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:

Wallpaper
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.

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Glitter

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.

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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.

Words

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.

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Greenery

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.

 

 

 

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Revealed: The new bathroom

It’s been a couple of months since we nervously chipped the first granny tile off the bathroom wall, and – after a lot of grouting, a leaky toilet and two attempts at choosing flooring – we can now declare this new, fresh bathroom officially open. What we had was perfectly fine, but tired and old fashioned. Here’s a reminder:

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And here’s what we have now:

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Paul and his dad deserve a special mention here, for tiling, grouting and laying the floor, and generally saving us loads on the cost of professional fitters.We also got the trendy metro tiles really cheap, having seen exactly the same design for much more in shops like Topps Tiles. We haven’t had any issues with the quality and they look great.

We also removed and scrubbed the taps as they were clogged with limescale, so bath time is officially back on, and added some aqua accessories to lift the blue.

Tiles: Metro white wall tiles (16p/tile) from Stone Trader
Grout: Silver grey ready mixed grout (£7.69/1.5kg) from Topps Tiles
Vinyl flooring: Carpetright (£13.49/m2) from Carpetright
Paint: Maritime Hush by Valspar
Towels: From a selection at Home Sense
Handwash and toothbrush pots: Asda
Artificial plant: Asda
Candles: From a selection at Home Sense

We need to talk about the bathroom

Hello, and welcome to our bathroom…

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Instead of giving each other big Christmas presents this year, we agreed to put most of our budgets towards the next house project – our upstairs bathroom, which has been lying dormant with its gammy hot water tap (no lounging around in the bath for me), perfectly nice but old fashioned tiles and peeling bath panel since we moved in.

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To keep costs down – around £350 if we do the work ourselves – we’re keeping the original fixtures but replacing everything else. Here’s what’s left to do:

  • Hope that gammy tap is caused by nothing more than a dodgy washer and replace all taps with fresh chrome ones
  • Replace tiles with white brick tiles. We had LOVED crackle glaze putty coloured tiles but quickly learnt that when it comes to tiles, white is always cheaper. Putty has been earmarked for “the next house” 😉
  • Replace shimmery lino with simple rustic wood effect vinyl
  • Buy and fit replacement bath panel, which doesn’t seem to cost a great deal but who the hell knows how you fit this kind of thing?!
  • Give all fixtures a damn good scrub and polish
  • The fun bit – buy new towels, shelves, accessories and artwork. I’m painfully aware that 90% of our house is grey and that our ‘Maritime hush’ choice is not far from it, so am deliberately pushing our colour boundaries with a peacock feather theme. Think teal, blue, navy and golds…

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Lovely items from:
Zigzag bath mat, M&S; Blue candlestick holder, Maisons du Monde; Peacock print inspiration, Papier; Blue agate bookend, TK Maxx; Green glass vase, H&M; Print towels, Asda; Peacock feather artwork, art.co.uk; Vinyl flooring, Carpetright; Paint – Maritime Hush by Valspar.

Stylists at home: Karl Grant

This month, I’ve been lucky enough to feature in Style at Home magazine, sharing thoughts and tips on readers’ homes.

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On the panel with me were five fellow interior enthusiasts, and over the next few weeks, I’ll be chatting to them and sharing their own interior tales with you.

karl-grantFirst up is Karl Grant from Bedfordshire, who is studying at the British Academy of Interior Design and runs an online homeware boutique – The Whitewash Hare.

He lives in a converted chapel which was built in 1807 and rebuilt in the ’90s, maintaining the external style but introducing a new open plan layout and upstairs gallery: “When we were looking to move from our previous home, we were ready for something that had straight walls and plaster that wasn’t made of horse hair.. but couldn’t overcome the allure of old school houses, chapels and toll buildings.”

 

Karl Grant1.JPGTell us a bit more about The Old Chapel
For us, it represented the perfect compromise between modern build and character home, plus its village location is perfect for raising our young daughter, and happily growing into an old recluse couple.

