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INTERIORS

INTERIORS

Introducing: go to your room!

Squeak! This is quite scary. Today, I officially launched my brand spanking new blog: go to your room! No, not a handy advice site on how to discipline your kids (although if someone else fancies setting that up, you’ve got a keen reader here already). But a blog all about two of my biggest passions: interiors and kids!

(So, yes, just to clear up any confusion: it’s a blog all about kids’ interiors.)

Some of you may not know that I’ve spent most of my working life writing about interiors for magazines and websites. I’ve always loved poking about in people’s homes, seeing how they choose to furnish and decorate them. This blog used to have a few interiors-y bits on it, but to be honest, it was never a dedicated interiors blog, because I wanted to write about my life more than I wanted to write about design (because I was doing that every day as my day job anyway). But when I had Daphne, I really struggled to find much out there on children’s interiors. I certainly couldn’t find any blogs that ‘spoke’ to me (ugh, kill me now) full of fun, functional design-led products that both Daphne and I could enjoy.

So yes. Go to your room is my new venture. The name is tongue in cheek, obviously, but will hopefully stick in your mind! Please head on over there now and have a look – tell me what you think! There’s even a very cool shopping section, where you can buy some of my favourite pieces directly without having to leave the blog. I want to focus on highlighting independent brands as much as possible – especially those set up by parents, so if that’s you, please do give me a shout and share your story.

And of course, if there’s anything you’re searching for in particular, but you just can’t find, then do ping me a tweet or leave me a comment, and I’ll do my utmost to hunt down some suggestions for you.

Of course, you can also follow the blog on Instagram (I have like literally no followers on there at the moment, so please do come and join me!), Pinterest and Facebook.

Eeek! Hope you like!

INTERIORS My house

Our (not so) new house!

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Finally! It’s my long overdue through-the-keyhole post! Sorry it’s taken me so long to get this up – to be honest I wasn’t really sure how to approach blogging about the house because we’ve done a few bits before moving in but really it needs a LOT of work, but the budget and time aren’t quite there yet. So I thought I’d start with the ‘Before’ pictures – here goes! – here’s what our house looked like when we first got the keys. These pics were taken by Oli, so apologies that they’re not hugely professional! They weirdly make the house look quite dark when it is anything but.

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First to go in the living room was that charming faux Victorian moulding… *mind boggles*

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We have also got rid of the magnolia!

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Check out the built-in cupboard that really looks like it belongs. Not

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The exposed pipes everywhere are a bit of a PITA

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Thankfully under that carpet we found the original hardwood staircase…

A little bit more about it… it’s a four-bedroom terraced house in a really lovely little cul-de-sac in a rather pedestrian town in Surrey. It was built in 1969, and is surrounded by £2m BEAST houses, so we think our cul-de-sac was actually the huge grounds of a bigger house that obviously got knocked down and developed on. But this was back in the days when developments were far more sympathetic to their surroundings. As a result, it’s just a small string of five houses in a row, all slightly offset, which means we don’t completely overlook each other’s gardens.

They are ‘architect designed’ (I used to think all houses were but apparently many are designed by builders and the like) which means they are quite quirky, with asymmetric zinc-topped roofs, and huge windows in all the rooms – the windows originally went down to the floor but the previous owner said it was like living in a fish bowl so she had them changed for more traditional ones. We’d like to get them changed back at some point.

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Our bedroom with its ginormous window

The spare bedroom at the front of the house

I think what we love most about it is the quiet! It’s such a shock after living in London, where ambulance sirens blazed past at five-minute intervals (downside of living right by St George’s Hospital). We also have a garage in a separate block, which we have predictably filled with crap already.

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My office! Desk now gone, as is the yellow (?!) dingy wall colour. And lampshade

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The kitchen is not to our taste at all (black granite – sob!) but it’ll be staying for a while as it’s all new. It feels enormous in comparison to my flat

I know that 1960s/70s houses aren’t to many people’s tastes, but we love the space and the open-plan layout and the fact they are so much cheaper than period properties. We actually also offered on a period house round the corner just before this one – much more ‘pretty’ and trad and charming with open fires etc, but then we found out it had been underpinned, so we pulled out. In hindsight I am so glad we did as it was on a much busier road – cul-de-sacs are bloody awesome, seriously. I can leave the buggy out the front and never worry someone’s going to come along and nick it, and I’ve also just instructed Amazon Prime to leave things in the porch if we’re out (how middle class is that sentence).

