Ok so the script is that I am unwilling, for a guest bedroom, to shell out mega bucks for fabulous wallpaper. I understand that there is a time and a place for a bit of decadent fabulous wall art, and totally get that there are people out there that are more than happy to spend a months wages on hand scribed, gold embellished, one of a kind nonsense. I am not one of these people and don’t really imagine that I ever will be. I like bang for my buck and I also like low bills in all areas when redecorating. For this reason I don’t hire painter/decorators and for this reason I want to find a reasonably priced, unusual and fancy looking wallpaper that isn’t at total arse to hang.
This leads me to my quest for a nice paper that will go alongside the coral pink I have chosen for the ‘Story Book Guest Room’ – see my previous blog! I want something forest green and/or dramatic that will serve as a nice backdrop to the foliage in the room and gold gilt frames and mirrors etc.
So no decisions as of yet. I think I do want something on that wall and if anything I think the Muriva wins. I’ll send off and get a sample of it. See how I feel after a few days.
January. Undoubtedly the most dour and lacklustre month of the year. Basically it’s the ideal time to commit to drinking wine every day and eating as much as Is humanly possible at all times. Although as we all know, for very boring reasons, this is something that we should try to do in modesty. I am Scottish so that is not something that comes naturally.
One thing that I do definitely feel strongly about is New Years resolutions. I hate them and just basically feel that they set everyone up for miserable falls. Normally in about 3 to 5 weeks. On that note is anyone else getting relentless emails from gyms they left years ago offering free everything if we just promise to come back? So I will not be committing to any resolutions – haven’t done for many, many years now.
I do take the time to reflect however, and set up some basic plans and guidelines for the next 365 days. For example this year I want to have either bought a plot of land somewhere in North England or be on the cusp of doing so (giving myself lots of manouvre room there incase I don’t manage it in time!).
I want to sort the front garden out at my house also. You’ll see from earlier blogs, when I moved into the property it basically had a car park at the back and a waste land at the front. In my minds eye, I can see a living wall that defines the borders of the plot, perhaps with some kind of pergola along the side of the drive.
I would absolutely also LOVE to go on another all inclusive holiday somewhere. Have you ever gone on one? It’s the best thing in the world ever. Wine on demand, chips with every meal and by the end of the trip you can’t even remember where your debit card is, it’s been that long since you had to go through the stress of paying for anything. I am also going to start volunteering this year at a local charity, I want to give my time to my local community.
I reckon I am going to leave it at that for just now. Obviously there are all the usual work ambitions such as take over the interior design world, be nominated for every award ever invented, find every piece of the most amazing mid century furniture created and generally rule the world. Standard stuff.
I think the trick is to not be unrealistic about what you can achieve. You are good enough as you are. Making mild changes over time and setting up medium and long term goals gives you plenty of time and opportunity to evolve and not feel that gut wrenching anxiety of looming deadlines. In 2016 I read Ruby Wax’s book ‘Mindfulness for the Frazzled’ and that will continue to influence me throughout the year. I struggle with anxiety and an over working Capricorn mind so it’s literally critical for me to focus on controlling my thoughts or they control me with remarkable speed. As I go through life I find more and more people that suffer similarly. One thing I think we would all benefit from is being more mindful of our mental health.
At the end of the day in the words of Maya Angelou ‘nothing will work unless you do’ but in order for that to happen, you have to be in the right mental place so be kind. Set reasonable mid and long term goals and if nothing else works crack open the wine, and wait for February. Help is on the way!
So in my last blog we made the decision to give the fake grass a wide birth and went for the more back braking option of lifting a relatively large driveway in order to make room for some of the real deal. The week after that the pergola began to be built, and we got our first glimpse of what this space could end up feeling like.
It’s now been two weeks since the structure has been in place and I’m starting to get a feel for the space that it has created. It seems odd to say, but I’m finding having this new structure to be a little bit like when you get a new house and are not quite sure where to hang your pictures. Things I thought I was sure about, I am now second guessing. I’ve decided to give myself another few weeks to get used to the space before committing to any further moves with the over all plan.
