Reinvention & Renovation

Furniture makeovers and upcyling

Dream house Renovation: The Dressing Room

Dressing room ladder

It seems inconceivable that just five years after moving into our rambling, creaking old house we could be decorating a room for the second time.

Harry’s then-nursery was the first room we did anything to on our list of priorities (a list pages-long, that still sits tacked to a noticeboard somewhere in the hallway, the paper curled at the edges now, with a faltering list of ticks and crossings-out).  We wanted a room that felt, to him, exactly like the one he had left behind; a cocoon and a place for dreaming and comfort.  We picked the smallest room in the house, and used Cole & Sons ‘Woods’ wallpaper for a magical night-time feel.

Then within a couple of years, Harry graduated to a bigger room; one with enough space for books and toys and a bunkbed; for den-building and story-telling.  I slowly took over the old nursery as a room to store clothes and handbags, but it looked very much like a room with an identity crisis…

nursery wallpaper

…so last week I funally took it in hand and gave it a makeover to be a proper dressing room.

Dressong room peg rail

I used Piet Hein Eeek wallpaper on two of the walls for a Scandinavian, cabin-like feel; the room gets a weak, Northern light so the cool, bleached look of the plank-wood wallpaper suits it perfectly;

dressing room with Scrapwood wallpaper

The eagle-eyed may remember that I used the same wallpaper, hung horizontally, on a chimney-breast in the main bedroom;

Piet Hein Eek wallpaper on a chimneybreast

I added simple peg rails made of unfinished timber and shaker pegs, painted with a single coat of chalk paint to blend in with the walls (I left the pegs in their natural state).  It echoes the guest room with its wall-to-wall peg rail.

Peg rail with shaker star

I borrowed a comfy chair from the kitchen which has rapidly become a place where discarded clothes accumulate daily.  I hasten to add, having looked at this picture (below) more closely, that I don’t wear these cut-off shorts and heels together.  Channelling Pretty Women is never a good idea.

Dressing room chair

I moved an old chest of drawers down from the loft  (*I lie; I had nothing to do with its journey down from the loft. That took lots of effort and cursing from two grown men and I made myself scarce as soon as the difficulty of the situation became apparent).  I painted the knobs silver – after purchasing the wallpaper, new knobs seemed like a luxury too far – and from a distance they could be mistaken for pewter.  A distance, okay?

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Dressing room tableau

This matronly mannequin has moved from the spare room and now houses bits and pieces of jewellery, pinned to her ample bosom;

vintage mannequin

And one of my favourite new additions; Ikea cabinets make the most of the super-high ceilings and provide a home for my handbags.  The only problem?  I can’t yet fill them all.  What a nice problem to have. (On the other side of the room and not shown; Ikea ‘PAX’ tall mirrored wardrobes which bounce the little available light around and are crammed full of everything else…)

handbag cabinets

it’s an unashamedly girly room, and as such, I have it completely to myself in this house of men; the mysteries of women being very much a fontier not to be breached.

Now, to the handbag-cabinet-filling opportunity…

 

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How To Look Manly In An Apron (or: Impress Your Friends With a Tea Towel DIY)

DIY Tea-Towel Cafe Apron

Successful marriage requires compromise, as we all know.  The hurly-burly of give and take is what bonds you as a couple and cements your union.  Sometimes it means making sacrifices for the other, such as when your wife whips up a homemade apron and then realises that she has no-one to model it, and sabotages your restful weekend breakfast with the request that you put down your toast and newspaper, don the aforementioned apron and adopt a stylish, manly pose right this minute so that she can take a picture before the sun goes behind a cloud.

Gotta love him.  Not least because living with creative souls can be a very messy business.

Cafe apron DIY

When we were in Provence recently I did the classic tourist thing of buying a handful of beautiful tea-towels, thinking they were almost too lovely to use, but sure I would think of something I could do with them later.  There were these vibrant, colourful trio, a bargain at 10 Euro for the three;

Provencal tea towels

And then these gorgeous heavyweight rough linen monogram tea-towels, for just 5 Euro each (I bought a bagful, I confess…)

French linen monogram tea towel

Linen aprons

Once home, I decided to turn one of the linen tea-towels into a cafe-style half apron with pockets.  It’s not a no-sew project, I cannot tell a lie, but it’s certainly a low-sew one, and required very little skill or tiresome things like measuring or tacking or the re-threading of needles until puncture wounds drive you towards that unopened bottle of wine.  The monogramming and stripes on my linen towel obviously complement the style, but you could do this with any tea-towel of a reasonable weight.  Here’s how I made it, step by step…

DIY Cafe Apron from a Tea-Towel

Locating my sewing machine, finding that the cable was missing, buying a replacement, returning to the store to buy the right colour cotton and clearing the kitchen table in readiness took about 2 days.  Making the apron took approximately 30 minutes; pleasingly short.  And it’s just the right length to wipe your hands on when in the midst of a flamboyant culinary endeavour, with pockets big enough for your phone, recipe, ladle, and anything else you might need…

DIy Cafe Apron with Pockets

And finally, if aprons and tea-towels aren’t your thing, how about these gorgeous local soaps in every scent and colour under the sun, the other souvenir we brought home from our travels in France; I spent ages choosing which ones to buy, aided by Harry in doing the sniff test (we still sneeze when we think about it).  Simple purchases, and simple pleasures; the very best kind…

Provencal soap

 

olive oil soap

beautiful Provencal soap

Have a great week!

