Mid Century House Plants: Some people are a pants man, me I’m a plants man

From a baby I was brought up around plants.  Not in the ‘child raised by wolves in the forest’ way – although this would explain quite a few things if it were true. We always had a well stocked garden namely filled with Azaleas and colourful annuals. As I have grown and developed my flavour/obsession for mid century styling, my taste has focussed itself unintentionally towards the popular plants of the era also.  Before we moved to our new abode, guests regularly described our apartment as a ‘jungle’, which pleased me immensely.  This winter my plan is to start off all the plants that will be folded into the blend of our MCM inspired garden which we will be stocking throughout the spring – you can follow the blog updates on that.

So without further ado I want to introduce to you my collection of mid century inspired plants, amongst them some of which you will see next year as local points to our garden.

Asparagus Fern or Protasparagus setaceus

 

I bought this baby three years ago at a street stand in Manchester for £2.50 and in the time since I would estimate that she has grown in size by roughly 15 times.  A really easy one to look after – basically the more you water her, the more she’ll love you back.  Apparently they can get small white flowers in the summer but I suspect that with our cold climate in the UK this is but a dream for me to cling on to.

Sprenger’s Asparagus or Protasparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’

 

This little puppy refuses to stop growing. I bought it from the same street stand, however this one was about the size of a can of beans at the time.  I bought this one two years ago.  It’s now as wide as my McIntosh dining table and about 2 foot high.  It’s not fair to have favourites but…..

Again, simple to grown.  The more water the happier it is.  They don’t seem to like windowcills or any direct light though.

 

Spider Plant or Chlorophytum comosum

 

I love these and have several dotted around the house, although this particular one came as a gift from staff at a cat shelter that my mum volunteers at 2 years ago.  I love the fact that they gift you more and more babies every few weeks.  I leave the small ones on normally until my mum or someone else intervenes.  At the back of this pot there is some purple oxalis and some kind of other purple trailing thing that I never managed to identify.

 

Mother in Laws tongue or  Sansevieria trifasciata

 

A house warming present from a friend in 2008, this plant was originally part of a larger one that she owned.  I have completely abused this one from the beginning, sometimes forgetting to water it for weeks.  It just keeps going.  Ideally I’d like to create some kind of waist height room divider with a wall of this planted along the top.  It’s on the ‘to do’ list.

 

Purple velvet plant Gynura aurantiaca

 

My new toy.  I bought this from a very talented and inspiring local gardener about a month ago.  It’s amazing to look at.  The dark purple leafs are smothered in a bright red hairy carpet.  It’s utterly divine and regular mesmerises me as I walk past it.  I’d say it’s doubled in size since purchase so I hope this will continue!  Easy to look after again as all it seems to want is lots of sun and loads of water.

 

Succulents

 

The absolute stalwart of the MCM look, the succulent comes in all shapes and forms.  These particular little babarinos came from a villa that we visited in the South of Spain last summer.  I literally ripped arms off five of the plants that were in the garden and shoved them in my case as we left.  They were all kinds of crazy orange and red hues at the time but I’m guessing the blazing sun of Manchester doesn’t quite cut it for them!

 

Orchids &  Tropicanna Black 

 

I have terrible, terrible, awful luck with orchids.  The sensible man would just stop buying them. Not me.  I’m not a quitter. I did once manage to keep three of them flowering for three years continuously, however it would appear that what was actually happening at the time was the orchid gods had gotten together and decided to shell out all my orchid luck in one fell swoop.  My worst orchid story involved buying one that cost over £30, for it to die within weeks.  I will not give up.  I will not be beaten.

I love the shades of the Tropicanna Black.  I bought it about two months ago and since then it has developed a second stem which I am excited about.  It will also go out into the garden in the spring and hopefully go on to develop an array of beautiful flowers throughout the summer.  I’m half tempted to buy a second one to keep indoors as I love the shade of it against my living room walls.

 

Christmas Cactus

 

I actually bought this baby from Ikea last Christmas, and then ignored it for 9 months.  A couple of months ago I moved it to a bright window and it turned the most amazing shades of purple and red.  Following this, BANG, all these lovely flowers. My mum informs me that they flower one month earlier every year.  Bizarre.  

