5 New Year Decor Resolutions for 2016


As I have been cooking, eating, drinking… and then cooking, eating and drinking some more over the last week, I have not had much time for any interiors dabbling.  Not that it is a bad thing, in fact it made me sit back and look at the house with a visitors eye.  I saw things I liked, and some things that could be improved.  Therefore I have decided that this coming year the following things must be done, (and it will be interesting to look back and see if I actually made them happen in 12 months time via the blog).

1.  Get on with the kitchen extension

I have had plans drawn to create a huge new kitchen from a tatty old outside decking area and to tweak existing rooms into a new laundry, wet room and study.  The plans have been sent to the council for approval, and already have been sent back with a query and a demand that the planning gets upgraded to a more expensive version, (for their benefit not mine)!  I am going over permitted development scales, so have to pay far more money for my extra 1.5 metres that I would like.

So I need the plans tweaked, a hefty fee attached and then hopefully I will get the go-ahead in 6-8 weeks time.  If this happen, then realistically the build will not start until at least Easter.  I have learnt to be really patient on this whole plan, and am a bit ‘Que Sera, Sera’ about it.  Until I am actually standing in the new kitchen I am refusing to believe it will finally happen.

This is how I want it to be; rough luxe, industrial, mega-high ceilings and light.


But this is probably what it actually will end up like:


Lovely, but could be a bit skinny due to budgetary constraints…

2.  Purge, purge, purge


Planning Christmas table decorations

Christmas, Decorating, Ideas

Yes, I am really a bit sad, I freely admit it!  I spent this afternoon messing about with the dining table, china, glasses, cutlery and so on, so as to plan upcoming Christmas entertaining in advance.

We have 3 lunches to do over the Christmas period, including the biggie on Christmas Day, and rather than go into a spin with table decorating on the actual mornings themselves, (when I am supposed to be concentrating on cooking), I thought it better to know what I would put on the table for each occasion in advance.

Lunch Number One

This table is styled with fresh whites and greens.  There are lots of natural elements in those colour ways on the table.  A large footed glass bowl of hydrangeas has raffia curled around the inside to hide the stems.  Faceted tea light holders in clear glass bounce light around and don’t block eye levels.  Two porcelain flower shaped tea light holders add more candle glow.  The table has two linen runners on it, one natural laid in one direction and a pale lime green going in the opposite direction.




Marrakesh Moments 3 -Jardin Majorelle

Decorating, Inspiration, Travel

No trip to Marrakesh is complete without a visit to these famed gardens, initially created by the French artist Jacques Majorelle, and then later purchased by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé in 1980 to save the gardens from redevelopment.  After Yves Saint Laurent’s death in 2008, the gardens were donated by Pierre Bergé to the YSL charitable foundation.  On November 27, 2010, the street in front of the Jardin Majorelle’s entrance was renamed the Rue Yves Saint Laurent in his honour.


The famous Majorelle blue and vivid lemon colours dots the site, and the selection of cacti, palms, bamboo and exotic plants creates a shady oasis in the heart of the business of the city.  Water creates reflections and sounds, and it is a garden to sit and while away the hours in contemplation.

I first visited these gardens in 2007, when I was a bit disappointed at the time if truth be told, the gardens seemed shabby back then and had graffiti scratched into all the bamboo canes by eager tourists.  Then last week I revisited them, and they have been transformed, along with an amazing museum set inside the original house.

The area near the former Art studio, which now is a new museum of Berber Art opened in 2010, has wonderful ponds and terraces in vivid blue and yellow colours.

Pumkins, Starbucks and Instagram

Autumn, Decorating, Halloween Inspiration

Pumpkins, Starbucks and trying to get stylish…

Recently I was asked to come up with some fake pumpkins for a photo shoot for a rolling campaign for Starbucks and Instagram, promoting the infamous Pumpkin Latte’s which they make in the autumn.  I was asked to make 3 pumpkin heads for actors to wear in photographs.  They were to be photographed around London at a distance, in various situations, in a documentary style.  These will come up on the Starbuck’s Instagram feed throughout this month.