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DIY Cafe Apron

 

Painted Pots!

DIY Painted Pots from katescreativespace

Earlier in June the sun broke through the grey British skies and we had three magnificent weeks of an early taste of summer. We spent most of our free hours outside; building dens, bringing the garden back to life, practising football skills and planting up pots for some summer-long colour.  I have a HUGE supply of pots but most are modern, dull terracotta, so I raided our shelf of old tester pots of paint and brought them back to a more colourful life…

Painted pots

Here’s what I used…

DIy Painted Pots Materials

In each case I simply washed and dried the pots and then painted each a different, complementary colour, experimenting with techniques to see what happened.  For this first one (below), I used two layers of a lavender/grey paint and then lightly sanded around the rim to age it a little.  When dry, I used a bit of sponge to dab some lichen-coloured paint around the base (leftover from our kitchen!)..

Painted pots 1

For contrast, I used a deep, bold charcoal paint sample for the rosemary pot, and rubbed a tiny dab of silver paint (this one) around the rim to highlight..

Painted pots 2

And for the lavender, I used a vibrant blue and brushed it on very roughly, before stippling the dry paint with a sponge topped with white emulsion paint…

lavender pot in blues

When you’ve completed your artistic endeavours and painted all the pots, simply coat with a brush-on wax or varnish to seal – hey presto; summer is here!

Clustered painted pots

With lavender on my mind, we’re heading to Provence for a few days; I’m fantasising about swimming outdoors, browsing for brocantes in local village markets and sipping chilled rosé as dusk falls… I can’t wait!  If you’ve visited the region and have any recommendations do please let me know in the comments; we’re staying near Grasse, and hoping to catch a glimpse of the Tour de France as it barrels through the neighbouring countryside..

p.s. thank you for the lovely comments on last week’s Mouseketeers post; I’m still smiling…

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Silvered Pebbles; a DIY Garden Game for Summer

DIY Painted Rocks

We’re in the throes of an unexpectedly lovely May holiday weekend, and have been living outdoors, sorting out sheds and pottering in the garden.  I uncovered a stash of old tiles, leftover from bathroom and kitchen projects both here and at our last house.  They looked too pretty to throw away, so I’ve repurposed them to make an outsized, organic version of Noughts and Crosses (or Tic Tac Toe).  I used river pebbles which are smooth and tactile and call out to be stroked and handled, and the set can live outside in all weathers.  If you have a couple of old tiles and a supply of pebbles (mine were from our local garden centre; £5/bag), then this is a very gratifying afternoon project…

DIY Garden noughts and crosses

Playing garden games in summer

Garden games for families

You’ll need:

  • A large tile for the board; slate, granite or marble are ideal.
  • Felt pads to back the tile (optional, but avoids scratching surfaces)
  • Silver paint; I used Liquid Leaf.  Varnish is optional.
  • Masking tape and stencils
  • Pebbles; choose similar sizes, as flat as possible to aid painting and reduce wobble on the board!

First, wash and dry the pebbles and decide on your design.  I decided on stripes and a flower motif instead of noughts and crosses; I used masking tape freehand to mark the stripes on half of the stones, and then simply peeled it away again after brushing on the liquid silver…

step 1

Step 2Step 3

DIY Silvered pebbles

For the ‘noughts’, I used mini cupcake stencils from a local baking shop, and lightly sprayed them with repositionable glue to hold them in place whilst I brushed the paint on.  If you get any small runs or smudges, wait till the paint dries and then simply scratch away the excess with a knife blade; it’s gratifyingly easy to correct.  You can varnish your stones to make them even more hardy; gloss varnish will change the colour of the stone, so have a practice on a spare stone to check that you like the effect first.

Stencilled pebbles step 1

 

Stencilled pebbles step 2

DIY Silver motif pebbles

For the main board I chose a large grey floor tile and measured the gride for nine squares, and marked this in pencil.  I used my masking tape to mark very thin grid lines and then simply painted these in the same way as the striped stones.  You could make them thicker if you like (or even engrave them if you are a master with a Dremel tool (and thus far handier than I…).

DIY Tic Tac Toe for the gardne

Add felt pads to the back of your board (I used these felt coasters for ease, gluing them near the four corners), and place on a contrasting tile if you wish, or simply on a table top or patio.