 

Maiden Hair fern Adiantum capillus-veneris

 

I love these.  I have killed 7 so far.  This one came from a garden centre in Newcastle a few months back.  So far it is not dead.  I hold no great hope for it, but I have a dream that one day I will manage to at least keep one alive for a year.  I’d like to give you some advice on how to succeed with these, but alls I can really say is I have discovered that they don’t like direct light, but also don’t like shade.  They are not very interested by indirect sunlight either.  They don’t like over watering, but don’t like going dry.  They hate the cool.  They don’t like too much heat.  They’re basically the diva of plants.

Angel Wing Begonia

I remember my mother having one of these a child and it grew to over 5 foot with the aid of a few canes eventually. That one disappeared about ten years ago now and ever since I have kept my eye out for one of my own.  By chance I was walking through an arcade in Chorlton one day and they had two of these for sale.  The woman seemed a wee bit confused at my over animation as I made my purchase, but this begonia has been long awaited!  I hope to grow it to a similar height over the next few years. I love the patterns that its pot casts on the hall when the morning sun shine through the window.

Anthurinium

 

Love, love, love these.  Although I’m not quite sure where my one thinks it’s going.  It seems to be crawling towards a door.  We bought this one four years ago, again at Ikea and it hasn’t stopped flowering once since that day.  It’s a great plant because you can totally ignore it for weeks on end if you have to and it will just keep on going on with life.  I bought a pink one for my mum for mothers day a few years back which is still going strong also actually.

 

Variegated philodendron

 

This plant is 17 years old that I know of. I purchased it from a street vendor in Glasgow in my first year of university in 1999 and since then it has moved with me to 8 different addresses in Glasgow, back home to Fife in Scotland many times, down to Manchester and to 8 different addresses down here also.  It seems very at home making it’s way round the peripheries of our shower cubicle, in fact at times I have to have a strong word with it as it’s developed a habit of trying to grow round the shower head.  Slightly too ‘Day of the Triphids’ for my liking.

 

Mexican Hat Plant

 

 

I purchased this from the back of someones car in a field by the Lake District of England (don’t ask), and it’s the most bizarre little plant.  Every time a new leaf appears, it will get covered in tens of tiny heart shaped nodules round the edge which will then fall off in time and sprout new plants.  Consequently I have now got in the range of 100 to 150 other Mexican Hat Plants also growing around my upstairs bathroom!

 

Alocasia Calidora

 

The mother of all giant plants.  I am SO excited about this.  The man that supplied my ynura aurantiaca, also got his hands on this puppy for me.  She will form one of the centre pieces to our MCM garden next year, with leafs that will easily measure two feet in width, she’s already twice the size she was when I received her a month ago.  One thing to note about this plant is that if you are buying one to have indoors, it literally slurps water when you feed it.  You can actually hear it gulping.  Disconcerting when at home alone!

 

Ficus Microcarpa Ginseng

 

I have had this plant since 2013, when I was gifted it by colleagues at a job I was leaving.  I’d say it’s maybe four times the size it was then.  I regularly get quite pissed off at this plant, which entertains my partner no end, as it literally doesn’t matter how much water you give it – it’s NEVER ENOUGH.  Literally this thirsty little bugger can make it’s way through 200ml of water in a day without even breaking a sweat.  The good thing about it I suppose is that it can also go for weeks of abuse before developing yellow leaves so I guess I’ve no real beef with it.  I have aspirations that one day I will grown it to waist height.

And so there we have it people, a snap shot of some of my plants, un-intentionally but perhaps subconsciously purchased, of the MCM style.  I can’t wait to get the outside planted up and continue our discussion on that space. This weekend I take delivery of my first banana tree which i’m über excited about. In the meantime I’d love to hear about your plants, and maybe see some cheeky pictures of them also!

The Fence Is Up! The Work Has Begun

Well it has been a long time coming, but finally last weekend we defined the boundaries of our garden area and were quite surprised to see that it was significantly larger than we had ever thought or prepared for.  In total in measures 70 square metres.

 

In an ideal world, this feather edged fencing would have been a breeze block wall rendered in a light duck egg blue, staggered to create shadows as the sun moves round.  In a ideal world I would be rich; I’m working on that – check out the stock we have for sale currently!

