diy

Room to Grow (a little more)

Boys bedroom

I finally got around to giving Harry’s room a proper makeover.

His treehouse bed was becoming outgrown; not by him, so much, as by me – the act of clambering up the stairs for a final bedtime cuddle, remembering to dodge the low beam and then lying very still, listening to the ominous creak of the stilt-legs, as I squinted at the label warning *THIS BED SHOULD NOT EXCEED 50 KILOS TOTAL WEIGHT*.  It was altogether tempting fate.  And besides, we’re now firmly in The Sleepover Years, where having twin beds from which you can actually see your best friend and talk all through the night (or at least until 10pm) is very important.Twin bed room

I bought inexpensive beds on eBay and we lost just two evenings of our lives assembling them and trying to remember not to criticise each other’s DIY skills or aptitude with allen keys and wordless, diagrammatic instructions.  They still make me wince slightly, remembering the effort that went into them.  But still, they look very cool; ageless without being too grown up (not yet; I’m not ready yet).

Star curtains

New star curtains with blackout linings filter the Northern light that still manages to creep through even in February, and two rattan Christmas decorations are repurposed for the bed-ends…

Bed with stars

Harry’s not ready to say goodbye to his nighttime menagerie of animals, but they do take a more discreet backseat these days, living under the bed in simple Ikea baskets.  The matching bedspreads are actually made from a TK Maxx bargain king-size bedspread, simply cut in two and hemmed (badly, flamboyantly – but who’s to know?).

Underbed storage

Bedroom stool

In the old fireplace the log basket remains, topped with a string of plug-in origami lights that provide a low, magical glow through the night;

Log basket

And the trusty badger rug remains, looking with every passing year a little less alive and a little more like roadkill, but beloved nonetheless.

Bedroom seascape

It’s a room to grow up in, and a room where you can still be reassuringly, comfortingly small.

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Ampersand Cookies

Welcome back!

We’ve been making cookies this weekend; fun, alphabet cookies sandwiched together with jam and sprinkled with a liberal snowfall of icing sugar.  They fit in the palm of your hand and will make you happy for hours, I promise…

DIY cookies from katescreativespace

Firstly, we made a batch of sugar cookie dough, using our favourite basic recipe, though any one will do. We chilled the dough for 20 minutes in the fridge and then rolled it out  (my friend recently bought me one of these genius rolling pins, which ensures a regulation thickness to your dough; no more slanty, wobbly cookies for me…).

We used this small ampersand-shaped cookie cutter from Etsy to stamp out the top layer of cookies, and then for the bases, made a lighter imprint on the dough and I then cut around them carefully with a craft knife.  A bid fiddly, yes, but the only way I could think of to ensure I didn’t stamp out the holes in the bottom shapes.

DIY ampersand cookies

And then we simply baked for 10 mins (these cookies are small so they bake quickly; check on them regularly, and don’t get distracted with a good magazine and a coffee; I speak from experience here…).  Once cool, sandwich together with a dollop of raspberry jam, and sprinkle with icing sugar.  They are divine.  Trust me…

Homemade cookies from katescreativespace

Hope you’re enjoying a wonderful weekend!

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p.s.  I styled our cookies on top a beautiful ampersand image I found  here; if you know the source do let me know so I can credit!

 

Friends for dinner: time for kitchen experimentation!

How is your Monday going, are you surviving?  We managed a lovely weekend with friends and sunshine (the best combination), so the afterglow has seen me through a manic day at work.  We threw a small dinner party on Friday night.  The kind where everyone arrives, slightly giddy with a mix of exhaustion, anticipation, and the rush of adrenalin that comes after shutting your laptop, settling the babysitter in, examining yourself from every angle in your outfit, sucking everything in and racing, slightly late, to your destination.  Friday night fever.