I used two plank tiles to make platters for the sets of stones; these were wood-effect tiles leftover from the bathroom in our guestroom.  Again, I added felt coasters underneath and then laid out the stones on each; they look rather beautiful..

Decorated silver pebbles Striped silver pebbles

And there you have it… a stylish and fun game to entertain the little people in your life, or simply to look good as the seasons finally turn and al fresco living becomes a reality.  Roll on summer….

Garden tic tac toe

Garden perspective

The Dream House Renovation: The Guest Room!

Guest room rug and bedside

We moved into our house almost 3yrs ago, and it’s taken us this long to tackle the guest room.  Partly that’s due to cash-flow – living in an 18th Century house means that every year there’s an unforeseen roof leak, boiler breakdown or ceiling collapse (and in this particularly costly year; all three…) – but it’s also due to the awkwardness of the room and my endless prevarication about what to do with it.  Unlike the downstairs rooms with their 3.5m ceilings and sweeping bay windows, the guest room is considerably less well-endowed.  Here’s what it looked like a few weeks ago..

old room 2 old room 1

Tired decor, floral borders, exposed pipework and the oldest piece of furniture I own – a bed from my student days.  It also became a dumping ground for the things which didn’t fit anywhere else (hello, enormous mirrored IKEA wardrobes).  So we took a deep breath, saved up our money for a while, and ripped it all out to start again…

Northlight

 

Guest room makeover 3

 

reflection

We laid an engineered oak floor – the same one as in the kitchen – and fitted tall tongue-and-groove panels to the walls, to create a shaker/scandi-style natural look.  With Northern light filtering through the windows, a palette of muted greys, bleached wood and off-whites seems to enhance it and create a calming space.  To create inexpensive peg rails, we used lengths of unfinished wood and drilled holes for pegs bought en masse on eBay; we glued these in place and left for 24hrs to harden up before painting.

Shaker pegs

wooden wreath and shaker peg rail

We used paints from the Farrow and Ball range (see below), and to save on cost I gave the battered-but-very-comfortable pine bed a couple of coats of Chalk Paint.  If you’ve not used it before, it’s a slapdash renovators dream; you don’t need to sand or strip surfaces or use primer; just clean them and go for it… it seems to stick to anything, and the colours are chalky, soft and beautiful…

Old pine bed repainted in chalk paint

Guest room base elements

Materials I used; Cornforth White (panelling and woodwork) and Wimborne White (walls) from Farrow and Ball.  Artisan Engineered Oak Linen flooring from Kahrs.  Bed painted in Paris Grey Chalk Paint from Annie Sloan.  Pegs available on eBay and Etsy, timber from all good DIY stores.

For the windows, we had shutters made very simply from lengths of MDF with moulding glued on to simulate original panelled shutters;  it cost a fraction of the price of the real thing, and looks almost as good…

Make shutters from MDF and beading

An old sofa and cable knit throw fit neatly into the bay and make for a comfy spot to curl up and read before the light fades..

sofa in bay

With the basic complete, it was time to have fun with the accent pieces and decor…

Design elements for the guest room

We fitted wall-mount bedside lights behind the panelling, and invested in a pair of beautiful tree-slice tables for the bedsides, which are wide enough to hold everything you might need through the long hours of the night…

Guest room 4

and soft reindeer hides to add some luxe comfort to the wooden boards;

Guest room rug and bedside

I gave an old, chipped console table a new coat of paint and it now serves as a dressing table, complete with over-sized mirror which helps to bounce light around the room.  A faux fiddle-leaf fig adds a splash of green and is helpfully immune to my usual rather slapdash attempts at watering and general house-plant maintenance…

Guest room makeover 1

Fiddle leaf fig

The console also houses a rotating set of treasures, like this beautiful vase by ceramicist Tina Vlassopulos, a gift from my father several years ago.

Decorative accents

The vintage wooden dough bowl that usually sits in our bathroom is enjoying a spell on top of the butchers block where it holds guest towels and extras like spare toothbrushes, shower gel and other easily-forgotten essentials.

Butchers block with old suitcase and dough bowl

I like the spartan simplicity of the room, but couldn’t help but add a few final decorative touches; the old tin barn star is an antique-fair find, and perches on an old milking stool;

Barn star on milking stool

And this feathered cape makes a timely escape from my wardrobe to hang near the window where the light can filter through the feathers..

Guest room makeover 2

Other features below; fresh flowers scent the room and add a burst of life and colour; the bedside tables have simple glass bottles as carafes. You can find my tutorial on folding books here; the wifi code is discreetly framed and sits on the dressing table; the overhead light is the Norm 69 pendant; a nightmare to assemble but beautiful when in place!

Guest room accents

Enjoy the rest of your weekend; we’re having a small birthday lunch for Harry and excitement is already off the scale!

I’ll be back in a couple of days with some DIY party-hats and a Knights and Dragons cake…

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ps If you missed them, you can see our kitchen, hall and bathroom makeovers too.