The dining area I am more or less happy with, although I do have a rectangular dining table to bring to the space later this week, which will work far better with the shape of the area and give us the room we need for family visiting etc.
The central space is currently a muddle, perhaps even a dumping area. This is basically because we are in two minds as to what direction to take it in. I’m seeing a living wall along the rear end of it that will host our salad leaves, herbs and spices followed by white stones and a water feature creating a sort of zen area. The other half sees a massive hot tub. We’ll have to see how this one pans out!
Laughingly referred to as the ‘gin terrace’, this space gets the last of the evening sun and so I want to have quite a cozy area for that certain time of the evening. You may be spotting a trend with the furniture by now. I’m a bit bamboo crazy. On this set, which I got for the bargainous price of £20.00, I plan to stain the bamboo the same shade as the pergola and recover the seats in some kind of, yet to be discovered, jungle fabric. Watch this space on that one!
The grass seems to have settled in well. We are on to our third week with it and there are no significant areas to panic about that I can see. It seems to be draining away just fine when we have heavy rain, so that’s a relief.
In terms of planting so far all I have done is to purchase a phormium ‘gold sword'(10 years old and only £16.00 second hand!), and bring my Chinese windmill plant, and eucalyptus round from the front garden. Otherwise, I am living with the space and holding fire with committing to where new greenery, and planters should go. It’s likely that the plants you see in tubs currently, apart from the twisted hazel and central one yet to be clad in metal will be removed to another area.
Coming from the car park that we had when this project began It’s difficult to imagine that this is the same space. I hope that by mid summer this same picture will be framed by the giant frond leaves of banana trees, and the vibrancy of that fence will be broken up by some of the vigorous climbers that I am cultivating in the polytunnel at the moment.
What do you think then? Hot tub or zen garden? Yes or no to bamboo furniture? Yes or no in general? I love being able to check in from time to time with these blogs and get your opinions. Next time I check in with you, I’ll be looking specifically at creating the right planting in those massive raised beds that I created.
So I thought I’d just give you a quick update on where we are up to with the mid century inspired garden. It’s been a long couple of months trying to get the tectonic plates into place that will allow us to get to the final stages but over the course of the next 72 hours we will finally have our pergola installed and a lawn. The latter of these two has probably caused us the greatest consternation as my partner was fully subscribed to the concept of astro turf whereas I mostly wasn’t.
The background to this is that the plot was originally a carpark (if you haven’t been following the blog you can see all the original images of the space in earlier entries). The main question was how do you lift and dispose of asphalt and what do you then do with what this exposes? The simplest solution was to buy fake grass and almost treat it like a big rug that we lay over the problem. For me however I’d know that it was still there underneath it all and that would jar with me.
So off I merrily went to get quotes to remove the asphalt and have it disposed of, assuming that this would involve several men, digger machines and skips. Little did I know that actually the entire process could in theory be done with just a pickaxe and crowbar. This realisation dawned on me when the first gentleman that came to quote gently tapped on the asphalt to test it and a clump just popped up and clean off. One quote for £460.00 later, a quick trip to the local DIY store and £20.00 lighter I was merrily hacking away at my driveway like a demented lunatic.
I’d say in total it took me about 8 hours to lift and remove 25 square metres of the stuff. Add to this the cost of the sandy loam, which is a preparatory soil mix that you lay before turf, and the turf itself, the total cost of the lawn will come in at £181.60. Of course there will then be upkeep to consider, which you don’t have with fake grass but then I feel there is a deep value in using authentic materials and honest design resolution which I don’t feel I would have achieved using the other route. At any rate, we’re already quids in as the fake stuff was likely to cost in the region of £700.00 before fitting. We may treat ourselves to an automatic grass cutter with the savings!
My last blog focused on sourcing appropriate, well priced containers and some of the pieces I pointed towards are on there way to me as I type. One thing did occur to me however when revisiting the garden design and that was that I didn’t want to end up with a container heavy area, but do need space for the gunnera, banana trees and other giant species to spread their roots. For this reason I decided to be resourceful which is code for make things for free.
