10 things I've learned from my first year in business

I was emailing someone I haven't spoken to for a while yesterday, telling him about my business and all that's changed for me over the past couple of years. And it got me to thinking that I really have learnt so much. It might have been years in the dreaming, but I only actually launched my business just over a year ago. So, I thought I'd share 10 things I've learnt from my first full year in business.


1. People are really supportive. 
I have been amazed by the amount of support I've had. There have been bloggers who have shared their tips and supported me early on (thank you StylemeSunday, Swoonworthy and many more); other mums sharing their business contacts; fellow-entrepreneurs giving up their time to help me with marketing, business planning and to talk me through the nuts and bolts of starting up on your own. Friends have even given up their weekends to man a stand for me at my first trade fair. It's amazing how much people want to see a start-up succeed and I can't thank you all enough!!

2. A little recognition goes a long way. 
When you work for a company, you are surrounded by people, feedback and support (OK, it's not always positive, but it is always there). Nowadays, when someone stops me to say they liked a blog post; emails me to say they love the website; gives me a beautiful book with a 'good luck you're brave' message written inside...it really does make my day. Actually my week!  You have to store it up as fuel to keep you going through all the boring/difficult/frustrating/scary bits of running your own business!

3. You need to find your tribe. 
I've probably been a bit slow on the uptake here, but it is important to find some likeminded people. I've found instagram great for connecting with other small designers and entrepreneurs – just knowing that others are doing this too and having similar ups and downs is worth so much. It's also totally inspiring seeing the work of other designers and celebrating their successes, which is really motivating!  I also joined Sarah Akwisombe's No Bull Blog School (well worth it if you are even thinking about starting a blog). It was not only amazing for all the advice and tips but also great for 'meeting' other newby bloggers. There are plenty of groups out there for entrepreneurs, from local networking meetings to groups like Mothers Meeting who organise useful talks and networking events. If you work for yourself, find others to connect with!


4. Don't be scared to evolve. 
My business has already changed a fair bit. I started out as on online boutique, offering interior design services. I'm now an interior designer with a sideline boutique (and blog, and fledgling Moroccan rug import business)! The fact that things have flipped actually works brilliantly for me. I love designing but had underestimated the demand out there for stylish, affordable interior design services and assumed that I couldn't make this my main business. I thought interior design was a 'West London' thing and I wanted to work closer to home. What I have found is that there are plenty of families who want a great home but just don't have the time (or inclination) to pull everything together themselves, and are looking for someone like me to help. I love it! In addition I offer eDesign services to clients all over the world. I run this blog (which is pretty time consuming in itself) and have started a Moroccan rug import business. These things all support each other (and my obsession with interiors) but it's certainly been an evolution!

5. Mistakes happen, move on. 
I haven't done everything perfectly when it comes to running my interiors business. There have been bad choices, duff investments and unsuccessful events. But that's just what happens when you run a business, the important thing is not to dwell on them but to learn from them. When you're doing something creative, you're always trying to push boundaries and do something different. It doesn't always work, but if you stop trying then you'll end up playing it safe and delivering bland, uninspiring results. And that's just no fun, so roll with the mistakes (and make up for them) I say!

6. Celebrate your successes. 
Sometimes you just need to stop and give yourself a pat on the back. I've had some lovely feedback from clients whose rooms and houses I've designed. I received a commission from the latest Albion restaurant (below). I've made bespoke furniture for other interior designers. I was featured on the blog of one of my favourite role models (Abigail Ahern). And I've had clients recommend me to their friends, and use me again. So I must be doing something right, right? If you work on your own, you have to celebrate your successes (and then repeat them, of course!)



7. Find your inner extrovert. 
If you aren't naturally given to shouting about yourself (and let's face it, that's often true for us women) then you have to find your inner extrovert.  I have made myself go to events, turn up at functions and generally learn to talk about what I do without feeling apologetic. For a born introvert like me this doesn't come naturally. That's not to say I'm not confident (I am) but I'm just not good at promoting myself. I cringe doing things like asking for readers to vote for my blog, but then I have friends who tell me to get over myself and just ask! Wallflowers don't win, do they? (So if you can spare 20 seconds to vote for my blog before Friday, please click here!!)

8. Know what you're good at – and outsource the rest!
I'm not the world's greatest photographer, but when there are amazing people out there (like Carole Poirot) I don't see the point in spending hours trying to compete! Likewise, it is perfectly possible to design your own website, but I know I would have spent months doing it, and then not liked the result, so I hired I Want Design to do it for me, and invested my (limited) time elsewhere. Using experts allows you to focus your energies on what you do best. Plus it makes the world go round!