We could not use real ones with the innards scooped out as they would be pretty gross,as in heavy & slimy for the actors.  So I then had a go at making one from plaster and wire so that a head could easily sit inside.  It started out fine, but the weight of the plaster made it sag overnight and it looked like a giant Physalis by morning… hmm…

pumpkin 1

FAIL!!!!!  A really ultimate fail actually.

Not to be deterred, and always the optimist, I turned to the wonders of the web, and managed to get some speedy shipping of Funkins sorted out.  These are incredibly lifelike fake pumpkins, that can be carved, lit from within and so on.  They are actually made from a moulded hard plastic foam, and then hand painted on top.  Unluckily for our budget thought, they had to be shipped from the USA in a hasty and expensive dispatch mode.

The client wanted them to be able to sit on the actors heads, not wobble and look incredibly lifelike.  Oh and they also had to fit in a full adult sized head and cover the whole neck as well.  I measured a lot of startled adults locally to check head and neck sizes, and then ordered the biggest I could find.  They are actually really hard to carve, sort of tough and chewy, and my knife was in a sorry state by the time I had finished.  I started out by carving out the space for the head to fit in.  We then ummed and ahhed and decided not to add typical carved faces, but to leave them totally plain.  Then off they went to be filmed across London in a variety of poses.

DSCF8810 train

Definitely one of the weirdest things I have been asked to do recently, but it was great fun and the pictures looks fantastic.

escalator 2

DSCF9026 gallery

latte 2

The Marriage of Figaro – Is Opera a dying art?

Inspiration, music, Opera

I am digressing from my normal posts of design and making things, due to inspirational event  activities.  Last night I attended a live stream of the Royal Opera House’s performance of The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart.  My eldest daughter is studying Voice as a Junior member of the Royal College of Music, so it seemed a very nice idea to be able to pop to the local cinema with her rather than heading to London for the evening in the middle of term time for the screening.

Mozart is a good introduction to Opera generally for a young person , and this opera is comic and with very well known and memorable refrains, so I though she would enjoy the piece.  In fact, it is sort of like the Jeremy Kyle show on speed in terms of content!  Twisting plots, confusing cross love affairs and more, and all executed beautifully in this David McVicar production.  It has been said that Opera is elitist, expensive and a dying art form, but this recently started live streaming format is proving incredibly popular worldwide and making it accessible to everyone.  Opera is just an earlier form of the Musical, and I don’t think it should be relegated to the elitist bin as such.

The set design and lighting are what really stood out for me visually in this production.  A lot of operas and theatre directors tend to reimagine the action into current day, usually some sort of civil war is popular.   I recently saw the RSC’s Othello at Stratford where the main uniform seemed to be combat gear and riot police clothing.  I was a bit disappointed honestly, as I wanted to see the pomp and splendour of Venice in which the play was originally set, not what looked like an Afghan outpost.  That said, it was an amazing production with spectacular acting, but I don’t think it necessary to always try and modernise theatre and opera to make it ‘new’.  If the plot is solid, it will sustain.

The Marriage of Figaro I watched was set in the past, in a cross between French Romanticism, Victorianism and a little bit of Baroque.   The stage design was very simple, with huge tall rooms of faded grandeur, that cleverly slid and flew into different set ups so that transitions became fascinating rather than distracting.  The predominant colours were buff, others and dreams and it all conspired to create a very elegant visual composition.  The furniture was large scale, minimal in amount and slightly shabby, furthering the impression of a faded Palazzo.  I was also furtively coveting the aged paint effects in the wall panelling and wondering how to replicate them at times…you just cannot take the decorater out of the girl….

