


  • Lay down a protective sheet in a well-ventilated area and (ideally wearing a dust mask), apply a coat of primer to the surface. Allow it to dry fully (some only need 20 minutes) and repeat until you have a smooth surface.


  • Now, apply several coats of your glossy top coat. It can be tempting to slap loads of paint on in one go, but try to resist. Gloss is prone to running, so it’s best to layer up lots of thin coats and allow each to dry fully. If the paint runs or goes bumpy, sand it with very fine sandpaper and continue to layer up as normal until you have a smooth, glossy coat.
  • Allow plenty of drying time – to be completely safe, leave 24 hours before tinkering with it (LIKE I DID NOT).
  • Find your lamp a lampshade and a home and voila! Which do you prefer? I can’t decide.