9. Remember why you're doing this.
If you've set up your own business, it's probably because you wanted to make a change. For me, I wanted to do something I'm passionate about. I also wanted to work from home and see more of my young children. Sometimes, when you're working till 2 in the morning, you can forget those reasons, but I've been trying really hard over the past couple of months NOT to stay up really late and to be really 'present' when I'm with my kids (not constantly checking my phone/email). I'm not perfect, but I am much better than I was 6 months ago!




10. Enjoy yourself!
Running your own business is hard work, time consuming and frustrating. But it's also empowering, exciting and liberating. If you love what you do, you have to give it your best shot and remember to enjoy the process.

If you're an entrepreneur (or just thinking about it) what have you learnt this year? I'd love to hear what you think!




SaveSave

3 simple tips for styling a small hallway

Morning all, I'm feeling a bit behind the curve with the Christmas decorating. I keep seeing all these amazing images on instagram of beautifully dressed trees, banisters and branches draped in fairy lights (yes, branches are a big thing on instagram at the moment) but I haven't put anything up myself because I feel the need to have an almighty clear out first. I've started the chucking-out process in the hallway, (it turns out we didn't need all 57 of the coats that were bulging out of the coat rack – who'd have thought?) Now that I can see past my front door again, it's got me to thinking about how best to style a small hallway. If you live in a typical British house they you are probably familiar with the small scale of our entrances (and if you're blessed with a larger hallway, then these tips still apply, and lucky you!)



1. Add somewhere to sit.

Whether it's a funky chair or a nice bench, every hallway, however small, should have somewhere to perch. Seating in a hallway adds a sense of purpose and makes the area feel less transient. It also makes getting your winter boots on and off far easier (...showing my age now) and gives you somewhere to sit down while you scream at the kids to get their coat/bag/shoes/lunchbox for the 14th time.  This hallway by Charlotte Crosland perfectly demonstrates how you can squeeze a bench (or in this case, an old church pew) into the narrowest space:


If you have a little more room, then make like Amber Lewis and add a bench and a chair:


2. Shoe storage.

It doesn't matter how hard you try, there are always too many shoes in a hallway. Having some method of storing them will make your entrance feel way more organised and beautiful. I'm a big fan of a hallway bench, as you can line shoes up underneath in a stylish yet intentional-looking way (as opposed to a heap in the corner). Our leather hallway bench stores 3 rows of shoes underneath – which ought to be plenty of room but somehow there are always 2 pairs too many to fit.

You can always organise shoes using wicker baskets, trunks or even vintage school lockers. Anything that adds a semblance of order and, preferably, makes finding your shoes easier will work. If you're starting from scratch and have the budget for a decent cabinet-maker, I've seen some fabulous solutions that use under-stair cupboards and even the space under stair-treads for shoe storage:

Source


3. Make a statement.

I love a wow factor in a hallway – something that makes you want to come in and see the rest! Whether it's a huge mirror, a colourful painting or a statement chandelier, the one thing I would advise is to GO LARGE. If you're house isn't quite Marie Kondo, then making a design statement will also detract attention from the random coats on the floor, carelessly-parked-scooters, school bags and shopping that just hasn't quite been put away.  (Please tell me that's not just my hallway? Oh...)

For a recent client project (top photo) I used 2 fish-eye mirrors, one above another, to accentuate the wonderfully high ceilings. We kept everything else calm and neutral, then added amazing vintage cinema seats (an eBay find) reupholstered and refurbished in Designer's Guild Zaragoza velvet. These double up as extra seating for the dining table when the client has extra guests too).

This hallway makes a statement with dark paint; a huge painting; vintage chandelier and a zebra. Why stop at one statement piece when you could have 4?

Source


Or how about coming home to a unicorn? (From a fabulous Cotswolds home photographed for one of my fave blogs, The Pink House)

 (photographed by Susie Lowe for The Pink House!)


Finally, I'd say accessorise. Add the odd cushion, sheepskin and plant to soften the edges and make your hallway feel like a room, not just a through-way. Here are a few suggestions for a simply styled hallway: 


Clockwise from top:


Right, now to get onto those Christmas decorations....

If you liked this post, it would mean a HUGE amount if you'd consider voting for me in the UK Blog Awards. Simply click the image below to place your vote! (Thank you)

 VOTE HERE!