The original build had cut a few corners in terms of finishing – skirting boards, doors, frames etc. We discovered that one window frame wasn’t fitted to the building itself and the steps leading to the double front doors had all but collapsed. Rebuilding them was complicated as we live in a conservation area, and I still think the local community believed we neglected them to reduce the risk of them turning up uninvited.

How would you sum up your style?
Eccentric British quirkiness built on the foundations of neutral modern country.

Which is your favourite room in the house?
It sounds odd, but right now it’s the downstairs guest bathroom (below) – often the forgotten workhorse! It’s a quirky take on industrial chic which gives a gentle nod to the history of the chapel. The dummy drawer handles, shoelast and obligatory Singer sewing machine give a subtle sense of British eccentricity, but the key piece has to be the vintage drawer wallpaper from Debbie McKeegan British Design. The relationship between the textured paper and photo realistic print is utterly fantastic.

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Where do you take your inspiration from?
The unique personalities of the home owner should be the biggest inspiration, but they must remain sensitive to the property type and the surrounding environment. My mood changes a lot (according to my wife) and I’m inspired by so many things I see on TV, in fashion magazines, in hotels and trendy bars or boutique gastro pubs. The important thing is to show constraint – I’m not keen on seeing a 1960’s mid terrace town house on the outside, with a glorious French cottage shabby chic style on the inside.

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Where do you find your vintage items?
Ebay is surprisingly impressive in this area, and I love to visit antique stores and ‘collectors barns’. Unfortunately there aren’t many of these nearby, so it usually consists of weekends away – which in the cold hard light of day probably explains why my wife is so supportive.

Sometimes it can be pure luck. I have a good friend who frequently gives me things she finds in one of her dad’s outbuildings. One of my favourite pieces is a Kenlite workman’s lamp that she gave me. I stripped and polished it, added some fairy lights and turned it into a lamp.  Her dad couldn’t understand why anyone would want some old rusty lamps that were ready for the scrap yard, but for me, upcycling and repurposing items is a wonderful way to be creative.

My advice is always start by exploring what’s nearest to where you live…and don’t expect that everyone has the same vision as you. If you think something will look great go for it, and don’t let other people’s doubts put you off.

What’s the next big interiors trend?
I think the next trend will counter the neutrals that are so popular right now, with people playing with vibrancy, and warm colours like terracota coming into play. This also lends itself to people feeling more comfortable moving away from traditional white ceilings.

What is your one tip for creating a great room?
I always find that good room schemes follow a 70/20/10 rule. Keep 70% of the room (eg walls and floors) as one colour, 20% in a second colour (eg prints and fabrics) and the final 10% (eg accessories) more vibrant. It’s much simpler and cheaper to change the room look when you only have to worry about 30% of the room.

I also live by the rule of presenting accessories in multiples of 3, 5 and 9, as humans seem to respond better to seeing things presented in odd numbers. I always find great impact is achieved presenting three framed pictures in a row over one single larger piece.

And finally, what do you make of one recent trend – hygge?
Hygge is a great move away from the harshness of the industrial chic movement that was being rammed down our throats a few years back. It is also a natural amalgamation of the Scandi look and the current focus on personal mindfulness and wellbeing. From a design perspective and due to their focus on warmth, soft textures and neutral colours, hygge-styles rooms can also make absolute eye candy.

Him vs. her: The dream kitchen 

We dipped our toes into A Big House Project last weekend, as we strayed into the kitchen section of B&Q.

After doing an initial walk round the different ranges with an assistant and pointing out what we liked, we had a meeting with their kitchen designer. He created the size and shape of our kitchen on screen and one by one added in our units. Here’s where we got to – a relatively modest but clean and modern shaker kitchen, with walnut worktop:kitchen mock up.JPG

Then came the serious bit – how much would it cost us and do we want to take the plunge? *Deep breath* We’re looking at about £9.5k for the whole caboodle at B&Q, and a rough estimate at Wren came out at about £6k, so whichever we choose, it’s going to need some saving first.