One of the benefits of having a mid sized van is that you can stop off whenever you see some good wood in a skip and recently I lucked out with a collection of roof joists. Creating raised beds out of them along the perimeters of the plot will allow me to train some of that fabulous evergreen Clematis over the fencing and hopefully soften the blow of our boundaries, but will also give me that much needed planting space for some of the larger specimens whilst keeping the over all design relatively clean. These beds are yet to be stained to tie in with those of the kitchen terrace.
I have moved the poly tunnel also as it was literally in darkness for most of the day as well as being constantly hit by wind coming down the side of the house. In it’s new position I rarely even hear the rustle of plastic, and It gets the benefit of early morning sunlight right through to about 3pm. Ultimately my aim is to replace this structure with an Eco Dome – ideally one that I build myself, however that’s a WHOLE other set of blogs! At £55.00 delivered, this 4 metre by 2 metre giant will do just fine in the meantime!
So what do you think? Can you see Improvements? It’s so difficult when you’re working on it day by day to stand back and notice change! All your advice so far has been invaluable and has and will continue to influence the outcomes of the area so please do comment and get involved.
When we first began our home renovation I was determined that the space should have a balanced mixture of vintage style and modern design. We went for durable and well made resources for our floorings and walls but wanted to introduce layers of ‘yesteryear’ throughout. One accessible way of doing this, in my opinion, is through the fabrics you pick for your bedding and windows. Many of the fantastic designs that were created in the second half of the last century have survived and can be accessed at reasonable prices, certainly when compared to how much you can pay for modern day equivalents.
So for a while now we have been beavering away at sourcing interesting pieces of vintage fabric in the format of bedding, curtains and also pieces that are ideal for clothing and household soft furnishing.
Ok, so I make that sound like we had a clear cut purpose to all the frantic buying that we have been doing over the past year or so. In reality, we have had to come to terms with the fact that we are at capacity for storage with all these beautiful pieces and can no longer convince ourselves of any bone fide reason as to why we shouldn’t release them back into the wild. We’ve now got a house full of windows with lovely vintage curtains, bedspreads galore and more vintage fabric cushions than I frankly know what to do with.
So, after a fair amount of photography, measuring and general beavering we’d like to introduce you to our Etsy store which we intend will specialise in vintage fabrics. Over the coming weeks we’ll be updating it with a host of new stock but the tip of the iceberg have been listed in the past day. Click on any of the pictures in this blog entry to go directly to our Etsy store.
There’s a long way to go with learning about this massive industry, but we hope we have offered some pieces that you can visualise in your own home. We’d love to see some examples of your favourite vintage fabrics also if you’re at a loose end!
So I’m at that stage where I need to begin sourcing containers for the ridiculously large amount of seeds that I have been propagating and I’ve been astounded at how difficult it is to find reasonably priced, aesthetically pleasing planters that fit my remit. Basically I want clean lines, with interesting textures at a price that won’t make eyes water.
One thing that running a mid century furniture store has taught me is that a genuine outdoors planter that has survived the past 60+ years is as rare as a hens tooth. For this reason I’ll be blending new with old in our outside space.
If you’re prepared to spend upwards of 400 quid per effing planter then I’ve got very good news for you; the UK market is awash with companies that are more than prepared to extort you of your cash. Literally the general price for large plastic pots is in the region of £450.00. For plastic pots. Plastic. Pots.
Rant over. So I have been beavering away on the net trying to find an interesting array of pieces that will both add to the architecture of the outside space by varying in height, width and texture and also provide stimulation in the winter months when mostly everything organic effectively either looks dead or has had to be protected in the polytunnel (damn my intense desire to try and create a tropical garden in freezing Manchester).
One thing that I am passionate about is repurposing items when and where I can. I grow all my veg in troughs made from free pallets. Recently I got my hands on an epic 1 metre square pallet box for free which made me very happy. My plan for it is to buy some interesting sheet metal and cover the piece in it. This will be my first foray into cutting sheet metal so that should be interesting if not highly dangerous!