SaveSave
Save

Restaurant design: Bombetta, E11

I love an excuse to dine out, but suspect that I’m not alone in feeling that the experience is never JUST about the food. For those of us who happen to be interiors-obsessed, restaurants and bars are also hotbeds of design inspiration.  So I thought I’d put this geekiness to good use by dissecting some of my favourite dining spots for you like-minded design-junkies! First up is a local of mine, Bombetta, in East London.



BOMBETTA 

This relatively new Italian in Snaresbrook, East London, is located directly outside the central line tube station. A tiny Puglia restaurant, it occupies an unlikely spot on the ground floor of a new-build. It’s the sort of place you’d normally expect to visit to collect your dry cleaning or order a mini-cab – not enjoy a laid-back meal. Which is why its interior design needs to work extra hard to make an impact!

I took an afternoon out to visit and taste the wares (there have to be some perks to this job!) and chatted to 2 of the 3 owners – James and Ben – to find out more about the business, the restaurant design and how the two elements support each other.

LOCATION & BACKGROUND

The location of this restaurant makes more sense once you understand the background. Ben was originally looking for a retail outlet, not a restaurant. He chose Wanstead as the best local high street, but with typical shops having high premiums attached, opted for this unlikely unit "We decided that retail there would be a struggle, but if you attached a restaurant to it then the space could work (restaurants being more of a destination)." 




So the restaurant was a bit of an afterthought?! Ben: "...we were clear on what we wanted, which was a high end casual dinning environment that utilised the cured meats and cheeses from The Chefs Deli in a unique way." Ben brought in a couple of business partners to take it from empty shell to functioning restaurant. It was an empty shell, "nothing but a concrete box with no windows, electric, toilets etc."  

RUSTIC SOHO COOL (OR URBAN GROTTO?)

My first impression on entering Bombetta was of being transported into a dark and mysterious urban grotto! It’s small (around 40 covers), warm, eccentric and unpretentious. I immediately wanted to hunker down and spend the entire afternoon. (Job done on overcoming the unusual location then!)

There are raw concrete ceilings, exposed pipework and a bar and shelving made of reclaimed scaffold-boards and poles, lending it a laid-back, industrial vibe. "So far, so-so" you may think; after all, raw, industrial design is certainly rife in the London dining scene. But this design feels just a bit more personal.  The industrial elements are juxtaposed with deep, glossy tiles, neon signage and a trio of colourful (almost gaudy) chandeliers, my favourite being the 'Shrek green' number below!


"We’ve tried our best to make it feel rustic Soho cool – but have added lots of pops of colour to move on from the more serious urban industrial look that you see all over town," explains James. Ben adds: "we wanted …to use very natural materials as much as possible, that contrasted texturally (concrete, wood, shiny metal, rusted and used metal, real leather, pottery plates etc).  In addition we then wanted splashes of colour to add warmth, to what could be a very cold feeling site." To my mind, they've pulled it off with aplomb.

LIGHTS

"The very first thing we bought were the chandeliers (and pretty much blew the budget in the process!)" says Ben. "They are hand-made from semi-precious stones by a little dude in Milan called Antonio who runs SussieBiribissi with his friend. We knew immediately that we wanted them. They are super vibrant so we hope that they make a statement." 

WALLS

I love to see what restaurants put on their walls. In our own homes, we rarely think beyond paint or wallpaper, but restaurants use a huge variety of finishes to add depth and texture. At Bombetta, they had to get creative to stretch the budget. James explains "we got help from our clever, creative builder. He took sheets of metal…sanded them down and left them to rust by his canal boat for weeks before fixing them to the wall to create a rusty, textural surface." 



By contrast, the back wall is clad in dark turquoise tiles (Tons Of Tiles' Illumina in Emerald Green, in case you're wondering – another example of style over budget.) "To be a bit different, we got them laid vertically in rows which looks kind of municipal swimming bath chic, if that’s a thing!" says James. They certainly look dark and striking against the signage. Speaking of which…


NEON SIGNAGE

James explains, "We ordered local, East London, neon-light-gurus, God’s Own Junk Yard, to make our neon pink Bombetta logo mounted to a cast iron grill." [If you haven’t visited this iconic shop-come-warehouse-come-cafe in the East, it is well worth it, blogpost coming soon, or check out my instagram page for more!]