 

I resolved in the end that it’s not the medium you use to create your boundaries, but what you then do to pull the look together.  Speaking of which, what the absolute hell was I going to do with an area 10 metres by 7?  The largest space I had contended with previously was postage stamp sized. Now I was dealing with a vast empty terrain to the back of the property, an allotment to the side and 48 square metre front garden also chucked into the mix.

 

My main plan has always been, as you know, to go all MCM on it’s ass. But after much taking of advice, deliberating cogitating and digesting, something didn’t sit well with this notion to me and I couldn’t put my finger on why. It did take a few months of mulling it over for me to put my finger on it. Finally it did click; all my research into this project pointed towards the same main themes in MCM gardens.  They were covered in clean lines, minimalism, stark – sometimes almost brutalist – features and a ‘less is more’ approach to planting.  

 Fabulous.  Not me, but fabulous.
Fabulous.  Not me, but fabulous.

 

This isn’t me.  This isn’t what goes on in my brain.  What goes on in my brain is a bit more like walking through a ticker tape calvalcade of pyschadelic clowns with one person in the corner screaming for everyone to ‘try and keep it down’.  You can share my dilemma, I’m sure.  So how do I match my greatest love with the scratch and sniff of crazy that I really am underneath it all.  Well, like all good ideas, the answer came to me in the shower.  Jungle.  Mid century jungle!

 This image formed part of my inspiration for our final theme.
This image formed part of my inspiration for our final theme.

 

Hurrah.  Everything has slotted into place.  Like one big unbelievable game of Tetris. So I have split the garden into quadrangles to make it easier to deal with. Below I have shared my very naïve drawing of where I am going with it all now.  

 

Essentially, there is a tropical area directly outside the french windows from the kitchen filled with the likes of Musa Yunnanensis, Voodoo lily sauromatum vernosus, Alocasia calidora, Gunnera manicatia and Tibouchina urvilleana – for that utterly nuts jungle feeling.  Interspersed in this area there will be a wicker hanging chair, and some kind of marble table.  The flooring will be purple slate chips which will absorb the heat that we have throughout the day and release it throughout the night back to the warmth loving foliage. I want to raise the plants out of the ground so will use repurposed concrete drainage pipes in a nod back to those fabulous atomic age curves.

 

Next time, I’ll be looking at options for greenhouses.  As always, your comments are invaluable to me and how I perceive this operation!

Mid Century Garden Update

Well here I am 4 months after my last blog about creating a mid century inspired garden, and by god has it been an uphill struggle.  It would be ace at this stage to be able to upload loads of pictures of my effortlessly cool, well landscaped and inspirational outside living space, but frankly I suspect I’m at least one year away from that.  So, instead I thought I would show you a before and after of the current situation out there!  

 

When we first purchased last October, the house had been a set of bedsits which had laid empty for some time so in terms of landscaping or established plant stock we were basically at page 1 of an empty book.

 The house was pretty much a scratch and sniff of bad DIY decisions and poor upkeep.
The house was pretty much a scratch and sniff of bad DIY decisions and poor upkeep.

 

The rear side of the house had a feral concrete garage with asbestos roof, and what would be a garden had been covered in asphalt to create a car park.  Nice!

 

Where do you start with this?   Well stage 1 was to create a space directly outside our new kitchen patio doors (so as to stop ourselves from falling out of the house every time we stepped out)

 We went for an 8m by 6m decked area with raised beds.
We went for an 8m by 6m decked area with raised beds.

 

 

Really this is still at stage one, it is yet to have a slanted timber roof attached from which I plan to hang a wicker chair.  This area works well for herb and tomato growing I have found. I think Id like to go several shades darker on the flooring here to get a better match to the bamboo floor in the kitchen. But it’s a good start I think.

 

Stage two was to create some kind of vegetable growing area, for which the location was determined by the patterns of the sun.  For this reason I have placed it to the right of the front door.  Again I have painted the planters blue black as part of a plan to keep the area as monochrome as possible in terms of structures.  Incidentally can you spot the repurposed bed base?  All the other planters were made out of disused crates.  Literally this area cost me just over £30 to make.

 The plan will be to surround this area with mid century inspired trellis.
The plan will be to surround this area with mid century inspired trellis.