Without further ado now, I introduce you to my top choices for mid century influenced planters, that are reasonably priced and not vile. If you click on the images, the wonder of modern technology will show you where you can source them.
I’m a bit in love with this bamboo influenced pot which for us will marry up our bamboo floor with the outdoors. At any rate, it’s a reasonably priced aesthetically pleasing piece to my eyes.
Again, another interesting texture and nice clean lines that will draw the eye to the main feature whilst contributing to the architecture of the area.
For a splash of psychadelic realness how about these fun pots for the very underrated Homebase? Could they be any cheaper!?
Lets be clear, if you can manage to get your hands on one of these puppies I will hate you. I have spent several months traveling like a gypsy from store to store in vain hope. Come on Homebase – MAKE MORE!
Adding height to the arrangement, this metal planter is ideal for creating year round light in the garden and also with all that battered surface unlikely to be something that slugs will want to traverse.
Creeping slight up the price scale, but still affordable is the Palmo bowl. Ideal for acheiving that LA cool feel and such a fantastic colour.
There’s no escaping that larger will mean more expensive, but at under 150 quid, the Lince Dove Grey pot is excellent value for money and definitely a purchase I’m making.
The Daniel bowl is so reminiscent of that atomic era obsession with all things UFO shaped, and with it’s wide floor coverage it’s a piece that will add real depth to your arrangement.
So there we have it folks, these are my top contenders for planting vessels in the outdoor area. I’d love to hear about your finds!
Spring is around the corner, or so I tell myself every day when I open the curtains and am greeted by yet more cold and drizzle. I’ve been busy planting oodles of seeds from an array of sunflowers, gazanias and lobelia to the fodder for our newly erected poly tunnel. Courgettes, 6 varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, two types of peas, broad beans, cayenne, bell peppers, sweetcorn, coriander, spinach and rocket will start us off this year.
Effectively however I suspect that the attention I have been spending on the poly tunnel has in part been due to my ambivalence over getting the structure of our mid century inspired garden right. If you haven’t been following the blog, we are basically creating a garden out of what was a tarmac car park. However, after some further work on decking this past weekend, and in-depth discussions over time, I think I’ve cracked it finally.
It felt really to me like there was always some key aspect to my plans missing in the designs I was coming up with for our garden and I think this was reflected in the height that I was hoping to achieve though the planting that I aimed to have. Standing back from the project with fresh eyes over the winter season it became clear that actually we have an opportunity to create quite a striking architectural feature along the rear end of the garden.
This will have several different functions, firstly it will bring together the three distinct areas that have been created and guide you through the design in stages, but also it will provide that consistency to the look of the area as the seasons change and the bountiful summer gives way to the barren land that winter provides. This structure aims to clearly define each area against the back wall almost as a distinct room, but then also from a distance speak a language that tips the cap in a very humble way towards the Huf Haus or the work of Miles van Der Rohe.
At 10 metres in length by 3 in depth, it’s not going to be a diminutive structure, and adding to this that I plan to paint the entire thing black this is the kind of thing that will either make or break the design. EEEK!
Currently this is where the garden stands in terms of progress.
The new decking that was laid over the weekend will be treated but remain pretty much the shade that it currently is.
This area will have a hanging chair, like the one available in our online store currently and this bargainous set of garden furniture available now in Asda, U.K. for under £90.00 in the teal blue.
The central area will have a 3 metre long waist height herb planter along the boundary wall with either white pebbles on the floor or potentially a tiled area. In front of this the plan is to place a water feature of some description, but the court’s still out on that one!
The dining area is all but complete now, although still requires the brickwork to be secured. The bricks you see here are actually the ones I salvaged from the removal of our dining room wall.
So what will this towering mega structure look like that effectively will house our social area, well similar in style and feel to this.
Quite a minimalist pergola using a chunky enough timber that the over all sense is of strength but not so much as to over power the delicacy of the Wisteria and grape vine that will eventually meander their way across it.
The final design of this structure is in negotiation, however I aim for it to be in place ideally by April in order to also create the lawn area where you can currently see rubble and the poly tunnel (which will be repositioned to the side of the property).