ART

One of my favourite things about the Bombetta interior has to be the colourful, quirky and personal art. James is a huge fan of street art; Ben wanted colour, so with the help of their graphic designer, Grace Ward, (who also designed the logo) they created their own take on some contemporary classics. James said "One of my faves is a gritty little street snap of Ostuni in Puglia complete with blue Fiat that [Grace] transformed into the style of Evan Hecox’s urban screen prints of LA… We also have a tribute to Eelus’s screen print ‘Shat-at’’ Ben continues, ‘changed to my daughter Amelia holding a rare breed Sicilian Girgentana Goat…We stock the cheese in the restaurant from the goat obviously ;-)." I love how they created something quirky yet relevant (and without spending a fortune!) Keeping it local, they guys had their creations framed on Wanstead High Street. 




A STREETFOOD VIBE IN SUBURBAN EAST LONDON 

The bar has been wrapped around the kitchen with its centre-piece open grill. If you don't mind the heat, you can choose to eat at the bar (as I have done on previous occasions). It reminds me a little of a street food experience, perched informally on stools, watching your meat roast over smoking coals whilst sipping a nice cold beer – perfect (and a nice change from the more pedestrian dining offerings available nearby).



A VIEW INTO THE FRIDGE!

Not only is the kitchen 'open-plan', the fridge is too! Behind the bar you can see through a large glass wall straight into the refrigerators that house the cured meats and wheels of cheese included on the menu (at next door's Chefs Deli).  It’s an impressive reminder of what you are being served, and a great design feature, Ben explains "The Chefs Deli fridges on the other half of the site were pro rata the most expensive part of the location. Whilst functional for our operation, it was important for me that the product was seen in the restaurant, as of course the two businesses…are symbiotic of each other." It’s a neat talking point, and really does highlight the produce.


SEATING YOU DON'T MIND SITTING ON

I’m pleased to report that Bombetta scores a big tick for providing comfortable seating! Ben had a simple banquet made up in the style of a Danish design he’d seen in a magazine. The tan leather chairs and matching bar stools are equally comfortable. Despite their aim to source local, Ben struggled to find a source in the UK that could deliver within the timeframe. "I looked for chairs which connected the metal in the bar and elsewhere in the building and the leather of the banquet.  In the end I found a company in Barcelona and we imported the tables, chairs and bar stools from them."


THE BOMBETTE!

I guess it's about time I got around to mentioning the 'bombette' themselves (and everything else we ate). I visited for a late lunch with my photographer friend Carole Poirot, after a morning spent shooting some recently finished projects. After a few recommends from the manager, Vasilus, I opted for the autumn squash with mixed wild mushrooms and crostini, which was silky, smooth and divine. Carole's locally smoked salmon was well-seasoned and tasty too. 

Source


2 plates of bombette then arrived. These little parcels of meat are a Puglian speciality (Bombette being the plural of Bombetta, I am reliably informed). Ben and his wife travel extensively and fell in love with the traditional meat grill restaurants of Southern Italy. "Bombette are unique to Puglia originally… meat with cheese and cured meat all rolled together and grilled on skewers over coals." 

This local delicacy grew out of necessity. Poor farm workers would head to the local butcher to feast on bombette (made from little scraps of meat) from his communal oven (the olive industry left precious little room to grow firewood, making fuel scarce).

I can assure you that even if you are not a puglian farmer, these little delicacies are well worth a trek. We tried both the chicken (with speck, sage, taleggio and a garlic & paprika crumb) and the pork (with prosciutto San Daniele, scamorza & oregano). Both were delicious, fairly salty (you'll need that second drink) and delicious. And as for the generous portion of courgette fries that came alongside, I could have eaten another plateful! (Thankfully I didn't). Sorry, there wasn't much left to photograph...

Source





And finally, we managed to squeeze in a little dessert. I went trad and ordered the tiramisu, but have to admit it was a bit disappointing. Carole's vanilla panacotta with figs and basil sorbet more than made up for it – a-MAZ-ing (instant order-envy...grrrr)! 

Source





IN CONCLUSION

Bombetta perfectly fuses my love of food with my love of design. The food is tasty and easy; the atmosphere is warm, unpretentious and welcoming. It's the sort of place you want to pull off your coat, flop down in a cosy corner and spend an afternoon drinking, grazing and chatting. I could happily have done exactly that in Bombetta, working my way through the menu of tasty-sounding morsels (and the Italian wine-list) but alas...someone had to fetch the kids!