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There are floorboards under the horrible carpets! I can’t decide if I like the fact they are narrow or not…

And best of all, is the garden. It’s 80ft long, green, peaceful and SOUTH FACING – which was one of our dealbreakers. It is amazing and I’m so glad we moved in before the weather turned so we got to make the most of it.

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I haven’t got any before pics of Daphne’s room as we decorated that pretty much straight away – I’ll do a room tour post about it ASAP. The bathroom and downstairs loo are also not worthy of sharing – the bathroom is newish but I find it really horrible and depressing for some reason – I’d LOVE to change it but really we can’t justify it.

First of all, we want to build a garden pod for Oli to have as a studio, and then replace the large downstairs toilet with a shower room (there’s only one bathroom upstairs). And then change all the flooring – it has cream carpets throughout which are just totally unsuitable for Daph as well as being old and stained. And THEN we have to tackle those horribly upsetting tiles in the hallway and kitchen.  I’m not sure what flooring the hallway would have had originally – maybe lino? – as there’s just concrete under there. So lots of decisions to make and planning to do. We want to add a 60s/70s vibe about the place, I think, rather than making it super contemporary but we also don’t want it to look totally naff. It’s quite a challenge!

INTERIORS My house

Review (ish): Setu chair by Herman Miller

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Taking pride of place by my Sebastian Cox desk – more on that in another post!

Right so I promised you interiors posts, but I didn’t promise you pretty interiors posts (if you want them, may I suggest my friend Vicky’s blog Style Made Simple?). I’m starting with this because it’s quick and easy for me to blog about (unlike all the decorating/room scheme planning that’s been going on and which requires decent photography) but also because it is possibly the most exciting purchase I have made since we moved in. OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s certainly ONE of the most exciting purchases.

As with most desk-chained work drones, I have had to endure years of backache thanks to uncomfortable ‘ergonomic’ desk chairs. When I worked at IPC (now Time Inc, but forever IPC to me) and they moved into their fancy new office (which has since been sold off at the same rate as all their magazines) they gave us all these swish Vitra chairs. They looked lovely – all black mesh and sleek curves, but within days I was in agony. I think because I have a ridiculously long back (seriously I can’t wear a swimming costume because they don’t reach over my nipples), I just can’t get on with most chairs that are sculpted to fit. Anyway, we got free physio at work (like I said, this was back in the days when people still bought magazines and there was lots of money floating about) and I took full advantage of this. After using up my six free sessions and still finding work about as comfortable as walking across nails, I complained to my manager, who ordered me a hugely expensive Stephen Hawking-like contraption which, quite frankly, was actually worse.

Oh god, as usual, I’m being ridiculously verbose here – what I meant to say is that I prefer simple chairs rather than someone else’s idea of ‘ergonomic’. In fact, some of my most comfortable desk days have been sat on a kitchen chair with a cushion under my bum.

But obviously after a while this set-up gets a bit bum-numbing. I have searched high and low over the years for a solution. Just a comfortable desk chair – not too much to ask, right? And then finally I found one in John Lewis. About three years ago – the Herman Miller Setu. I sat on it and it was like being given a great big bear hug from behind. It was LOVELY. I was in love. But I was also wary – much like shoes you try on and prance about the shop in for five minutes that FEEL comfortable, chairs have a habit of turning on you after an hour. The chair was also expensive. Really expensive. I walked away.

But then I came back. Four times. Every time I went to John Lewis I would go and sit in it for as long as I could get away with before whoever I was shopping with wondered where on earth I had gone. And it was always the same: a great big bear hug. So finally, two weeks ago, I ordered one.

It arrived. I was so nervous. I sat in it but it was just as good as I remembered. Everyone who’s visited the new house has also sat in it and sighed in envy. It is a good chair. It’s not particularly fancy – in fact the only thing you can adjust is the seat height, but somehow this works. You can’t tilt the seat or fix the back or raise the arms but this means you’ve got less chance of locking yourself into some godawful position which seems comfortable at first but is slowly and stealthily crushing your spine.