If you’re braced for a picture-heavy post, here are a few touches from the night, like dessert (but more on that later!)…

Lemon tart with edible nasturtium flowers and macarons

Earlier in the week I made place-names for everyone to go on the table.  I began by printing out the names of all our guests onto watercolour paper (I used this calligraphy font; a favourite of mine), before taking a heavily loaded brush and spattering on watercolour paint in different shades of green.  I swirled the brush around a little to pool the colours and left to dry…

Watercolour gift tags step 1

Before slicing the paper into strips to create individual tags;

DIY place cards or gift tags

Which I then clipped to the plates at each setting, adding a spring of rosemary….

DIY Watercolour place names

Watercolour place settings

With dinners like these it’s always good to work out where to spend the effort and where to make life easy for yourself so that you can kick back and enjoy the evening; I opted for a huge caprese salad to start, and then a side of salmon, baked with lemon, feta, black pepper and capers and served up with sharing bowls of roasted new potatoes; one of those combination that you can place in the oven and forget about for 40mins whilst catching up on everyone’s news.  You’ll have to excuse the lack of photos; we were having way too much fun to stop and try to capture the food…

After a couple of easy courses, I wanted to go to town on the dessert and experiment with using the edible flowers I’ve been growing.  I decided to make individual lemon tarts in advance (these, which are my go-to reliable pudding for nights like these!).  To try to truly over-stretch myself, I also decided it would be a really great idea to make caramelised hazelnuts to garnish the plate, following what looked like a foolproof tutorial from Martha.  WELL.  Let me tell you that it’s quite an expensive garnish if you factor in the saucepan which became irretrievably welded with cooling molten caramel, and the burn cream I had to invest in after a minor slip up with the pan.  Oh, and you could lose 8hrs of your life attempting to skin the hazlenuts, unless  - as I did – you decide from the outset that life is too short and that a rather more slapdash approach is called for.   They look mighty pretty, but I can tell you it was a one-off venture into nut caramelisation for me…

caramelised hazelnuts

Still, I would like to be awarded an inventiveness prize for my creative repurposing of an old floral foam wreath…

caramelised nuts in florists foam

After that, the rest of the dessert was remarkably easy.  I had a dry-run at putting it together before everyone arrived, and took the photos below.  I’m pleased to report that even 4hrs and a number of glasses of wine later, it was manageable – here’s the step by step guide if you fancy giving it a whirl!

Take a plate (yes, ok – that’s the easiest step).

plate

Using a brand new  - washed! – paintbrush, add a stripe of raspberry coulis (from a jar; this is no time for domestic goddessery; no-one will ever know).

Plate with coulis

Add your homemade lemon tart in the centre of the coulis.  Squash together any crumbly bits; dust with icing sugar if necessary to disguise any imperfections.

Coulis and lemon tart

Add a couple of fresh blackberries and some carefully washed and pesticide-free edible flowers.  Mine are nasturtiums; you can grow your own or buy them in high-end supermarkets.

Step by step dessert with edible flowers

A couple of (shop-bought!) macarons add a further splash of colour.  I once tried making my own during a weekend break in Paris; it was amazing to learn but another of those once-in-a-lifetime things for me.

And finally, the caramelised hazelnuts, a sprinkling of dried edible rose petals (from Waitrose, for those in the UK), and a shaving of lemon zest, and ta-da! – dessert on a plate.   Just don’t drop the tray of these on the way to the table or your poor heart will never recover from the ruined labour of love…

Lemon tart with edible nasturtium flowers and macarons

The evening went on into the wee small hours; plates were scraped clean and the weekend was truly christened and launched.  I love Friday nights…

p.s . Now I need a new show-stopper dessert; do you have any favourite recommendations that you can share? Or other courses?  Preferably high on the aesthetics and low on the culinary skill required, which regular readers will know is my modus-operandi by now…

Have a great week, wherever you are and whatever you’re upto;  and thank you for stopping by… particularly those who come week after week and say hello; it’s a very wonderful thing :-)