Find Bombetta at Station Approach, Snaresbrook E11. The Chefs Deli (next door) is open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays. For more info, or to make a reservation click here.

Boho girl's bedroom makeover: before & after

I have written this post from bed...no I've not opted out of society, but I have been struck down with a horrible shivery-gluey-hacking-cough-thingy (that's a technical term) and am currently sitting in bed writing this. I flaked out yesterday and did nothing except lie in front of the fire semi-comatose for the 6 hours the children were out of the house. Hubby has taken them to school this morning, which is a very welcome break, but guilt at doing nothing has definitely kicked in! So here's a good old before and after of my little girl's bedroom makeover to cheer me up...

To recap, this room was a pretty sorry spare room when we first moved in. I then used it as my office for a while and painted it a deep chocolate brown (which I loved) but felt that it needed a new brighter look to become my daughter's new 'big girl room'. You can read about my decision to come back from the dark side here and about the overall design plan here.

First the 'before' photos – you'll have to forgive the appalling images from my very old iPhone, but they do give you the gist! They also give you an idea of what a messy DIY-er I am.

Once the walls were white I decided to add a little warmth by painting the fairly high ceiling a pale dusky pink (if you are wondering what the colour is, I mixed a little of 2 Little Greene tester pots into my Dulux White! The colours were Little Greene Ashes of Roses and Carmine). High ceilings are usually desirable, but this is a long and fairly narrow room, which felt a bit like a chimney, so I wanted to make it feel cosier!

Next I started testing out various textile options before moving on to the wall treatment. I had toyed with the idea of an elaborate painted-wall effect (think Kelly Wearstler graffiti wallpaper) but decided that something subtle and a little bit organic would be right for this room. Inspired by the good old Beni Ourain rugs that I so love, I decided to try out a relaxed diamond motif on the walls. You can see my masking-taped pattern here:


I simply rubbed newsprint gently along the edges (thrifty heh?) to create the overall effect, then finished with hairspray to prevent smudging (you could use artist's fixative, but cheap hairspray actually contains the same ingredients for about  fifth of the cost). Voila, a DIY wallpaper!

The bed is really the centrepiece of the finished room. I turned a plain old trundle bed into a day bed by having 2 headboards made and screwed onto either end. I then sewed the valance and 2 bolster pillows to complete the look (I'll list the various materials and sources at the end):

The textiles add some colour and pattern – the kilim rug, frazada blanket and hemp pillows are fun and bright. And I just love those 'mamma bear' and 'baby bear' prints above the bed.


On the other side of the room, I repurposed our old Ikea sideboard as a wardrobe! We glued plywood over the glazed panels (for safety in a 2 year old's room) and replaced the shelves in one side with a hanging rail. It'll work for a few years until we need to upgrade to a proper wardrobe, but for now this works perfectly and has a bit of a mid-century feel to it which I love! 


My metal antelope/gazelle head wall-decor (bought years ago for a song) has been pimped up with some cotton-ball fairy lights. He's the first thing you see when you walk into the room, and I always like to try to add something that has immediate visual impact when you enter. A few teddies and an old pantone print complete this corner. 

And finally, a cute little reading corner (because of course we have to keep things educational too!) These shelves are just the right height for Abigail to help herself to her favourite books, and she already loves sitting on the Moroccan pouf to look through them. I love baskets for toy storage – something about the wicker texture tones down all the gaudiness and makes tidying up easy (essential if you want any chance of the little darlings helping you!)

And finally, here are the sources...

1) Orange velvet fabric on daybed: Designer's Guild Zaragoza in Paprika
2) Striped hemp cushions on daybed: Hide & Seek
3) Yellow pillowcase: made from Volga Linen in Chinese Yellow
4) 'A' cushion: Asda
5) Frazada blanket: Hide & Seek
6) Brass side table: West Elm
7) Striped kilim rug: one-off, similar available at Hide & Seek
8) Organic British Sheepskin rug: Hide & Seek
9) Bear prints by Amy Hamilton: Society 6
10) Roman Blind: made from Laura Ahsley gingham
11) Wall hanging: came from Tiger, but doesn't appear on their website). Really this is a place holder for a proper macrame wall hanging!)
12) Pantone prints: bought at Home Sense a long time ago, but also available here.
13) Chest of drawers: Ikea
14) White animal head: similar available here
15) Coloured fairy lights: Cable & Cotton
16) Book ledges: Ikea
17) Basket: Hide & Seek
18) Moroccan Pouff: Hide & Seek
19) Wooden sideboard: Ikea, no longer available. Similar
20) Joshua tree print: Hide & Seek
19) Framed feather drawing: gift from an artist friend
20) Table lamp (from BHS years ago, but similar available from Habitat)
21) Ceiling light Ikea