The lighting design furthered this impression of faded grandeur, with the most realistic use of dappled daylight lighting.  There is a scene when Cherubino jumps out a window, and I could have sworn it was a real sunny day beyond the frame the way the scene was lit.  The night scene in the wood was very effective, with tree shadows simply cast across the stage.

The singers were all, of course, top notch performers.  Figaro was performed by Erwin Schrott with perfect execution, and Suzanna’s part was take that night by Sophie Bevan who did a masterly job in captivating the audience.  The character of Cherubino, the young page, was the most memorable for me.  The singer Kate Lindey managed to come across as a hormonal teenage maniac, literally itching in her pants to jump any available female.  Her comic timing was hilarious, but she also avoided pastiche and sang the pathos notes in Non Si Piu so beautifully that the hairs stood up on my neck.  The ensemble opera company played all of their roles to perfection, bustling around as servants, changing the sets,  eavesdropping on their Master and developing strong characters of their own whilst not in leading roles.

We left the cinema elated, and humming Mozart refrains, (in my case appallingly out of tune which my daughter kindly tolerated).  I so hope that these productions do not die a death whilst young people move into pure poptastic realms.  We were the only people in the cinema under 60, and the only ones who applauded, laughed, gasped and more.  These live streams could be so good at introducing younger people to Opera if they keep going, in fact I think they should be made compulsory as part of the curriculum.  Any 14 year old boy would identify with Cherubino as a starter….in a sort of Kevin and Perry/Beavis and Butthead way.

Designs on Autumn and Halloween… Part 1

Decorating, Halloween Inspiration, Ideas
Pumpkins and spice and all things nice….

So now, as we head into Autumn, my thoughts are turning to russet tones, cosying up the house and prepping for Halloween here.  Although it is not a huge deal in the UK compared to the States, my daughters still love it and it is nice to see the tiny ones in our road trick or treating.  Saying that, they never trick, they just get treated to many sweets and goodies and we all have to pretend to be terrified.  I especially like the little girls as they always have pink wellies on under the ghoulish outfits – there ain’t nothing that will separate a four year old from PINK!

I have a stash of decorations that come out in the autumn; pumpkins made from raffia, witches, candle holders and the like.  But they are bit childish now for my elegant girls, so my thoughts are turning onto finding new ideas to make decorations still relevant but also super-stylish.  I always love carving real pumpkins with patterns, but they don’t last that long once they have been carved.

Turning to my bible that is Pinterest, I found some really nice ideas that are Halloween based, but a little more chic than my garish effects.  I am aiming to make some sort of decorations that are both autumnal but can also be pepped up for the Halloween night.  These ones are leaning towards black and white:

But is it very monochrome, and I think Autumn needs that orange in it, so these have a punch of colour going on…

So the plan is to get some pumpkins and gourds as a starter, plus some spray paint and start attacking.  I am trying to find some instant flock velvet type spray, as that could look great (but not sure if it actually exists to date?).

I will post the results soon….

It’s Official. I don’t get a kick out of neutrals anymore….c

Colour, Decorating, Inspiration, Interior Design

Something has changed – it could be hormonal, or maybe I have had a small stroke and a part of my brain has switched to a new dimension, but I just cannot get enthused at the moment with natural shades and calm interiors. Neutrals are great for making things look spacious, calm and restful, but I just don’t seem to want them anymore.  I want drama, colour and eclecticism.

Inspiring colour palette


Marie Claire Maison has featured this interior shoot in April 2015 and the color palette is wow!  Although having been up in London recently, I am bit bearded-out so to speak as every man I saw had full facial hair.  I just always think of Mr Twit by Roald Dahl when confronted by facially hirsute men.

Gardening style - Eclectic Trends

Gardening style - Eclectic Trends

Gardening style - Eclectic Trends

Gardening style - Eclectic Trends

Styling: Cristina Nava | Photography:  Lorenzo Pennati 

12 Easy Furniture Hacks courtesy of Houzz

Decorating, Makeover, Upcycling