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The Dream House Renovation: Creating a Family Bathroom

DIY Bath tray

Regular readers will know that we’ve been gradually restoring our ancient, crumbly-but-beautiful home, room by room as budget allows.  We began with the kitchen and hallway and gradually worked our way upstairs, tackling our en suite bathroom and guest bedroom last year.  One room that has never quite hit the priority list has been the family bathroom; an inoffensive but bland mishmash of linoleum flooring, pastel tiles, 70s wallpaper and a squat, kidney-shaped plastic tub.  Oh, and a shower which has not worked for the entire 3yrs we’ve lived here.  What can I say? We’ve obviously been rather busy.  Finally last month we ripped it all out…

bathroom refit old bathroom

And now it looks like this…

An understated family bathroom

I tell you, I could spend the rest of my life in this bath and die happy.

IMG_8246

The huge roll top, ball-and-clawfoot bath was  salvaged from another bathroom in the house which we don’t use – it actually spent the last year filled with old suitcases and boxes, gathering dust.  Finally we’ve liberated it and it has pride of place as the decadent main attraction of our family bathroom.  Oh, and it’s big enough for all of us at once, which is both a good thing and a terrible thing when you just want a quiet and relaxing soak…

bathtime rituals

Classical bath taps

I painted the feet silver as a first experiment towards painting the whole of the exterior; I’m going to live with the white for now whilst I ponder colours…

Bath feet

We added tongue and groove panelling to all the walls and hand-mixed a bold charcoal colour with a blue-ish hint (achieved by combining Shaded White and Railings from the Farrow and Ball range).  I love the depth of colour and drama of it, offset by paler walls and the whiteness of the fixtures and fittings.  We found an old French street sign in a local junkyard and that now picks up the colour of the wood and is one of just a couple of decorative elements…

French street sign

Another being this ancient rowing oar, warped and weathered with verdigris clasps; I love it.

Vintage oar in the bathroom

It is, above all, a family bathroom, but one we wanted to be able to switch easily into a calm and adult zone, so Harry’s bath-time Octonaut tribe live in this old wire basket and can be easily drip-dried and contained once darkness falls.

Octonauts!

One of my favourite, favourite elements is the bath board I made using a salvaged piece of the original floorboards; when we ripped up the lino, the underlying boards were beautiful but chopped and nailed every couple of feet after centuries of plumbing work.  We took one up and I sanded it to a smooth finish before buffing it with a waterproof white wax, and it holds all the clutter one might need for an extended soak.  This, by the way, is the carefully edited artistic shot (below); usually you will find it piled high with a glass of wine, a slightly damp novel, a random toy that Harry has helpfully supplied me with ‘in case you get bored in the bath’, my phone, razor etc – you can imagine.

dream bathroom

We added a HUGE radiator-come-towel rail, which turned out to weigh 90 kilos (a lesson in reading the small print online), but looks magnificent and keeps the room toasty warm; in a house like ours that is not to be under-estimated, and I can imagine many a winter’s night where we will all just gather in the bathroom to socialise and eat dinner, rather than shuffling around in 8 layers of clothing downstairs like usual.

Bathroom radiator

The floor is made of engineered-oak boards and is coping wonderfully well with the nightly drenching it receives.  As a bathmat, I’ve repurposed a beautiful felted pebble rug that we were given a couple of years ago, which feels lovely underfoot as you step out of the water…

Felted pebble rub

We’ve gone for an understated look elsewhere, with simple wall lights which can be used in the evenings as a softer alternative to the ceiling lights, and a concealed cistern and boxed-in pipes to continue the flow of the panelled walls.  A laundry sack hangs on the door for all the clothes that are randomly scattered in the haste to clamber into the tub, and a tree-slice stool like those we chose for the guest room stands just where you need it to hold a glass or a book when the bath board gets too full (or just plain too far away when you’re lying back and relaxing).