Alongside the plans I have for this structure, I’m finding one other key area of tension and that’s sourcing aesthetically pleasing minimalist, reasonably priced, planters. Big planters that can host my Gunnera Manicata, Banana Tree and Alocasia Calidora. So far I have turned my attention elsewhere in order to source suitable vessels and this includes salvaging a pallet tub and a bed frame both of which I hope to clad in sheet metal. I’ll look further into my progress with these in future blogs.
To be clear, most small start up companies in online retail have little choice but to rely on marketplaces such as eBay. They offer low cost platforms to high visibility trade places in the market, and when they work they work very well. Nobody doubts this, and frankly it’s unlikely that our company would be where it is now without the revenue generated by eBay in particular over this past year.
We use a range of different platforms to sell our products from Facebook to Instagram, Etsy, a few London based companies, our own website and finally also eBay. Really we have not experienced any negative aspects to working with any of these with the exception of one…
eBay says that it believes ‘all customers are good’ and this is perhaps where the first issue lies with using their marketplace as a seller. In our instance for example we have lost in excess of £1,000 In this past 8 months on being forced to refund purchases of damaged goods where we have evidence that the eBay customer did not receive the item in the reported state, or did not follow protocol in returning the item. The downfall here is that regardless the evidence the seller submits, eBay will always side with the buyer to honour their money back guarantee. Even if this means the buyer ends up keeping the product and getting a full refund as was the case on two occasions for us.
In December of last year we dealt with a customer through eBay who wanted to return an item that they felt was not quite right for them. As a seller you die a little bit inside when emails like this hit your inbox because you know the sheer volume of paperwork involved in the process you are about to enter. Coupled with this is a very fine line between profit and loss on stock, and that constantly looming concern that you may not be financially viable as a business. However, for us as a company the number one priority is that our customers are happy regardless the platform we sell to them from and so we followed all protocol set out to initiate the return of the item.
Nearly a month later, and two weeks after eBay had automatically refunded the customer in full despite our intervention, this arrived on our doorstep.
Cue many hours of phone calls to the Philippine based eBay customer care call centre. After being asked to launch an ‘appeal’ we received an email to explain that as the customer had selected the ‘parts missing’ option on the returns form, potentially in order to avoid paying the returns fees, eBay would be were siding with the customer and would not take further action. Ebay were not interested in considering the evidence that the item was delivered as described, nor were they interested in the unsellable condition of the returned item.
At times like this, you breathe, then you count to ten, then you consider jacking it all in and getting a nice safe predictable permanent job in a random company somewhere. Following this you have a quick pray, then you die a little inside and you call the Philippines. It’s important to note at this stage that on every occasion that you make contact with the call centre you have to explain the full situation again, and allow for language barriers to be overcome. Perhaps eBay should consider generating a set of scripts for us sellers that would compliment the ones their staff use? Maybe we could guide them better through the processes that way.
So after all this, what became of the crumpled box on our doorstep? Nothing, much like the three other appeals made by us. The contents were destroyed as you would imagine, and eBay did nothing to support our company through the financial loss we incurred. In fact, we still ended up paying a final value fee for the piece and so in effect actually paid eBay for the disservice that we experienced. It’s tempting at times like these to get on to the complaints department isn’t it? You’d have a hard job doing that with eBay who don’t have one. Don’t worry though because you call always pick up the phone to their customer care call centre! Perhaps you may consider contacting the appropriate Ombudsman at this stage? Not possible as they have not signed up to one. They have, basically sewn the package they offer so tightly that they are beyond reproach or as I like to say they are Teflon – nothing sticks to them.
All things considered, we are grateful to eBay for the platform they gave us through our early incubation period as a company. Perhaps as grateful as they may be for the thousands of pounds we generated for them. However much like most dysfunctional relationships, our time is going to have to come to an end. It’s not that we don’t love you eBay, well in fact we don’t so maybe it is that. But listen, eBay don’t blame yourself, it’s not anything you did. In fact it’s what you didn’t do. You didn’t put your sellers first. Everyone knows the first rule of any company; happy workers are more productive.
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.
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!
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!