Welcome to the Starlight Puppet Theatre!

Welcome to the Starlight Puppet Theatre!

It’s funny how randomly some childhood passions are created.  Whilst every small boy seems to go through phases where the world revolves around dinosaurs, superheroes, and Lego, other obsessions are decidedly more unique and less predictable.  This one began with a bell.

We were sitting in the park this Summer, pondering whether the ducks would find our stale, greenish bread crusts anymore attractive than we did, when a lady walked past swinging a bell and calling for all the children in the park to follow her for the puppet show.  Obedient as ever, we joined her Pied Piper-like chain and ended up in front of a vintage Punch and Judy stall, where we watched, gripped, as the show unfolded.  It was little-boy heaven, involving as it did lots of audience participation and bad behaviour from the puppets, who variously whacked each other with sticks, threw Judy’s baby in the rubbish bin and got arrested by the local policeman.  There was nothing politically-correct about it, causing delighted shock in the rapturous audience of under-1os.

Harry talked about the puppet theatre for days, re-enacting it to try to describe to visitors just how funny it was (which in turn was very funny to watch..).  I decided to turn Harry’s old play shop into a puppet theatre – and here’s how we did it. The shop was originally made from a junk-find bookcase, which I painted and then stocked to create the original shop (here and below).

dresseroldandnew-copy1

The bookcase proved endlessly adaptable for our new project.  I enlisted help to cut an opening from the back of the bookcase, and then much of the rest was achieved with paint and scraps of fabric and trim…

DIY bookcase into a Puppet Theatre

Harry and I painted the shelves with chalk paint, which I love because you don’t need to do any sanding or stripping before you begin.  A tester-sized pot of black and red gave us the coverage we needed; Harry joined in with the painting with great enthusiasm which was lovely – as was the fact that chalk paint is very washable; a highly relevant factor..).  The bottom section I sprayed with some leftover gold craft paint for a bit of showbiz sparkle.

chalk paint

For the curtains I used a remnant length of pinky-red velvet and trimmed it with braid (my sewing skills are rudimentary, which was fortunately all that this required).  They’re threaded onto a length of wooden dowel which rests on cup hooks inside the theatre nook.  I later tacked a length of sparkly dark net fabric to the back to help disguise the young puppeteers too.

sewing closeups

Every puppet show needs a sign to let the audience know when the show is due to begin; I designed one in Powerpoint and then glued it to a piece of foam board.  The clock hands are cut from cardstock and secured with a brass paper-fastener, allowing them to be easily repositioned by small hands.  I tied a couple of inexpensive tassels to a length of red ribbon and threaded them through two punched holes to allow the sign the be hung.  A re-purposed doorknob is screwed into the top of the bookcase to hang it on.

Puppet Show Welcome Sign

To the shelf fronts I glued lengths of coppery and red ribbon from my ribbons box (whenever we’re given gifts I keep any ribbons and scraps; they invariably come in useful for projects).  I used regular all-purpose glue, but if you have one then a hot-glue glue gun would give great results.  On the shelves we arranged popcorn holders and borrowed play ice-creams and other food from Harry’s kitchen; something for everyone who comes to the show!

Play Popcorn and other theatre treats

The programmes were made by folding sheets of regular paper in half and tying them to a cover sheet of red cardstock; no trimming or gluing needed.  I made a cover for the programmes, but it was Harry who provided the content, welcoming the audience and drawing pictures of some of the cast of characters to create anticipation for the show ahead.  We made a few spare programmes so that Harry and his friends can make new programmes over time as they plan shows and come up with new stories to tell.

Starlight Programmes

The puppets are stored in an old silk-covered suitcase which I found cheaply at a local antiques barn.  I stencilled a star on the lid by drawing around a decorative 5-point star shape and then carefully filling inside the shape with a tester of dark blue-grey paint.  I used masking tape along the sides of the drawn star to give me a sharp, clean shape.

Stencilled stars

Stencilled star case

The puppets themselves were a combination of eBay and thrift store finds.  If you’re a Brit living in the south-east it’s worth looking out for FARA, a chain of charity shops which deal mostly in children’s clothes and toys; I found 4 puppets there which will help us complete the cast of Little Red Riding Hood; and for a bargain price, too!

Starlight Puppet Collection

chairty shop puppets

And as a finishing touch, I updated the former shop bell… because every performer needs to be able to summon a good audience quickly!

Audience bell

Have a great weekend wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.  I’ll be having a weekend treat of open-air cinema and picnicking, watching George Clooney Gravity under the stars.  The forecast is good, the picnic blanket ready… fingers crossed!

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p.s. And if you see Mr Punch anywhere near the baby, don’t forget to SHOUT!!

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A Cupcake Armada (and back to school fever!)