Bathroom makeover

The room is still gradually taking shape as we complete the snag list, neatening paintwork and considering pictures and other accents for the walls and windowsills – but that final refining is a gradual process, and one best considered from the scented depths of the tub.  Bliss.

Now, where is that towel?

Towel hook

Bathroom window

Midweek Magic: Frozen blooms

DIY Ice Disks

The garden looks very bleak at the moment; grey and brown, forlorn and hibernating.  We decided to give it some jewellery to brighten it up a little as the day begins.

Inspired by an idea in Landscape magazine, we’ve been taking advantage of the sub-zero nights this week to practice a little magic; leaving shallow saucers of water outside overnight, filled with seed heads, citrus slices and cyclamen buds.  When we came downstairs in the morning, we popped out beautiful frozen disks of colour that looked like they could be necklaces for some majestic ice maiden, or perhaps serving dishes for a fantastical snowy picnic..

I carefully poured  a thin stream of hot water to melt a hole in each disk, and then we strung them from the apple tree in our garden and watched the sun slowly rise and shine through them.  Beautiful, just for a few amazing minutes.  Most we left to melt in the sunshine; a couple we slipped into the freezer so we could save them a little longer…

Ice Disks

These are of course only transient; beautiful and then gone.  Half the magic  is in the anticipation of going to bed and wondering what you will wake up to find; will the bowls have frozen?  What do the different things you’ve added look like?  It was definitely fun for an otherwise chilly, bleak day, when even The Little House was too covered in frost to look inviting for long.

The Little House in the Frost

ice disks in winter

Notes:

We found that wide-based yoghurt tubs, frying pans and plastic lids were the most successful; avoid using china that might shatter in extreme cold.  You need about 1/2 inch of water; try adding food colouring for even prettier effects.  To loosen the disks, I placed them quickly in a sink of shallow warm water.  And of course, if you find that your disks haven’t completely frozen overnight, you can cheat by finishing them off in the deep freeze!

Icy garden Jewellery

Celebration (or: How to Pimp a Store-Bought Cake, and Things to do when you’ve Finished the Champagne).

DIY Birthday Cake Bags


How are you, are you braving the cold?  We’ve been a plague-house this past week, falling one after the other into the chasm of ‘flu and cold  …but surfacing now, at last.  Amidst it all life has bustled busily on, brightened by a couple of big highlights like my father’s seventieth birthday last weekend.  At his request it was just a small family dinner – everyone he loved the most, together around a table – but a mighty fine dinner it was. I brought a cake, because a birthday without cake is unthinkable, however old you are.  The cake itself was a beauty from the local patisserie which had caught my eye, sitting siren-like in the window and demanding to be taken home.  I wanted to make it a little more personal though, so I made a simple paper wrapper to go around it.  Dad loves to paint, so I spread out all of my brushes onto a sheet and photographed them, then printed, trimmed and taped them together for a simple but beautiful accent which speaks to one of his greatest passions.. Art materials DIY Cake Wrapper I secured the wrapper in place around the cake, and ta-da!; a treat fit for a remarkable man. My Dad. Birthday cake for the artist
I knew that we wouldn’t manage much of the cake after dinner, so I found an old photograph of my father as a child and used it to make take-home bags for the end of the meal.  I love this picture; mostly I think because of his beaming, proud mother ducking almost-but-not-quite out of shot.  Mothers and sons – it gets me every time..

Birthday portraits

Personalised party gift bags

All the celebrating over Christmas, New Year and the flurry of birthdays has left us with a small pile of champagne corks, so I’ve also had a chance to play around making champagne-top armchairs; have you ever tried this?

Champagne top armchair

By far the most sensible way of shaping these chairs is when sober, with good light and a pair of pliers, but I always seem to end up doing it with my  bare hands whilst tipsy and then waking up to find that I may have the wire equivalent of a three piece suite, but I also have no nails left at all and swollen, scratched hands.  I’ll post a quick tutorial if you’re interested, with the caveat that health and safety are treated fairly recklessly in my approach..