 

Stage three was the removal of the garage, which we have put together into a snappy little video for you.  This was a bit of a landmark occasion for us and will now allow us to go ahead and put up the boundary fence.  In an ideal world I would like a skimmed wall to surround the area, but realistically this won’t be feasible and so we’ll be going for a 6ft feather edged fence possibly also painted blue back.

 

After the fence, I’ll be focusing on creating an outside dining space using the existing foundations of the garage area, which now looks like this.

 

It’s a long road, I’m just trying to focus on building capacity for those mid century lines and curves that I have in my minds eye.

Thoughts and opinions are always welcome!

Spring has Sprung; Mid Century Garden Design

So we are 6 months in to a house restoration and we’ve about finished the interior now which originally filled me with a great sense of relief and pride, but then sounded the alarm that there is another 1000 square meters of hell awaiting us on the other side of our patio and front doors.  It’s time for the ‘garden’.  I use inverted commas because what we currently have in place of a nice outdoor space, is extreme amounts of tarmac, followed by an asbestos roofed concrete garage and some very questionable grass at the front.  This ain’t gonna be easy.  Especially when you consider that I would like the whole finished product to have a mid century flavour to it.

The main issue that I have discovered is that there isn’t much out there in terms of well preserved mid century pieces, which I guess makes sense as more so than anything else of the era they would have been ravaged by the hands of time.  So this is one of those occasions where I have had to start looking towards modern reproductions, or pieces that have been influenced by mid century design.  I’d love to hear your thoughts though, and see what you have done – please comment!

Ideally I’d love to get a hold of one of these egg suspended chairs.  What could be cooler than bobbing around in the shade with a glass o’ red in this Franco Albini influenced rattan chair? 

Realistically they don’t come cheap when they are available, and also I’d feel bad having it outside where it would inevitably suffer from the elements.  So what’s about that I can use instead?  Well at £249.95, the Hanging Lot Chair isn’t the cheapest out there, but it’s certainly is very easy on the eye.  

In terms of other garden furniture I am a bit in love with these pieces from Charles Bentley

They come in a range of colours and look like they’re relatively well made. At just under £60 a chair, they’re not the cheapest out there, but perhaps it’s worthwhile investing in a good set that will brighten up your outside area even in the crappy winter months.

There is a lot of talk at the moment about restaurants in California resurrecting the mid century breeze blocks to decorate their interiors with.  I’d like to have some kind of architectural element to my area, and I really love the idea of recreating something along the lines of this timber screen just to define the vegetable growing area from the lawn.

 

Everyone loves a good fire to crowd round as the evening draws in.  The ideal?  That’s a no brainer clearly with the Malm fireplace winning hands down every time.  Sadly, I do not have thousands of pounds to dedicate to owning one, and if I did – I would not be leaving it around outside. I would take it to bed with me every night, and cuddle it to sleep.  So, instead at a far more cost effective £147 the Cone Chiminea from Made o’ Metal still offers that structured look and a centre piece to ground your garden furniture.

 

Decent planters are a really difficult thing to get a hold of, and I’m not really a massive fan of planting into the ground – I like to have as much control as I can over slug attacks!  For this reason I am going to go for a mixture of wooden raised beds alongside some accent planters for bursts of mixed media.  Clean, architectural lines were the order of the day back in the 1950’s and pieces such as the Fresco by Iota Garden offer just that.

They range from £9.99 to £129.99 and these pieces seem built to last.

As always, it would be great to hear what your thoughts are on creating a mid century themed outdoor space. I’ll be following up with a blog on what plants to go for next, so any advice is always welcomed!

Thinking of getting a new sofa?

We need a new sofa.  Correction, we want a new sofa.  In fact you couldn’t really need a new sofa unless nails were sticking out of the cushions of your current one or you woke up and it had been nicked. So, we want a new sofa.  This is going to be like the time I needed new carpets (except that time I actually did need new carpets because the person that had been renting my house had let their kids pee on the current ones.  Nice.) At any rate, I discovered at that point that I have a phobia of carpet shops.  The vast array of choices and specs alone left me resolved that I’d be better off just painting the floor boards.

You can’t paint your current sofa and for this reason we are getting a new one.  I feel the same way towards sofa showrooms that I do towards carpet shops.  I’d rather shit in my hands and clap than go to one.  For this reason I have compiled a variety of the best online options that I have come up with so far. Maybe they will help you pick!

