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.

graffiti

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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ALERT: Summer

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to feel pretty behind on Summer. It’s mid-June, I’m wearing tights, and my scorecard looks like this:

Barbeques: 1
Sunburn: 1 bout, mild, on the shoulders
Afternoons spent laid out on the grass: Half
Times at which sunglasses were genuinely needed: 1
Magnum ice creams: 756*

So, amen to this. And amen to Nathan Rao at The Express for saying it:

weather

Get the razor and fake tan out, gals.

Apparently “temperatures are poised to skyrocket over the next 48 hours as a plume of sweltering air sweeps in from the tropics”. Say no more, Nathan. If you, like me, are now panicking about your lack of Summer preparation, here’s a selection of lovely fun items you can pick up from supermarkets and retail parks on your lunch break, for emergency barbeques and frolics that are long overdue. They’re all pretty cheap, too.

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Strawberry napkins, Sainsburys; BBQ napkins, Sainsburys; Grey picnic rug, Wilko; Pink faux plant tray, Primark; Citronella bamboo torch, The Range; Fruiti wine goblet, The Range; Three ice cream cones, Wilko; Havana stripe bowl, The Range; Pineapple glass jar, The Range; Glow in the dark mushroom stake, The Range; Floral bunting, Wilko.

* Never weather-dependent

The home wishlist

Do you have a room or feature that you’d love in your future home?

I remember falling madly in love with Cher’s outfit planner and revolving wardrobe in Clueless. So much so that I spent a (wasted) afternoon trying to draw every item of my clothing in Microsoft Paint, so that I could create something similar…

The impact of the new Cher, when I started watching Sex and the City, was similar. I’m sure, even if Carrie’s colour or clothing tastes didn’t suit every viewer, we all wished for a space dedicated to dressing, preening in the mirror and generally feeling fabulous. We all work so hard that a hint of self-indulgence every morning as we get dressed is an essential.

wardrobe

So, while we don’t, and probably never will, have the space or budget to go all out with a dressing room in our house, it makes it onto my future home wishlist:

  • Dressing room
  • Huge, open plan kitchen with sofa for entertaining
  • Roll top bath looking out through a floor to ceiling window
  • A view – hills, sea or city

In a bit of a showgirl mood (hence the feathers below), I planned out my dream dressing room. Naturally, it involves some sort of my standard blue and grey colour scheme, but pulls in more dramatic gold elements and luxurious textures like velvet. A dark wooden floor would pull this all together, with one wall in cream and gold wallpaper (Kelly Hoppen at Graham and Brown), and the rest in B&Q’s Blue Thistle. Statement features like the Arhaus mirror and lights, and lots of little hits of bling add the kind of opulence you can really go for in a dedicated dressing room.

dressing-room

Lovely items from:

Blue Thistle paint, B&Q; Geo wallpaper, Graham and Brown; Letter hooks, Dunelm; Mirror, Arhaus; Hemisphere chandelier, Arhaus; Velvet sofa, Next; Crushed velvet cushion, TK Maxx; Yolanda rug, Made.com.

What room or feature would you have in your dream home? Share it in the comments below – I can’t help with it, but it would be interesting to hear!

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.

karl-bathroom

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.

How to be this couple when cohabiting..

We all want to be the couple on the left when it comes to living together, yes?
cohabiting

It’s generally acknowledged and accepted that – as with most things in life – there is a honeymoon period for cohabiting couples.

What starts as a fart-free, dinner-at-the-table, sex on tap and pillow fight prone household will eventually succumb to life pressures. Pillow fights will ruin the posh pillows, as you upgrade, sex will lose out to sleep, and farts, well, they always find a way out.

Of course this is all entirely normal. Just as you might put more effort into make up or make more romantic gestures when you are in the early stages of dating, you put a bit of a gloss on living together and keep out the bad habits.

What’s key is keeping an eye on the important bits, like closeness and quality time, that could impact on your relationship as a whole.

Based on the three years during which I have lived with A Boy (a prospect that TERRIFIED me until we were about two weeks in), here’s what I think is key:

Celebrate the good times
You’re not going to feel refreshed, look ravishing and forget all your troubles/deadlines every day of your life. So when you do, and you’re together, remember it. Take and display photos of those great days. It doesn’t have to be a ball at The Ritz – just nights out, walks and holidays that remind you of the great times.

Sex
Have it. Find out how to up-sex your bedroom here.

Eat together
We SO have this down. But it’s usually on the sofa while watching TV. Together time = 0. Make an occasion of meal times. Whether you have a huge oak table or a little bistro set, cook together, sit your asses down and talk about your day.

Sleep together
There’s been loads in the news about couples who sleep in separate beds/rooms in the last few years. I think we can all see where these people are coming from – you probably get a much better night’s sleep without someone else fidgeting and the inevitable unforgiveable duvet hog. But, don’t you just deal with it? Many psychotherapists, including Dr Barton Goldsmith, believe that sleeping next to each other and the physical closeness that comes with it, can strengthen emotional bonds and therefore your relationship.

Make the effort
This can apply to most things you’ll encounter when living together. Emptying the dishwasher so they don’t have to, taking the bins out if they’re that tiny bit more tired than you. It just shows that you care. Similarly, don’t forget that goodnight kiss, a sneaky massage, and to snuggle up if you’re going to watch TV. They’re tiny things, but without them, you might as well be flatmates.

Count the numbers
It sounds horrible and scientific, but just as you might do at work, keep a track of the good and not so good things you’re doing at home. If you find your body contact waning, or start to feel a bit ‘samey’, set yourself a target! It doesn’t need a spreadsheet (unless you like a spreadsheet..) Mentally tick off those daily kisses, cuddles, nice things, and set yourself a target if you’re not getting through the list. No-one’s going to complain that you’re kissing them too much.

Take time out
Most people I know like a bit of time alone every so often. Whether it’s to get things done, sit and watch rubbish films (that’s me) or just sit and pick your nose, the urge doesn’t go away when you move in with your other half. Don’t be afraid to spend the odd weekend apart, go out with separate groups of friends or go off and do your own thing upstairs while he’s downstairs. You’ll get the reflection/quiet time you need (and can also pluck unsightly facial hairs etc on the sly…) WIN.

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:

ab-kitchen

Rustic shaker:

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