So we (I) thought we’d get ahead and plan out our perfect kitchen, which we might not be able to afford unit-wise, but could definitely aim for in terms of overall style and feel. Paul’s done one and I’ve done the other but which do you think is which, and (most importantly!) which do you prefer?

White and sage:

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Rustic shaker:

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Have you tried.. Maisons du Monde?

If you’ve been lucky enough to visit chic European cities like Madrid, Munich or Paris, you may have come across Maisons du Monde.

It can only be described as interiors heaven, located all over France, Belgium, Italy and more – and now in London. Have you seen the TV adverts? Get ready.

We spotted a store when we were on holiday in Bologna and, having browsed some of their accessories online in the past, made a beeline for it.

They’ve basically spotted and ‘done’ every interiors trend to perfection, from little tea light holders and quirky teapots to printed fabrics, sofas, wardrobes and oven gloves. You could buy a tea towel from there and it would be cool.

Pricing varies from product to product, with vases from £4.99 to £119.90, chairs from £69.99 and rugs from £159.90. I can’t vouch for quality, as we had a flight to catch and zero suitcase space to stash our favourite items, but it certainly seems to stack up against interior stores that we’re more familiar with in the UK.

Here’s what we saw in Bologna (still in love with that angular teapot) and a couple of picks available now. Have you been before? Let me know what you think!

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Wooden mail sorter, £69.99; Metal pineapple box, £12.99, Blush silk bedspread, £99.99; Udaipur room divider, £199.90; Mauricette fabric and solid birch vintage chair (in a range of colours), £79.99; Copenhagen/capri pots (from a range), £8.99.

Check them out at maisonsdumonde.com/UK or find a store.

7 lovely festive gifts for your home

If you’re anything like me, the start of dark nights and cold weather makes you want to:
a) eat sausages and potatoes, followed by sausages and potatoes, followed by sausages and potatoes
b) hibernate
c) shop for endless chunky knits that, despite high hopes, will not make me look like Cameron Diaz in The Holiday.

So, as it’s too soon to shop for presents, here are seven lovely home gifts that start to say, very quietly, that it’s kind of, almost, Christmas.

The garland
I’ve never really gone for garlands, unless you count a good old fashioned paper chain, but these festive bells could change my mind. Don’t wait for a tree to wrap them around – try them over a headboard, wound round the staircase or draped over the mantelpiece. If you prefer something less jingly jangly, try the silent but lovely felt snowflakes.

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The candle
Candles + Christmas = not a new concept. But I thought these two from John Lewis were a bit different, especially the one with stars encased in a clear gel. Very classy.

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The festive duvet cover
Having browsed several homey websites, George at Asda is smashing it when it comes to festive duvet covers. Pop one of these on your bed in the run up to Christmas, or take it with you if you’re staying with relatives. Pre-wash it in a festive-scented fabric softener, too, if you’re really going for it. I secretly love the crazy bauble pattern, but there are more muted, traditional versions too, starting from £10.

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The extravagant side plate
These are a bit pricey – but who even needs four? Treat yourself to a special plate for mince pies only, when you’re wrapping presents and wondering whether a glass of sherry will mean you are turning into your Aunt Edna. Moonlit forest dessert plate, £16, Anthropologie.

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The unnecessary (but necessary) bird
Who can resist a cute fake bird that’s been rolled in glitter and has a feathered tail? ME. At £4 a pop for the red (rather stern looking) one and £5 for the golden pearly queen, you probably can’t have these baubles all over your tree, but try them as little table decorations, clip them to lampshades and sit them on bookshelves to add some woodland festive charm. From a selection at John Lewis.

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If you can’t be flamboyant at Christmas, when can you? Swap your cracker hats for these elegant party crowns, £12 for 4 at Anthropologie.

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The fancy glasses
I’d buy these in a heartbeat even if it wasn’t Christmas – in fact I did at the weekend, for a suitably chic PR friend’s birthday present. Come at me, Bucks Fizz. Find them in various shapes and sizes at Next.

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How do you inject a bit of festive fizz into your home? Let me know in the comments below!