By reusing things I already had around the house, I managed to spend only £310.50 in total.  The paint was in the shed; yellow linen was left over from a project years ago; the blind was made from old curtains. The only new items were the velvet for the daybed; the 'A' cushion (only £5!); 2 bear prints, wall hanging, new cable and cotton balls (to go on an old set of lights), Ikea book ledges, ceiling light and Joshua Tree print. Abigail seems pleased with her new room. She loves running in there to empty the clothes drawers (sorry, get dressed) and read her books. We're still working on getting her to actually sleep in the big girl's bed though (even with a side guard on it)...looks like I'm not going to be getting my new office any time soon!

So, what do you think of my boho girl's bedroom makeover? I'd love to hear from you (as ever), all comments appreciated!



Boho girl's bedroom makeover: the design plan

It's been a few weeks since I started work on my daughter's bedroom, so I thought it was about time I shared the design plan! I wrote here about my first design decision: to take it back from the dark side. Having served as my office for the past couple of years, the walls had been painted a rich, velvety chocolate, which I painted white. It may have taken 6 coats of paint to cover the aforementioned dark walls, but don't worry, I'm over it now. Just.

The finished room is being photographed today (yay!) so I thought I'd give you a sneak peak at the design before the pictures are ready. I know a lot of people love decorating children's rooms and feel it's an opportunity to go a bit wild and crazy, but I've never really felt that way. Maybe it's because I don't see many girls' rooms that inspire me; maybe it's because I'm just pretty averse to all things pastel pink and frilly, but I just wasn't really sure where to start with this room. Having 2 older boys, I've not really been exposed to much overt girliness up until now and I wasn't sure I really wanted to start with her room (although Abigail went off this morning wearing a forest fairy costume over a pink tutu and sparkly tights, so I think my time has come!)

I wanted to create a girl's bedroom that was strong, stylish, funky and a little bit boho. 'Does a 2 year old really need a stylish bedroom,' my husband asked? 'Can't we just paint it pink?' Honestly...
It's not that I don't like pink – I've seen some really stylish pink rooms recently – it's the traditional 'pretty, pastel girls room' use of it that offends me. Our little girl definitely has a strong, determined personality and I wanted her room to reflect that. I wanted strong colours, warm and cosy textures with a few natural elements throw in. Oh, and I needed to do it on a strict budget (hence starting with a shed full of white paint – 6 coats, did I mention that)?



With budget in mind, I thought I'd better scour the house to see what I already had and start from there. The list looked something like this:-
1. A single bed with trundle underneath. Deathly boring, no headboard, footboard, valance or redeeming features, it looked pretty much like this one (i.e. grim!) This has been a spare bed for years but has hardly been used and was already in the room, so it was a no-brainer to make it the big girl's bed.
2. Beige gingham curtains – these had been used in the nursery for all three of our children. They are good quality fabric and blackout lined, so whilst they wouldn't have been my first choice I was pretty sure I could make them work.
3. Ikea Hemnes chest of drawers. White. Functional. There's a reason why every other kids' room in the land has one of these!
4. White animal head decoration – I think he's a gazelle or an antelope or something, but he's quirky, cute and an allowable cliche because (a) he was a bargain for £10 from M&S a few years back and (b) I love him!
5. Very old Ikea sideboard – previously a drinks cabinet in our old dining room, latterly a storage cabinet in my office. A good size, but the glass doors made it less than ideal for a child's bedroom.
6. Pink and brown striped kilim rug (useful for covering the nice coffee stain right in the middle of the beige wool carpet, a little leaving gift from a previous au pair!)

