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Vax vs 2 children & 1 dog… let the battle commence!

VAX WINS!! (1)

My home is, like many up and down the country, a busy one. As a family with two primary school aged children and one 11-month-old Vizsla puppy, life goes at quite a pace. Although I would love my home to look immaculate at all times, it doesn’t. I don’t have a cleaner, nor enough time (or perhaps inclination) to spend any spare minutes cleaning and so things do take quite a battering sometimes, and there’s often a fine layer of dust/dirt/mud that shouldn’t really be there.

 

Take my favourite popcorn rug for example. It’s a lovely, but not a very practical pale oatmeal colour (chosen before the children started bringing in so much mud and definitely before the dog). It sits under the sofa that sits by the doors to the garden. It’s a lovely rug – squidgy between my toes but I have to admit it is filthy. Kids run in straight from the garden depositing mud and grass over it, and the dog? Well she just adds to the happy chaos (and muddy scenario) as she just won’t wipe her feet when she launches across the threshold. My poor rug has also had sploshes of drinks spilt on it and who knows what else to add to the garden and life debris… it is looking really rather sorry for itself I’m afraid.

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Before 2

The Vax Platinum Power Max should, in theory, be my carpet-cleaning knight-in-shining-armour, bringing my poor forlorn rug back to life, but can it really undo the damage of 4 muddy paws and 8 feet? (my husband and I aren’t without blame – it’s not just the kids!) I love a challenge, but this feels like quite a big one as there’s lots of damage to undo. Can one machine really save the day?

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Having taken the kids to school (so as to give the carpet the best chance of drying) I read the instructions (with a cup of tea – that helps) and the machine was easy to click together.

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Having hoovered to collect debris I then put foil under the feet of the sofa (so the wooden feet don’t stain the carpet) and filled the tanks with warm water and the cleaning solution. It’s not a big rug so going up and down with the machine to clean it took no time though overall it was so fast it wouldn’t take long to do a big room, or half a day to do all the carpets in the house I should think (with tea breaks of course). On my rug there was one particularly mucky area which I paid special attention to, using the boost trigger for a shot of extra cleaning. I have to say that patch didn’t look noticeably cleaner and I wasn’t sure whether the damage was too bad to get it clean but I stayed positive – the Vax was certainly picking up a lot of dirt!

Working on the dirty patch

Using the Vax

When I’d finished I looked at the waste water tank. Crumbs that’s gross. It’s brown. Not lightly tinged but mucky pond-water brown. However, the up side is that the dirt is no longer in the carpet and that has to be a good thing – it’s actually really satisfying to see the colour of the water because I knew I’d achieved something.

Waste water YURGH

It’s quick to unclip all the dirty machine parts and rinse them through and I left them to air on the draining rack. Then it’s a case of wait for it to dry (it smells nice at this time).

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Wet rug

By the evening it was pretty dry (though still looked a bit patchy) and the next morning I came in to see… well I can only describe it as looking shiny and new. I am SO impressed. Even the area which was deeply marked is clean and splodge-free. The whole process took under an hour (and that includes tidying up and cleaning the machine at the end) and my poor forlorn mucky rug really looks a million times better. The Vax has undone months of abuse from a family’s worth of muddy feet through a soggy winter and spring. It couldn’t have been easier or quicker so now I’m off to clean every other carpet in the house. I shall live in a beautifully clean carpeted home for… well about 5 or 6 minutes until one of the kids or the dog forgets to wipe their feet….

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It's so clean and soft

Mr Fox is 5!

5 years ago, a very lovely print called Mr Fox was launched by Scion and he is a charming  character print that’s not just for kids – he’s rather sophisticated so will bring a cheerful quirky edge to any home. A while ago I gave an old EBay chair a makeover with Mr Fox fabric in mustard and grey and my kids love the chair as it’s just their size and I love how it looks – much more fun than a boring old high street chair don’t you think? The fabric is so easy to work with this was an easy project to do but if you don’t fancy upholstery, why not make a cushion or drawstring bag?

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I’ve used the print in a few makeovers but if you haven’t seen it then it’s time you made his acquaintance! The fabrics are in colours that are great for kids because they’re bright and so attractive to them but the palette is subtle enough that adults love it too. Throw a cheery cushion on your sofa and it looks immediately more welcoming, or give your downstairs loo a heap of character with Mr Fox wallpaper. I had a look round Tinternet to see what other clever people had done with the print – perhaps this will give you a few ideas for your own home…

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And then to celebrate his birthday, Scion sent me some ginger biscuits in the iconic shape so I made a cuppa… and then my children came in to “help” eating them!