Cupcake Armada

How are you?  Today feels like the last day of the long summer break, before school and work restart in earnest next week.  An amazing summer of long hot days, evenings without bedtime curfews and delicious expanses of family time.  A summer too of sporting achievements; armbands are now permanently consigned to the loft and Harry is confidently afloat and swimming like a fish (albeit a wriggling, giggling one, who is liable to take onboard water in moments of distraction…).

We’ve also had the time to make progress with more of the house redesign and decor, tackling the upstairs rooms a little at a time; so exciting.  And many more projects in the pipeline… but more on that in a minute.

First though, a fun papercraft-and-cake project from this week (combinations don’t come much better than that, surely); a practice-run of ideas for friends who want to have homemade vibrant and fun cupcakes at their seaside wedding instead of a traditional cake.

cupcake sails 07

I wanted to create the impression of masted sails and chose long wooden barbecue skewers and strips of brightly coloured paper to create the effect.  For the pattern – which reminded me of swirling sea colours but also picked out the pink theme colour of the wedding – I downloaded one of the wonderful free watercolour designs by Yao Cheng for DLF , cropped it into long rectangle shapes and then added some text in Powerpoint (below).  If you don’t need to add writing, I’d just chose a lovely patterned sheet of gift wrap and cut out rectangles of about 2×5 inches.

cupcake sails 02

I painted each skewer with food colouring; you can do this neat from the bottle or dilute for a more subtle colour.  I left the bottom of the skewers unpainted but of course the beauty of the food colouring is it’s completely non-toxic and safe to be thrust deep into sponge…

cupcake 04

I threaded the paper onto the skewer and then pushed a small pearl bead onto each skewer tip both for decorative effect and to avoid any partygoers accidentally poking themselves in the eye when leaning over to choose their cake.. and also strung a few tiny bells randomly on the mast tops..

cupcake sails 05

Ta-da; the finished cupcakes!  Easy to produce en masse but equally fun just to make for teatime.

cupcake sails 07

 In other news… Harry and I have been embarking on a rather more substantial project this month; remember the Parisian Play Shop?  It was well-loved and well-played with for about a year but gradually became a dumping ground for all kinds of toys, books and half-built Lego models.  Whilst the play kitchen is very much still in active use, and acts like a magnet for any little girls who happen to be passing through, the shop seemed to have run its course, so I moved it to the loft to create space and forgot about it.

But then, this summer we stumbled across a pop-up puppet show in the local park – and Harry was absolutely transfixed.  There’s something about the slapstick comedy and audience participation which completely captured his imagination and made him chuckle whenever he thought about it for days afterwards.  So… we’re building a puppet theatre together, where we can stage our own plays at home.  I began by bashing out the top shelf and getting a large hole cut out from the back..

puppet theatre in progress

and finished up…….

starlight puppet theatre DIY

…well, I think we’ll open the theatre officially with a Grand Reveal next week, when our finishing touches are complete. We have some rehearsing to do after all :-)

Have a great weekend when it comes; I’ll be making the most of the last couple of days of lie-ins and sunshine, in-between stitching in name tags and retrieving long-abandoned school kit from corners around the house..

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DIY Art Installation: The Great Wall of China

I’ve always had a bit of a passion for matt white porcelain; there’s just something about its beauty and fragility, and the understated simplicity of it.  Having neither the lifestyle not budget to warrant actually buying it, I’ve till now satisfied my passion with window shopping and pinning artists and makers like Caroline Swift (below) and Isabelle Abramson (bottom)

carline swift vessels caroline swift bowls

Isabelle Abramson

A couple of weeks ago I was drinking coffee in the kitchen and wondering idly which picture to hang on a long, thin wall when I decided to do something very different – I’d try creating a sculpture wall of porcelain-like vessels and kitchen implements which could hang quietly against a backdrop of white until noticed…

Kitchen with wall installation

 

great wall of china montage

I began by assembling any old and chipped plates we had, plus odds and ends like a couple of baby feeding spoons from when Harry was weaning, and a pair of chopsticks.  I did a quick trawl of local charity shops and managed to pick up a cheap teapot and a couple of china mugs and saucers.  These were a myriad of different colours, but of course that doesn’t matter at all as everything will be sprayed white.  Oh, and remember the teacup bird feeders I made?  I swiped one of the cups and saucers from there to repurpose on my wall.  I gave everything several thin coats of matt white spray paint and then rolled out a length of white paper to play with the arrangement of the items.  I used a leftover roll of lining wallpaper for this – very cheap and super useful.  I moved the items around, repositioning and taking photos to work out what arrangement would look best on the eventual wall…

wall art laid out on paper

It was also at this stage that I gave some serious thought to how to fix the china and objects to the wall, especially those – like the whisk – that I wanted to hang at a particular angle.  The answer was to use a few different methods.  For lighter items like the baking implements below, I just tapped a handful of nails into the wall to secure them in place, spraying the nails white afterwards.  You can see them if you look for them, but otherwise they pass largely unnoticed…