DIY Champagne top chairs

As for this weekend, we’re setting a quieter pace and planning on doing some serious nesting; rumour has it that we may still be in our pyjamas at noon, albeit with thick woolly jumpers and socks to keep the arctic chill at bay.  Heavy frosts are forecast and Harry and I are unusually excited; we’ve been playing outside with pots and pans of water and making soon-to-be-frozen ice sculptures to hang from the trees; I’ll let you know next time if it has worked!

Have a great weekend, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.

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 Update:

Here’s a PDF tutorial as promised for how I made my champagne cage chairs.  If you find videos easier to follow, look on You Tube and there are a variety there.  Once you’ve mastered the basics, have a look here for inspiration and further champagne cork-n-cage artistry! Good luck!

How to Make Champagne Cage Armchairs

Recycling Christmas!

Gift tags from Christmas Cards

Possibly the simplest DIY you’ll ever see here – but a timely one!

Do you recycle old Christmas cards by using them to make other things?  it’s a thrifty tradition I remember from early childhood, though the memory of curled and yellowing card trimmed with pinking shears put me off it for a long time.  This year we received some beautiful and fun cards; whilst adults are gradually paring back on card-giving (a combination of saving-the-trees and a lack of organisation, in my house), Harry and his classmates traded cards daily, keen to show off budding penmanship skills and thrilled by the constant flurry of envelopes to open.

Yesterday we took some of them down and had fun making these over-sized gift tags for next year; a way of preserving the beauty of the cards but also of creating tags which are big enough for Harry to write on himself (because no 5yr old can be easily constrained to a tiny square of card), and also a way of refining scissor-skills; Harry busily chopped and snipped his way through a pile whilst I attempted a more measured and symmetrical clipping …

Christmas Card Recycling

I used bits of string and ribbon we’d saved during the frenzy of unwrapping on Christmas Day, and a hole-puncher and eyelets to thread the string through.  We chose the strongest cards as well as the prettiest; they’ll spend a year in the loft and then a few weeks under a tree next Christmas so we wanted to make tags that could last that long.  Also, check that your cards only have writing on the inside ‘back’ of the card and not the back of the image; if they do, you’ll need to just stick them onto another piece of thin card so you cover this up.   A few other tips;

Use ribbon or cord which picks out a colour of the main tag and it really makes them pop!

Colour pop gift tags

Cutting around interesting images on the card cane make some fun shaped-tags, like this pear tree from a larger, square Christmas card…

 

 

Partridge gift tag

Polar Bear Gift Tag

Mounting your cut-outs onto other backgrounds can  make them even more special; I glued this Christmas goose image onto a narrow strip of gold glitter card and then trimmed the corners to make a large swing tag;

Festive Goose Tag

And sometimes cards are so striking that all you need to do is snip off the back and simply make a hole for the ribbon, like this gorgeous graphic print;

Stag Gift Tag

Once we’d finished, leaving a sea of tiny snips of card, drifts of glue and wisps of ribbon fibre, we put all our tags into a leftover gift box and I’ve labelled them ready for next year – a satisfying way to recycle and have fun making things in the process!  Do you recycle your cards? Any other creative ideas for things to do with them? I’d love to hear…

Boxed Christmas Gift Tags

Have a wonderful evening tonight if you’re out celebrating, or simply taking quiet stock in the warmth of home. May I wish you a very Happy New Year for 2015!

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Christmas at Home

Dogs bearing baubles

Today is apparently the busiest day for holiday traffic as everyone heads for home and family in a grand  exodus.  Even though we’re not travelling, the dawn of the weekend does seem to signify the proper start of Christmas and the time when relaxation can begin.  We have family arriving tomorrow to celebrate, so here’s a quick glimpse of how we’ve decorated the house.  Firstly, the friendly stone dogs who stand to attention at our door have abandoned their usual froideur and now bear baubles and festive ribbon, illuminated by the bay trees which are now strung with lights and oversized bells..