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Also, even though I said this wasn’t a pretty interiors post, it’s a pretty chair right? It’s bloody lovely to look at. It comes in lots of sophisticated shades – in fact the ‘Berry’ one, a kind of navy, was my favourite in the store but after much deliberation I went with the neutral ‘Alpine’ to match my new office decor.

So yes. If like me, you’re in need of a new desk chair and you also can’t cover your nipples in a swimming costume, maybe go and have a sit on it in John Lewis for three years too. I reckon you’ll be as convinced as I was.

INTERIORS LIFE

Sarah Hamilton’s Just a Card campaign

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I’ve known artist and designer Sarah Hamilton for a few years now – and in fact I interviewed her about her work on this very blog. She’s a wonderfully talented, vivacious and passionate person and when she told me about her latest endeavour – the fabulous Just a Card campaign, I was so impressed.

If you’ve not heard about it, the campaign aims to encourage people to buy ‘just a card’ if they go into an independent shop or gallery. So many galleries are closing down because people pop in, have a look around, see the prices of the artwork and feel that to buy something significant would be out of their reach financially. Even if they love the designs on offer, they often feel too embarrassed to make a small purchase – such as a card or some wrapping paper. However, it’s these small purchases, when repeated by many customers, that can make all the difference to a struggling gallery owner’s finances.

Sarah was inspired to start the campaign when she saw the quote “If everyone who’d complimented our beautiful gallery had bought ‘just a card’ we’d still be open”. The message was simple and clear – if you go into an independent store, don’t be embarrassed if you can only afford to spend a few pounds! As Sarah pointed out when we talked about it over dinner lately, you wouldn’t be embarrassed to go to Tesco and only buy a mass-produced card, but we know who’d appreciate the purchase more.

I’m passionate about passionate people who turn their passions into their livelihood – it really takes guts and balls, and in our age of huge faceless corporations I truly love to support independent people wherever possible. I’ve mentioned before my love of Dartmouth (and we’re off there on holiday again later this month) – it’s my happy place and one of the main reasons is the plethora of quirky independent shops – many of which are art galleries – and all of which I can easily spend hours in browsing. The shopkeepers are always friendly and love to chat and tell you about all the things they’re selling – it’s so wonderful to know that the things you are buying were made with love and care. I’m not particularly hippy in general but I do think surrounding yourself with things that have a real story behind them lifts your spirits.

I’m so happy to see that Sarah’s campaign is really gaining momentum, but if you haven’t supported it yet, please do! You can check out the website, follow them on Twitter and keep up to date with their progress on their blog. But most important of all, please do buy ‘just a card’ if you go into an independent shop or gallery – you really will be making all the difference!

INTERIORS

Shops you should know about: Vita Copenhagen

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I spent a long time searching for a pendant light for Daphne’s nursery, eventually giving up and just re-covering the horrible cheap Ikea pendant we had up there. As I’ve said, we’re hoping to move soon so it made sense to wait until we had a proper nursery for her before splashing out on something nice. But during my research, pretty much the only light I liked was the Eos, by Vita Copenhagen. Made from beautiful white feathers carefully arranged around a frame, it looks a little bit like a fluffy white cloud – in keeping with the cloud decals we already had up on the wall.

I was pretty chuffed then when the lovely PR for Vita Copenhagen got in touch and offered me an Eos – it was as though she’d read my mind (I hadn’t actually mentioned that I liked it anywhere so it was really serendipitous!). When it arrived I opened it and it’s even more beautiful than I thought – I’ve actually quickly repackaged it and stowed it away safely for use in our new home as I don’t want it to get ruined when we move.

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One of the best things about Vita Copenhagen, in my view, is its price points. The lights are all really really good value and have a beautiful Scandi, minimalist aesthetic – I’m a massive George Nelson bubble pendant fan but let’s be honest, these cost an absolute bomb. The design-led pieces from Vita Copenhagen look incredibly expensive but are actually very reasonably priced indeed.

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They also believe in reducing their environmental footprint, so all their lights come packaged in compact gift boxes to keep logistics and storage costs down. Big thumbs up.

The company is relatively new to the UK (I believe!) and as far as I can see only has prices in euros up on its site at the moment – but do have a look if you’re after something supremely stylish (can’t go wrong with anything from Copenhagen really can you?!). And I’ll share pics of Daphne’s light in situ once we’ve moved – fingers, toes, arms, legs… EVERYTHING crossed, we’re hoping to complete at the end of this month…