I dislike Ikea sofas: Perhaps irrational; but they won’t appear here.

First up is the British company sofasofa.co.uk I’m sorry, but I can’t even work out how these people make a profit selling at the prices they do-given the quality of their products.  This stuff is way cheap in comparison to most of the high street options, and they have a choice for everyone with their stock list.  I’m a mid century kinda guy so for me it’s got to be the Montana. £399.00 for a three seater.  Read it again; £399.00 for a three seater that has been delivered to your LIVING ROOM.  They offer a 21 day no quibble cash back policy as well.

 

Further up the pricing scale, and utterly beautiful is the G Plan inspired John Lewis line made in collaboration with Hemingway Design.  Based on the original G Plan 55 design amongst others, these aren’t cheap, but they are timeless. If was struggling for ways to shift my money, it’d defo have to get the aubergine leather Capri. Swoon.

 

Maison du Monde’s, 100% French made, Frenchidy French fabrics and utterly French styling definitely gets my Facebook Like. Their prices are reasonable and they offer a 14 day no argument returns policy.  Importantly they also cover the cost of returns if you aren’t happy with your purchase.  No one wants to have to find themselves in the Eurotunnel with a two seater duct taped to the roof. Maybe not for a living room (not sure about the comfort factor), but as an occasional piece in a hall or dining room, I think this sofa is amazing. It’s also a pretty reasonable £899.00 for what it is. 

The Scott by the trusty Made.com tips the cap again to those 1950’s designs, and I love it in this vibrant green. Made.com have some pretty cool stuff in fairness to them.  The only worry I have is buying from them is a bit like buying from Primark.  You’re all excited when you make your purchase, then a few weeks later you realise everyone else has the same thing. Take for example the angle poise lamp and purple armchair that I bought.  Then saw on every advert they EVER did.

 

Of course going retro, as in REALLY going retro is always an option.  My concern when it comes to sofas and chairs is, will they still hold out to every day use?  In the case of this devastatingly handsome club chair, yes it will!  Oh and look….it’s on my own website.  Who’d have thunk it!??

Retro Wallpaper

I love a spot of wall paper.  It divides people.  It certainly divided me and my partner when we had to scrape the bastard stuff off of the ceilings of our ENTIRE HOUSE.  Anyway, at the end of the day I think a well chosen pattern totally changes a room.  Because I’m such a fan of anything mid century I’ve been trawling the internet for a while now looking for some of the best catches.  I love a bargain so most of these sites have cheap to reasonably prices stuff.  I thought maybe some of you might be looking for similar stuff so maybe these links will be useful for you.

German based company Wallpaper from the 70’s “have a great stock of interesting patterns-they ship to Old Blighty and only charge £4.50 per order.  I particularly like this one modern combination;

Although in fairness, dark grey is pretty cool at the mo, so I could totally see this one in my bedroom.

You certainly CAN do it when you B&Q it at these prices.  I’m a little bit in love with this brown geometric design.  I could see it with some über modern furniture.

Maybe a bit too much for some, this paper is quite purist.  I’d have it, maybe as an accent background to pictures in a frame?

 

I love a bit of kitsch. I have quite a lot of this hidden around my house (my partner does not).  This wallpaper is ace as far as I’m concerned.  I’d have it in an over the top under stairs guest toilet.  

And finally, the real deal.  This amazing website has somehow managed to get their hands (literally – how have they done it!?) on significant amounts of the original real deal stuff.  It’s not ridiculously expensive so I guess if you were only papering the one wall it may not work out too much.

 

 

Need a Builder?

 

 

 

On the Homes Rahe Stress inventory, renovating your home in fact only appears at number 28 in the list. Although the more savvy of us will be aware that any stage of the act could in fact propel you straight into first place of ‘death of a spouse’ with just the flick of a colour chart.

 

I have renovated.  Have you renovated?  It’s such an idealistic notion isn’t it?  I mean at the end of the day, we all watch Grand Designs and I am totally familiar with George Clarke’s moon face and determination to be the most Sunderlandish person ever born.  I’ll be honest and say at times I can’t even fathom what he’s actually saying. 