kates kitchen wall

kitchen utensils wall art

For heavier plates and arrangements, I glued the pieces together before spraying them, then used plate discs to adhere to the back before hanging flush on the wall using nails.  The plate discs hold an amazing weight, but you do need to follow the directions and let them ‘cure’ overnight first before testing their strength.junk shop teapot sprayed matt white sprayed white chopsticks on saucer

babyspoon and bowl white plates

The most challenging items were light, individual pieces like the little ramekins and the fish dipping dish.  I wanted them to appear completely flush with the wall and seem almost to be floating.  In the end, I opted for  super-strong velcro tabs which are designed for picture hanging.  One side adheres to the wall, and one to the piece you want to hang, then they simply clip together (see below for more details).  This was great to use for any pieces which I was hanging in arm’s length of visiting toddlers – they can be peeled off the wall if some strength is used, but can’t be knocked to the floor and broken.  Not easily, anyhow…

kitchen wall with a difference

 

Fancy having a go? Here’s what I used; matt white spray paint to get the china a uniform, flat colour.  Command picture hanging strips to adhere lightweight pieces directly to the wall; this is great as you can reposition them and move the pieces around to different positions.  Adhesive plate discs, for invisible hanging or larger items, which are then hung onto nails or hooks; I used these tap-in angled ones below for a near-flush finish; you could use ordinary nails and gently tap them at an angle to avoid pieces jutting out.

wall art materials

 

Our Great Wall of China joins other kitchen features like the mounted boat transom (below) and folded books on the fireplace and completes it at last…

boat in room close up

books on fireplace

It will probably provoke similarly mixed reactions from friends, with some who think it’s the coolest thing ever and others who think we’re completely nuts… and that’s fine too.  Debate can ensue over a Saturday night glass of wine or three…

I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend, wherever you are!

Kate

 

Treasure-Hunting…

Ardingly IACF Fair

Images above via IACF

One bright day two weeks ago, we piled into the car and headed for Ardingly, which periodically hosts one of Europe’s largest vintage & antiques fairs.  It’s an annual pilgrimage for me; a hunting ground for treasures and improbable, beautiful finds.  We have clearly defined roles; I spot something I adore and then shriek, loudly, before bouncing around distractingly in the background whilst my husband attempts to negotiate the price, and to create an impression of casual interest. Often, I am dispatched for coffee as a way of removing me from sight entirely.

Prices anyway are low; this is predominantly a dealers’ event, and bargains are many. Whether you are looking for a set of tiny vintage patisserie tins, a 20ft high reclaimed, columned stone porch for your country manor or a turn-of-the-century copper bathtub, you will undoubtedly find it here.  Sellers come from all over Europe and it’s as much a reunion as a business event; currencies, embraces and gossip are all freely exchanged and there’s a festive air.

I gave myself a strict budget of £100 and went rummaging.  Here’s what I bought;  firstly, an armful of vintage French linens; monogrammed tea-towls and a long, hand-woven length of heavy linen which will work beautifully as a rustic table runner.  They’re perched on a £5 old milking stool, which will make a lovely bedside book table once I check that the woodworm, too, is definitely vintage…

vintage french linens

My unexpected find was a collection of huge 19th Century tin stencils of deer and stags – including the ‘inner’ cut-outs, which I love; I’m thinking the inner pieces will look beautiful resting on shelves and mantels at Christmastime, whereas I might actually put the stencils themselves to use to decorate tablecloths and fabric placemats (watch this space…).

19thC Stencils

I’ve been searching for a while for some little copper pans to use when serving individual puddings or sauces, and at last found these 9cm Mauviel pans which polished up beautifully; I’m picturing hot chocolate fondants with liquid centres, dusted with icing sugar… mmm.

brocante copper pans

These champagne buckets below will add to one I have already and look good in a row at parties filled with ice & different bottles (wines, beers, soft..); I’m imagining them on my cart once I get around to restoring it…at 2 for £10 it seemed worth it even if they’re only used a handful of times a year.

old champagne buckets

My next purchase was another surprise find; four vintage postal sacks (Belgian or Dutch, I think), which Harry immediately decided would be brilliant for a sack race (and how right he is..).  Once the summer is over I’ll give them a good clean and may turn them into over-sized lounging pillows or even hang them up in a row as laundry bags – though it could be weeks before we manage to fill them up.  What would you do with these?  They’re incredibly strong and well-made, and the years have made them very soft too… I’m sure there are a myriad of uses for them.

vintage postal sack

sack races

And finally, a pile of naturally-shed antlers to decoratively fill our kitchen fireplace out of season, sold by a charismatic, ancient Scotsman who collects them from across the moors.   If you come across antlers and like the look of them as decor accents, check that the ends are rounded and unmarked, which will indicate that they’ve been naturally shed during the spring  - hence their prevalence now.

deer antlers in fireplace

Large antlers and giant tin stencils may indeed be great finds, but they are somewhat hard to manoeuvre safely through crowds, so after inadvertently poking several bystanders we decided to head for home with our boot-load of treasure…. at least until the next year.