Dogs with baubles!

The fir lady has been visited by a flock of robins who peck at her skirts (collective noun for robins, anyone?)..

The fir lady with robins

But aside from the fir lady, I’ve opted for a low-key, calm kitchen with just an oversized paper star to catch the eye from the hallway and distract from the frenetic preparations and clutter on every surface..

Christmas kitchen

In the hallway lies my new addition to our Christmas decor; this year we are honoured to host the North Pole Sorting Office, where every letter sent to Santa from around the world blows in steadily, falling in flurries around Santa’s desk and filling his mailbags to overflowing;

North Pole Sorting Office in Hallway

Santa's mailbag

Santa's mailsack

As fast as the letters arrive, Santa diligently replies to each one. He’s currently busy writing back to Harry;

Santa's Mail Room

His typewriter perches on a ladder, which also holds his reading glasses, special wax seals, bundles of letters and maps and a compass so he can work out where each child around the world is writing from;

North Pole Post Office Detail

(To make this, I printed addresses onto some regular envelopes using different fonts and soaked them in a tray of watery tea before drying on the radiator for an old, worn appearance.  The letters blowing in from above are wired together using lightweight florist wire and hung from a removable adhesive hook on the ceiling. For the letterhead paper, I used this lovely printable and simply added my text to it.)

North Pole Letters

Further down the hallway I’ve arranged a similar tableau to last year (below), with the addition of a basket of magic reindeer food to give to all Believers who cross the threshold and may need a little help to summon the reindeer on Christmas Eve…

Holiday tableau

Magic reindeer food

I’ve hung Christmas cards simply from lengths of ribbon and clips, wired to the base of the bannister poles..

Christmas cards hanging in the hallway

And of course, most importantly all of all, mistletoe to greet all those who arrive…

Mistletoe in the porch

 

We have a real Christmas tree in the Snug, which I’ll share next time along with a few other festive accents.  Now, though, I must sign off as I’ve set myself the challenge tonight of mastering spun sugar to decorate an over-ambitious meringue wreath for dessert at lunch tomorrow.  The wreath has already collapsed after I accidentally turned the oven on again, forgetting it was quietly cooling down inside.  Plan B is to use whipped cream liberally as a distraction…

Have a wonderful weekend!
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The Longest Journey

DIY Winter Animal Parade

A few months ago, I saw a picture on Pinterest of a toy giraffe with a small gift tied on its back and it made me smile, and sparked my imagination; last week I raided Harry’s Ark and created a winter animal parade which is now weaving its way through the snowy  log landscape of our dining table, carrying a myriad of heavy parcels and gifts as Christmas draws ever closer…

Giraffe bearing gifts

Animal Parade

I used some leftover kiln-dried logs from when I filled in our fireplaces, and then wrapped up as many tiny boxes as I could find with brown paper  (far less decorative are the little bowls of staples, matches and paperclips now cover every surface, emptied out temporarily whilst I borrow their boxes..).  Once taped, I tied them with a mixture of butchers string and fine glittery thread, and then carefully secured them to each of the animals.  Harry’s toy wagon also came in handy, and the smallest animals were allowed to perch on top and watch proceedings from above…

Penguins in Animal Parade

I added festive bells, bottle-brush trees and a handful of glittery stars for some additional festive sparkle…

Giraffe with gifts

…and a final scattering of fake snow, which rather caught the meerkat by surprise;

Meerkat animal parade

I used up all of the animals I could find, to make a procession which covers most of the length of our (2m) table, but just one or two would look equally lovely; perhaps as place-settings.  Mine are elevated on logs which are just low enough for easy eye contact and conversation across the table, but again, you could simple set out a tableaux directly on the table itself.