 

Any one can renovate can’t they? If you’re in a relationship then it’ll be even easier won’t it – because there’s two of you to shoulder the load isn’t there.  Just be prepared – have a contingency plan, order everything ahead and get a good builder. Get a good builder.  Easy enough.

 

Two months of consistent arguing about what kind of bidet tap to order.  One solid week of shrieking about why anyone would actually want a fucking bidet. Objects thrown over ‘someones’ idea of having slate window cills (yes that someone was me and yes I stand by the decision). Generic, consistent, discontent at pretty much all decisions for one reason or another. Chippy dinners for two full weeks due to no functioning kitchen, leading to extreme wall climbing and possible rickets. Everything covered in dust leading to the daily Catherine Wheel bicker match which normally will result in one giant mud slinging contest.  Yes, it’s easy enough.  Renovate a house – they do it all the time on Grand Designs.

 

What you don’t see on Grand Designs is all the epic editing that is required to make it appear like the couple are still able to be in the same room as each other at the end of it all. We were lucky, and that’s all I can describe it as.  We managed to find a middle ground that allowed us to either a) agree to disagree on decisions that would then allow us to progress with the build or b) kick up such a cavalcade of discontent that by the end of it we couldn’t actually remember what had started the drama in the first place by which point our builder would have just made the decision for us.

A slate cill is a good idea.  Repeat until you agree.

Yes, renovating truly is wonderful.  Of course, as I sit here in my luxurious palace now sheathed in marble and Swarovski, whilst my wild cats languidly pace their gilt cages I realise that it has all been worth it.  Not really – it’s all a lot more Scandinavian with the odd cow hide but it has of course been worth it. Would I do it again?  Not without the right builder.  We were exceptionally fortunate to find someone that was human and not a liar; rare traits from my experience. Apologies to all those exceptional builders out there that have the morals of Mother Theresa – In the words of Michael Bublé ‘ I just haven’t met you yet’.  I’m not the kind to give advice.  Let me give you some advice; get the right builder if you are going to dip your toe into the hell ocean of doing a place up.  Indeed – get my builder if you need one and you’re local to me.  Also, get wine.  Lots and lots of wine.  Lots and lots and lots of wine.

Excellent website for all your fancy (and cheap) lightbulb needs

Just a quickie.  Check out this website for cheap three cord fabric flex (the stuff you see all the time in bars and restaurants), and cool lightbulbs.  It’s all really reasonably priced and it’s being used across Britain by top names.  

http://www.industville.co.uk

I love these light bulbs

http://www.industville.co.uk/collections/vintage-edison-bulbs

Pleasing Myself

So I’m wandering round one of my local haunts a few days ago and I notice a set of five purple-black hand blown glass calla lily shades.  I have absolutely no idea what I am talking about when it comes to things like this.  One thing that I did know intuitively however was that I absolutely had to buy them. 

 

That evening I set the internet alight with pictures of them on antique and glass collectors forums trying to find out more.  Opinion was very much divided with one camp suggesting that they were original 19th century pieces and the other strongly feeling that they were modern repros.  All agreed that they would originally have been housed in an art nouveau lamp – perhaps with figures of women holding them. 

Enter the dilemma; I really can’t be doing with anything art nouveau. I struggle with art deco at the best of times.  Moral question time.  They should really go back into something sympathetic to their style – but I wouldn’t like the end product.  In the end I decide they they are going to be for my own house and what I do in my own house is completely up to me.  

So I decide to please myself.  Black three cord fabric flex.   A 5 piece ceiling rose and some brushed aluminium light sockets it is.  I am going to suspended them at different lengths from the ceiling rose to a maximum of about 1 meter in drop so they create a cluster.  Then I am going to hang it over my bed so I can wake up every morning and remind myself that there is no point trying to please everyone else. In the words of Oscar Wilde ’ be yourself – everyone else is already taken’.

Fantastic Mid Century Accessory Websites

This year I’m going to share some of the fabulous stuff that I find with you as and when I come across it.  Obviously I am not taking about products that I sell – as I’m already doing that!  Basically the aim is to send you in the direction of other people that are doing things I find interesting and think you might too.

 

Today the website retrorenovation.com has really caught my eye.  You’ve got to check out the post on their site about the kitchen they found in a garage.  Completely untouched for over 60 years!  A flat pack gift from the mid century gods.