Are you a dedicated junk-hunter?  I’ve always had a passion for old, reclaimed objects and materials, and now our very old, unusual home gives us the perfect blank canvas for them.  Our last house was a minimal, modern space  - equally lovely but completely different, and much less suited to battered and worn furnishings.  How lovely to have an excuse now…

Have a great weekend, wherever you are and whatever you are doing!

vintage tin stag form

The Little House

The Little House in Winter

House-painting can be a relentless, unforgiving task.  Slaving away in the burning sun and occasional rain, painting never-ending woodwork atop a wobbly ladder.  My advice?  Buy yourself a house that’s all of 8 foot high and you’ll find you can paint it in approximately an hour, including varnishing.  Trust me; it’s enormously satisfying.  A little small, perhaps, for the whole family, but perfectly proportioned for a 3yr old.

You may remember we bought a second-hand playhouse (above) for Harry’s birthday last winter, and it has sat looking picturesque but slightly weary through the harsh winter months.  Soon after buying it I added curtains made from tea towels and a slate ‘Little House’ sign, but we waited until the Springtime before tackling the interior.  Last weekend I gave it a proper overhaul, painting sills and gables, planting up hanging baskets and turning the bare interior into a proper bachelor pad. If you’ve time for a cup of pretend tea and a plastic cake, come on inside and have the tour…

the little house sign

When the playhouse was delivered, the inside was bare wood – and somewhat battered from having legions of small feet pattering in and out over the years in its former home.

playhouse renovation

We gave it a couple of coats of whitewash and glued inexpensive carpet tiles to the floor, and then decked out the interior with Harry’s play BBQ, table and chairs…

playhouse interior

harrys kitchen diner

All of these furnishings have simply been moved out from the playroom for the summer, freeing up some valuable space indoors.

Here’s the ‘loft’ sleeping platform before….

harrys loft before

And after…

little house loft

Above the sleeping platform hangs – securely –  a watchful angel; in reality a photograph I took of a folk-art Christmas decoration I bought years ago in New England.

little house angel

There’s enough space to hang your hat above your pillow, and a clock to wake you from a nap, should the bird chorus outside fail.  A decorative driftwood garland hangs by the ladder, and some well-worn old linens make for a comfortable den to retire to with a favourite book.  The paper animal garland was leftover from Harry’s first birthday party a couple of years ago and has found renewed purpose in bedecking the playhouse walls – I give it a few more months before it is declared too babyish and relegated to the (real) loft.

play loft

Do you remember Harry’s Hardware Store (below)?  With the advent of warm weather this has found a natural home inside the playhouse, where young drivers can park their scooters, pedal cars and balance bikes at the door and come in for tools, coffee or petrol.  It does a roaring trade..

harry store main shot

playhouse with built in store

Externally, The Little House is ready for summer; I exchanged the faux-topiary balls of winter for some low hanging baskets which Harry and I planted up with strawberries; they are just reachable for 3yr old hands, but tantalisingly out of reach for slugs.  Geraniums burst from the window box, mirroring those of the main house, and a passion flower climbs alongside the door.   A bird box mounted near the eaves will hopefully attract residents next winter, and a brightly painted cockerel weather vane adds a distinctive finishing touch.  And finally, I can’t forget our sunflowers, which now sit along the side of the Little House, where they can turn to the late afternoon sun, protected from the mayhem of small people crashing in and out of the playhouse itself.

The Little House in Springtime

the little house exterior

Work over, we all hunched inside for a celebratory cup of tea, served up with a hard, wooden play sausage and half a head of garlic.  Whatever else Harry does in his life, I doubt that a future in the kitchen beckons.

amish star

And finally, before I go; this week Pinterest is launching formally here in the UK, to great excitement.  For those who haven’t yet come across it, Pinterest is a very visual way of collecting together all the things you love, by ‘pinning’ images to your boards from all across the wide world of the web.  For those who are already converts, you can find me (and images from all of the projects on my site) here, or by searching under pinners  for ‘Kate Curates’; for those who are new and want to explore for the first time, you can register using the link here.  One word of advice; don’t do this if you have a deadline looming, or a child soon to wake from a nap, or indeed anything which requires your undivided attention for some time; it can be absolutely, deliciously addictive…

Welcome to Harry’s Hardware!