Animal Parade with Gifts

I took these close-up photos above in the conservatory where the natural light is strongest in winter, but you can see here the parade as I began to lay it out in our kitchen, in readiness for throwing open our doors last Sunday to friends for an afternoon of food, drinks and Christmassy fun;

Winter Animal Parade Table Centre

Animal Parade Table Centrepiece

Alas, our festive parade will have to complete its journey soon, as the animals are being continuously depleted by Harry who needs them urgently for various daring missions and the ongoing battle with the Lego men, dinosaurs and Transformers; still, it gives me a reason to create something else for Christmas Day!

I finished work today for the holidays, with a mixture of exhaustion and elation; I’ve developed the hacking cough and bone-tired weariness that always seems to come whenever work abates, but it can’t distract from the smell of the mulled wine now warming, or the fact that two long, uninterrupted weeks of family time and celebration lie ahead; bring it on.

I’ll be back in a couple of days; have a great rest of the week…

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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.

Quick crafts: DIY Santa!

DIY Torn-Paper Santa

Harry and I are beginning to feel a bit festive (if you’re in Bah Humbug-mode, look away and shush your tut-tutting…).  Perhaps it’s the steady thud of Christmas catalogues arriving in the post, or the relentless holiday music playing in every retail space we wander through.  By December, we’ll probably be fatigued, but right now we’re loving it.

We’ve been discussing what our home-made Christmas cards should look like; last-year’s button tree cards went down a storm so the bar is high.  Harry is keen that we should feature the iconic Big Man himself, so we’ve chosen Father Christmas as our focus.  Or Santa Christmas as H calls him, in one of those 4yr old linguistic mash-ups I want to remember always.  I was inspired by these fun gift bags with their simple graphic image, and had a play to try and create a picture which could be made very simply, involved some fun tearing and ripping, and would be very forgiving if one of us got distracted by Lego (him) or wine (me).

DIY Santa face giftwrap and cards

To make these you’ll need:

  • Red paper
  • White watercolour paper (any white paper will do, but textured paper like watercolour paper looks great for the beard and hat)
  • Pink or flesh tone paper; I used this
  • A black marker pen
  • Make-up blush or a pink crayon
  • Glue

Firstly, decide on your base / background; we used white cardstock for making cards, and also decorated a brown kraft paper bag and a gift tag, to practice and see how they looked.  Here’s the bag, step by step…

1. Cut a wide strip of pink paper and paste across the centre of your bag.  Trim at the sides to fit.

Step 1

2.  Cut and glue a wide strip of red paper above, to the top of the bag (or card, or tag, or whatever).

Step 2

3.  Tear a thin strip of watercolour paper; do this roughly, don’t use a ruler, and don’t worry if it’s irregular.  Glue it over where the red and pink paper meet; this is the trim of Santa’s hat.  Now tear a wider piece of the white paper for the beard and moustache shape; aim for a shape which curves up in the middle like this:

Step 3

4. Now take your marker pens and dot two eyes and sketch a little smile (play around with expressions; each one can be different!).  Use a pink pen to ink in a nose.

Step 4

5.  Finally, dip your finger in some blusher (or use a crayon if you’re a dude), and swirl on two rosy cheeks.  You could dab some on the tip of the nose too if you like; it gets cold out there on the sleigh.  Ta-da; you’re done!  Now just repeat  - or you can scan your work of art and print it out instead; the lazy crafter’s guide to mass-production at Christmas.

Step 5

If you use a red base, as we did with this gift tag, you can skip a step and it’s even simpler; just add the pink and white papers on top.

Santa Gift Tag

Our living room is now adorned with smiling Santas, who are partially stuck to various surfaces as they dry.  The rain is beating down and we are slowly beginning to think about work and school bags and clean clothes, with that small heartsink that comes with the end of a lovely weekend and the prospect of Monday morning.  An open fire tonight, I think – let the weekend linger just a little bit longer.

Have a great week, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.

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