With these inspiring (ahem) starting points in mind, I started pinning images I liked. I shared some in the first post on this bedroom – click here if you missed it, but here's what I ended up with as my inspiration:

1. // 2. // 3. // 4. // 5. //





I wanted it to be feminine but definite, and I clearly love pink, orange and yellow! The Jonathan Adler room top left was a pretty big source of inspiration, I loved the idea of making my daughter's bed a real statement, but cosy too. I've been dying to use some orange in the house somewhere – this felt like the perfect opportunity. A few weeks of pondering and pinning later, this is the design concept I came up with for the room:



I went for plenty of bright fabrics – starting with orange velvet and yellow linen – 2 of my favourite textures and colours!  I love the bright, clashing pink combination. I went with stripes to bring in some pattern (I'm just not that into florals it seems) and offset these with a few more rustic/natural elements, like the Ikea Sinnerlig pendant lamp and organic British sheepskin rug. A few monochrome touches always help make a room in my book – hence the cushion and cute print. I hope this proves to be the perfect boho girl's bedroom makeover. I'll post the 'after' pictures as soon as I have them, but I'd love to hear what you think so far!




How to fill a large blank wall (without busting the budget!)

The problem with spending all day working on other people's interiors is that my own home is always the last to get finished. It's not that I can't muster the enthusiasm, more that I never have the time (or budget) to do exactly what I want. The large, empty wall next to our dining table is a case in point. I've endlessly procrastinated researched possible solutions without every actually implementing any of them! But to prove that said research wasn't entirely in vain, I thought I'd share my top suggestions for filling a large blank wall (on a budget!)

The wall in my dining-room is 4.5 metres wide by 4 metres high and it's visible as soon as you walk into the open-plan room. I look at it every day from the kitchen, face it whenever we eat meals at the dining table – and stare at it from the sofa. It is undoubtedly the perfect place to make a real statement. So what have I chosen to put there? Two small framed prints. Hung side by side. Not even placed cookily off-centre. Not flanked by a cool light or underlined by a fabulous bar. Just hung up. Hastily.

In my defence, I was 9 months pregnant with my second son at the time this piece of interior design genius was dreamt up (the fact it still looks the same 5 and a half years later is slightly harder to forgive). So here goes with the ideas...

Idea 1. Wall to wall print montage

Image source


I absolutely love this image of Ben Pentreath's London living room. A vintage map of the city has been oversized and segmented into 24 individual frames. I love the way it stretches wall to wall and skirting to ceiling to totally fill the end of the room – impact and stye. You could do something similar on a reasonable budget using high street frames and your own image. You might not get quite the edge-to-edge bespoke look, but I think you could get pretty close. It does require some serious measuring (D is trying to put me off this option as he dreads having to get all the frames lined up neatly!)

Idea 2. Hang a huge painting


Art is always a great option if you have a lot of wall to fill. The challenge is a) finding one within budget and b) getting the other half to agree on it!  eBay still comes up trumps occasionally with a vintage find – its where I scored the amazing abstract pictured above a few years ago (actually it was neither within budget nor signed off by the other half, but it ended up on the other side of the kitchen anyway!) There are some great artists on Etsy and instagram too, many of whom are willing to undertake commissions and won't cost the earth.

Idea 3. Large scale photographic print(s)

Image source
OK, so this is pretty similar to idea 2. There's plenty of Cali-cool inspiration for this type of look – beach and desert scenes are very popular, but you could of course completely change the look depending on the image you choose (I quite fancy a black and white photograph of the moon). Or maybe mix idea 1 and idea 3?

Idea 4. Oversized mirror

Image source

A mirror is a pretty failsafe way to fill some wall space (and bounce some light around too). I can't help but love this huge train reversing mirror used by Lucy St George in her dining room (check out her home in this month's Living Etc). Antiques fairs (and even car boots) are good places to go hunting for budget-friendly options. Alas, this won't work in my kitchen as the sun would shine straight into it and either a) blind anyone sitting opposite or b) start a fire – neither of which is really the look I'm after.

Idea 5. Picture ledges

Image source

If, like me, you’re too lazy or scared to create a gallery wall (all those nails, holes and potential for mistakes!) then picture ledges are a great and more flexible alternative. I love the way the owner of this uber-cool Dutch apartment has mixed framed prints with taped-up tear sheets, feathers and favourite textiles to create a laid-back and quirky display. Ikea picture ledges would do the trick here for very little cash!

Idea 6. Hang a rug


As I may have mentioned once or twice, I do love a Moroccan rug – hanging one on the wall would make a great feature (they’re like works of art anyway). However, I've already done this in my hallway, so not sure I can get away with it twice!

I'm sure there are plenty of other options to consider (I could probably string this research out for another 5 years at a push!) Do you have a large blank wall to fill? How have you done it? I’d love to hear (and pinch your good ideas!)e a Moroccan rug – hanging one on the wall would make a great feature (they’re like works of art anyway). I have already done this in my hallway, so not sure I can get away with it twice!