Happy Birthday Mr Fox and well done Scion 🙂

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Make a fab kids drawstring sports kit bag in an hour

My daughter has a whole heap of PE kit to keep at school – trainers, football boots, shin pads, shorts, t-shirts, sweatshirts… there’s loads! She wanted a fun big bag that could keep everything all together rather than an array of carrier bags, so we got sewing and made this in under an hour. It’s super easy so a great project for kids or novice sewers. My fabric is by Michael Miller Bam Boy about £13/m

Here’s how you make it:

  1. Decide how big you want the bag to be. Cut out 2 pieces of fabric this size plus 3cm at the width and 6cm on the height. Pin the fabrics right sides together… IMG_4670IMG_4669
  2. Put pins as markers at the side seams 4.5cm from the top edge and stitch starting and finishing at these pins down the sides and across the bottom of the bag (use a 1.5cm seam allowance).  Remove the pins. IMG_4671IMG_4676
  3. Press the seams open and continue the pressed seam allowance up to the top edge. Stitch these seam allowances down (these will be the openings where the cord threads through). IMG_4680 IMG_4682
  4. On the top edge, iron 1.5cm then 3cm and pin to create a channel. Stitch close to the bottom folded edge.  IMG_4688  IMG_4690
  5. Wrap tape round the end of a long piece of cord to stop it fraying, spike onto a safety pin then thread the cord through one channel at the top, then round through the other channel.  IMG_4697
  6. Knot the ends of the cord together, trim the excess then unravel the cord to make a tassel. IMG_4706IMG_4707IMG_4713

Check out my work in this month’s magazines!

The new September issues of two lovely magazines have dropped on my door mat this morning and I’m delighted to say there’s lots of my work in print this month – hurrah! I have three makeover shoots – take a look at Style At Home & Your Home…

Firstly, a beautiful classic bathroom that shows where to spend and where to save to stretch a budget to allow marble tiles and a gorgeous Utopia bathroom cabinet…

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And a cosy cottage living room that is right on trend with botanical and industrial accents (and on a budget too – lots from the fab Dunelm)

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Plus a pretty little cottage kitchen

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Next there are some fab holiday-feel makes in Style At Home – all easy to do to add some tropical cheer to your home

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And step by step instructions on how to make a hair pin leg table…

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And then I am really really pleased to say that the recent images I created for British Ceramic Tile are now released to press and here are two already in print! I had to design these shots to show tiles in interesting and on trend modern ways and I hope you’ll agree these look just lovely. They’re a lot of work to create but I get such a thrill when I see them in print. Not a bad month’s work huh?

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One bored stylist + 3 days = Hacked tv unit to fabulous sideboard

I’m a bit dangerous when I’m a). a bit bored and b). get a bee in my bonnet about something. This is a post about how those two things come together and result in a really rather lovely piece of furniture created from a small sideboard made by me that I’m really very chuffed with.

When we moved our TV and sofa into the kitchen/diner we put an old sideboard, relocated from the living room plonked against a wall to put the TV on. It was practical and all, hiding all the TV boxes and cables etc (a particular bug bear of mine) but it always bothered me slightly – I wanted it to look lovely but it didn’t. It looked a bit meh.

A couple of weeks ago it dawned on me that the problem was that it was just too small and looked like an island against a big wall. I started a hunt for a much bigger sideboard but I couldn’t find anything on EBay or in secondhand shops. I’m not very patient and after a week or so of hunting I wanted another option. The sideboard as it was was solid wood and in itself fine – just too small. I wondered if I could just make it bigger somehow.

This looks like a really big project but actually it wasn’t and if you have a few DIY skills I reckon you could do it. Here’s what I did:

I took off the skirting pieces, top, and little metal decorative brackets that wrapped round the top corners. I write a blog for the lovely Utopia Bathrooms (if you haven’t seen their stuff you must – it’s lovely and I also contribute to their blog so have a read of those posts too) and in conversation with them I asked if by any chance they had any small cabinets that I could use and they did – hurrah! Slightly wider than I’d anticipated (in the end they looked perfect) but a wonderful starting point. I screwed these to the sides of the unit making sure the top and front edges were flush using a combination of unit legs, and legs cut to size from pieces of wood.IMG_3566IMG_3567I cut the new top piece to size from a big sheet I had in the garage (it was very big and very heavy and Health & Safety would have had a field day if they’d have seen me with a jigsaw balanced on one leg trying to reach high enough) but with this rested in place it gave me the top level to work to. The cabinets weren’t as deep as the unit so after a trip to Wickes  to get bits of timber, I glued on a piece of hardboard as a fake side piece the right size – about 10cm deeper than the cupboard.IMG_3584I’d got some kitchen doors from EBay that were the same design as those on the central unit that I thought would blend well once painted. They were’t the perfect size but after failing to find anything exactly right I decided to make these work. To fit them, they were balanced on bits of wood and rested in place so I could add the side battens and work out something to close the gap at the bottom too. IMG_3576IMG_3585Door were then hung, the top screwed down and new skirting to wrap all the way round fixed (I have to say I was really scared about doing this because my mitring skills leave a lot to be desired so I was worried the corners would be terrible but I took it very very slowly and the results were fab. Go me!) Then my trusty assistant and I rubbed down all the old paintwork ready for some undercoat. IMG_3600Undercoat on the bare wood and specialist primer on the kitchen doors.IMG_3611The colour of this piece was a big deal for me and getting it right really important. I’d always wanted to introduce navy in to the room and had tried with a rug but decided to go this route with paint instead. I got lots of sample pots and spent two days doing a process of elimination with bits of card rested on the top to choose. I kept changing my mind because the colours looked so different during the day to in the evening but in the end I went for Carbon Blue from Fired Earth – a deep blue that’s lovely. I do miss oil based paints though – IMHO the water based ones just aren’t as nice. But anyway. IMG_3656The first coat was reaaaaaally patchy and I thought I’d made the wrong decision. IMG_3659IMG_3661IMG_3662Note to self: Keep tea away from paint pot else you ruin a good cuppa…IMG_3685But a couple more coats of paint made all the difference and I absolutely love it. Handle choice was, again, tricky but with help from my 8 year old on the decision, I went for hares on the drawers and knobs elsewhere (these were too shiny so I dulled the colour to match the others with a touch of black chalk paint). The hares are a bit quirky without trying too hard and I really like them.IMG_3828So that’s it really. I did this over three days and I have to say I’m thrilled with the results. Who would have thought adding a couple of bathroom cabinets and sloshing a bit of paint around could change this….IMG_3370to this…. (and don’t you love the addition of the Mechanic clock by Newgate too?)IMG_3839

I’m thrilled with how this turned out – it didn’t cost much, didn’t take too long yet is just the statement piece I wanted and I love that it’s unique too. There’s something so satisfying about this kind of project that makes me smile…picmonkey_image

How to make a leather strap shelf

Browsing through some lovely interiors catalogues that came in the post I kept finding myself looking at those lovely wall shelves that hang from leather loop brackets? – have you seen them? I think they’re really attractive and a nice change from ordinary wood or metal versions but sheesh they’re expensive!

I’ve been working on a shoot for the lovely British Ceramic Tile company where I have been designing and building lifestyle images to show off their lovely products. One set uses glorious petrol blue tiles and I really wanted one of those shelves but I was stretching the budget anyway and couldn’t stretch it any further. Then I thought about it and decided I could make one so I did. You don’t need to spend much and it was an easy DIY task so you could easily make one too. As usual there’s a great sense of satisfaction when you make things yourself and the joy is you can make this exactly how you want to be  – get the right length and width for your needs rather than be limited to what you can buy. I haven’t seen any, for example on black leather straps so this would be the way you could get one like that.

I bought new leather strap from EBay but you could use old belts which would be lovely and their softness would sit flatter on the underside of the shelf. And of course this would be very cheap indeed – even more of a bonus (and no the belts don’t need to match exactly, do they?)IMG_2278Start by deciding on how long you want the straps to be. Hold a loop on the wall and slot the shelf board in to see how it looks. Adjust this you get the look you want (please excuse that the photo shows the top of the tiled board – ignore that and do this flat on your wall). Keep holding the loop then cut the excess strap off (I didn’t do this but you need to) IMG_2057

Use a leather punch (or a bradawl) to make a hole about 1.5cm down from the cut edge. Make a hole at both ends then make a second strap the same.IMG_2059 IMG_2060 Hold the strap in place on the wall and push a pencil through the holes to make a mark on the wall. Drill a hole on the mark and put in a wall plug (always check there are no pipes or wires below the surface before you drill). Repeat with a second hole (check they’re level with a spirit level) then thread a screw though the two holes of the looped leather and screw tight. I used a standard screw because it wouldn’t be seen but it’d look nicer with a more decorative round head screw with brass or black finish.IMG_2064 Feed the shelf into the loops and check it’s central. I left mine like that because it was just for the shoot but it might be a good idea to make another little hole in the leather and screw it to the underside of the board so it can’t fall off.IMG_2067I also attached a hanging rail (£6 IKEA)to the underside which looks really nice and adds more storage. IMG_2071IMG_2073 To give you an idea of the cost saving – I saw one in a catalogue that’s 45cm long and it is £75. Mine is 60cm long (I used a shelf from Homebase that was £3.99) so a much more useful size I say and cost a teeny fraction of that. The project will take an hour or two to do and make a really lovely feature in your home so well worth it, don’t you think? IMG_2292IMG_2078

The best new craft mag and my work’s in it!