Well welcome to the grand opening of Harry’s Hardware, Gas & Auto!  I’m sure you’ll agree it’s about time this small e-neighbourhood had a one-stop shop where you can refuel,  choose a can of flamingo-pink paint for your kitchen and have a cup of the kind of coffee that makes your hair stand on end.  We thought so, anyway….

harry store main photo

This was Harry’s main Christmas present, and is based on an old bookcase I found on ebay for a few pounds.  Like many 3yr old boys, Harry is a devoted petrol-head and delights in all things auto.  Given the domestic backdrop of our home renovation, he’s also a big fan of power tools, screwdrivers, hammers and all other dangerous hardware. Thus, a hardware store and garage seemed like a good idea, and is proving a hit so far.  I was lucky enough to find a second-hand wooden kids’ cupboard in the style of a gas pump, but everything else is customised and made from household junk and recycled bits and bobs.  So park at the rear, would you, and come on inside for the tour.  Let’s start you with a cup of coffee…

harry store coffee machine

Not just any coffee, but Harry’s Coffee, the brand that knocked Starbucks out of town and became a rapid hit with truckers.  The coffee ‘machine’ is an black cardboard jewellery box that housed my Christmas necklace (thank you, Santa!), with two cheap pump dispensers glued onto it (from pound-store pump bottles).  I made branded signage for the coffee machine and cups on my home printer, and then simply glued a sheet of black card stock behind to form the back and tray.  Because the jewellery box is hollow, the pumps do actually press in and out, making for some convincing pretend play and the addition of so many caffeine shots that you’ll be bouncing off the ceiling if Harry has his way. Tiny wooden donuts appropriated from Harry’s play kitchen offer an additional hazard to your teeth.

harry store donuts

Whilst you drink your coffee – carefully – come browse our paint selection, made from portion-sized bean cans covered in a paper wrapper.  Some of these are empty cans, used and washed out, others are still full; my domestic skills are haphazard so it’s quite foreseeable that I’ll be visiting Harry’s hardware store for dinner ingredients before the month is out..

 pretend play paints

Alongside the paints are cans of brushes and ‘wallpaper’ – rolled up offcuts of gift wrap and decorative paper.  Whilst it’s fun to look at, it’s also helping with naming colours, identifying letters and words, and counting.  I fear that Harry is not born to be a customer services professional though; dithering over your choices is not encouraged, and if Harry disapproves of what you’ve chosen, you’ll be given something else entirely and sent on your way.  Such is life.

harry store buckets

Crime can be a problem in any neighbourhood, even one as lovely as ours, so there’s a section of the store dedicated to discouraging robbers.  Harry is passionate about law enforcement, having recently fallen under the spell of Lego City, so most of our games involve Policeman and Naughty Men.  I’m quick to assure callers to the house that the various sets of handcuffs left lying around are all from Harry’s toy box and absolutely nothing to do with me or the global phenomenon of Fifty Shades of Grey.  The store offers sliding locks to try out, and a set of devilishly small padlocks and keys that test Harry’s dexterity and patience to their limit and beyond.  They do also bounce, when hurled to the floor dismissively. The glued-on keys come from an embarrassingly large bowl in our house which stores all unidentifiable keys from our last 5 house moves and the myriad of lost bicycle locks and chains – no doubt one of them will prove to be crucial, and I will have to chip it off from the board – but until then, they serve a more decorative purpose.

harry store security

I used a jumble of small cardboard boxes to make these faux wooden draws – most are boxes from candles or the lids of various things.  I found a graphic of an old shop chest and simply printed and glued the images to the front of each box, adding text for the contents.  Once again, the contents have simply been borrowed from elsewhere in our house, but are satisfying to play with and count out.  A small set of nesting zinc boxes from our shed completes the selection of handyman bits ‘n bobs.

harry store string

harry store wooden boxes

harry store zinc boxes

In other parts of the store you can buy birdseed, choosing amongst varieties depending on which birds you want to attract to your garden, and even find pocket-sized birdhouses to house them (these came straight from the Christmas tree…).

harry store birdseed

Budding gardeners can choose real seeds from our store list, and Harry’s own tools hang alongside.  Pint-sized bundles of firewood and a couple of Halloween-costume prop brooms complete the outdoor maintenance section.

harry store dig it sign

harry store topiary

The ‘Parking’ sign rests on two miniature tyres which are actually dog chew toys, found cheap at our local DIY store – we’ll use these in all kinds of projects come the Summertime, I’m sure.

harry store parking

I made the main store sign using off-cuts of skirting board and pasting on home-printed signs.  If you look closely, you can see the joins where I’ve pasted pieces of regular-sized paper together to make the super-sized  storefront sign.

harry store main sign

And finally of course, you can fill up with gas from the pump.  Harry’s pedal car has been regularly topped up, as has everything that moves in the household, and many things which do not.

harry store gas pump

So, a Christmas hit, for now at least, appealing to all of Harry’s manly instincts and providing lots of opportunity for play and interaction – and when the attraction begins to fade, I can simply return the bookcase to its component parts and reinvent it again.  Or maybe – and here’s a novel thought – actually place some books on it, who knows?

If you’re new-ish to the blog and like this project, you might also enjoy Harry’s kitchen and shop (note to self: stop buying junk furniture on ebay…).