Do you have a large blank wall to fill? How have you done it? I’d love to hear (and pinch your good ideas!)
SaveSave

6 of the best...tan leather sofas on the high street

My latest interior design project, for a lovely family in East London, started with a seemingly simple task: source a great looking and comfortable tan leather sofa. I pretty much love tan leather anything (boots, chairs, handbags, cushions... l could go on) so happily threw myself into this challenge. A stylish AND comfortable sofa is such a holy grail that I thought I'd share my 6 favourite finds and hopefully save you some legwork!

Speaking of legwork, I did indeed stretch my legs prolifically on this challenge. Internet shopping is great, and I'm guilty of whiling away many an hour sourcing (or 'sitting on the sofa staring at that bloody Mac,' as my husband delicately puts it) but sometimes, nothing beats pounding the streets, sitting, squishing and stroking the genuine article. The last thing you want is to order a beautiful looking sofa online, only to realise that the leather is shiny and plasticky, or the cushions are hard as a rock. So I took myself into London for an epic Tottenham Court Road/Oxford Street/Battersea testing day.



The budget was up to £5k (nice, I know) but they wanted a good quality sofa, built to last, with great leather. There was plenty to choose from, but few that passed my oh-so-scientific 'good leather, good comfort, good style' test. Here are the 6 that did...






1. Heals Chill 4-seater sofa £3,499

This was the largest of the tan leather sofas I tried. It is listed as a 4 seater, but actually it's not much longer than a regular 3 seater at 219cm. The semi-aniline leather felt good quality and from the marketing images below looks like it would age nicely to give a more lived in feel.





2. Barker & Stonehouse Dillon sofa. £1,429.

This was the smallest of the sofas I tried, at 178cm long, but I absolutely love the Danish mid-century look and it would be great for a small space. It had a higher back than most (great for comfort) and a bench style cushion – which seems to be a growing trend and lends it a neat, clean look. The leather has a slightly distressed finish, and I really liked the feet which were wrapped in leather – a nice detail.


3. Habitat Newman sofa, £2,800.

This is a nice simple design, with a slim profile softened by extra cushions at the arms and back. The angular metal legs lend it a slightly industrial look. Another bench-seat style (definitely a thing at the moment) it was the lowest of the sofas I tried, although being only 5' 2" that's not something that worries me! The seat was fairly deep and squashy – I could imagine curling up on this for an evening on 'the bloody mac.'



4. Barker & Stonehouse Orson sofa. £1,299.

Next up is another Barker & Stonehouse number. The Orson is a very simple, unfussy sofa which would work well in pretty much any style of room. In fact it is so simple that it would certainly need a bit of styling up with a throw and cushions etc, but I found it comfortable to sit on. The leather was lovely – soft, slightly distressed, plenty of natural markings and a contemporary, matt finish. This was a little under the client's budget, but it's a real bargain, so I had to include it here.




5. West Elm, Axel sofa. £2,299

As you'd expect from West Elm, the styling on their Axel sofa is great – from the lovely flanged seam details (no, I didn't know that's what they were called either) to the bronzed legs, it oozes style. This was another 'bench seat' style with a single, long seat cushion – which gives a firm sitting position but I found very comfortable. The aniline tan leather is soft, waxy and looks and feels as though it will age beautifully.



6. BoConcept Carlton leather sofa, £5,022 in Chester leather.

Last, but definitely not least, is the BoConcept Carlton sofa. This was the most expensive on my list, but definitely up there as one of the most comfortable. It was the squishiest and slouchiest of the sofas I shortlisted, with a deeper seat that makes it good for those with longer legs (err, not me then!) It's also customisable with a choice of simple legs as below, or ski style legs as in the graphic at the top of the page (for a more retro 70s look). The arms are also wide enough to rest a drink on (not that I'd EVER do that on an expensive sofa of course...without a nice coaster in place...or a magazine...at least for the first 4 weeks of ownership...oh who am I kidding?) Cheaper leather and fabric options are available too, but to be honest I just didn't like their cheaper tan leathers! 



So there you have it. These were far from the only sofas I tried out by the way, and there were half-decent options in M&S, John Lewis, Camerich and more, but to my mind (or should that be bottom?) the 6 tan leather sofas above were the best in the budget/style/comfort range I was after. If you're in the market for a tan leather sofa, and don't want to be overwhelmed and frankly, paralysed by the range of internet choices, then you won't go far wrong with one of these.