Listen up all ye who who like making things for their home – there’s a new kid on the block and it’s the best “make it” magazine I’ve seen in ages! The first issue of “The Craft Network” has loads of projects to make for the home (and they’re ones you’ll really want to try) as well as being affordable and doable too. There are ideas that the beginner can achieve successfully and some for more confident makers too. There are all sorts of crafts with instructions and step by step photography to guide you so you won’t go wrong.

I was asked to complete a whole host of footstool projects from recovering dated old ones to making a crochet-covered stool from scratch. There’s patchwork and lots of staple-gun action so I do hope there’s something for everyone.

My girls modelled in the early morning shoot and were fantastic (and they weren’t late for school either). IMG_1812IMG_1813IMG_1814IMG_1815IMG_1819IMG_1820LO2869BC-011LO2869BC-018LO2869BC-023

I’ve also done a painted light fitting, underbid storage boxes, a set of little hooks and jeans pocket storage hanger. There’s loads more inspiration so get down to your newsagent, grab a copy and settle down with a cuppa to enjoy the read.

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Check out my 3 features in this month’s Style At Home magazine

The new issue of the very lovely “Style At Home” magazine has dropped on my doormat and I’m delighted to see I have all sorts of features in there this month!

I wrote an 8 page feature all about wall tiles which (I hope) will inspire readers to consider a different layout, colour, style or even room in which to use tiles. We all know they’re perfect in bathrooms and kitchens but what are the new trends here?

Using rectangular tiles in a brick pattern has been popular for a while but now we’re using coloured grout or fitting in different patterns such as herringbone or basketweave which looks amazing. Doing these layouts is as easy as “normal” tiling and the visual impact is impressive (what a great combination). The tricky bit is getting the first row set up correctly then you build as normal up the wall. You can always dry-lay the tiles first (this simply means laying them out on the floor) first to try different patterns – take photos on your phone of each as you go so it’s easier to compare and decide which you like best.

Combining two trends – an ombre effect with chevron layout – how lovely is this compared to a plain painted wall?

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Shapes: Tiles don’t have to be rectangular – there are some lovely shapes that are reminiscent of exotic climbs, as well as hexagons which are a personal favourite.

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Colour: Be bold with tiles – they offer a depth of colour you just can’t get easily another way. Choose a bold splash back like this turquoise tile. Lovely lovely lovely… Or turquoise grout to outline white metro tiles – a more subtle version yet equally beautiful.

Lifestyle 1 Linear Blue Gloss Wall Tiles Tile MountainColoured grout credit BCTAnd then there’s this idea that blows feature wallpaper out of the water IMHO. Love love the use of tiles in a living area – makes me want to do this!

Trend 3 natural textures Rustic Oak Tiles from Walls & FloorsTAH living Brix Stratum Wall Tiles in grey from Tile MountainIMG_1546IMG_1547IMG_1548IMG_1549IMG_1550Then the next feature is the monthly up cycling I do – this month there’s a coastal theme and as always the white, blue and red colour scheme is fresh and perfect for Spring.

IMG_1552Finally the Homesaver page full of tips and advice – a perfect read over a cuppa. This month there’s ideas on how to clear away the winter feel and tidy/ freshen your home for Spring that (fingers crossed) appears to have arrived. So please – pick up a copy of “Style At Home” magazine because you get so much inspiration for £1.99 – what’s not to love (and it’s a good excuse to have a spot of “me” time with tea and a biccy…IMG_1551

Woo hoo I have a new website!

I am a complete technophobe and even when I try really hard at getting it right, more often than not I get it all wrong so the concept of building my own website was more than a little daunting. A friend pointed me in the direction of Wix claiming it was really easy to use. I was very skeptical but I spent many hours, made lots of mistakes, got frustrated, got un-frustrated and ta- daaaaaaaahhhhh here it is! 

I am terribly proud of myself because it all seems to work well and is a great place to see all the things I do… magazine room makeovers, styling, writing, up cycling and craft, as well as the videos I did for Style At Home magazine. It’s also got info on my new venture which is taking on private commissions for design and styling because for years people have asked me to come and help but up tis now I’ve only worked on magazine features.

So I’m excited and I hope you have a chance to look at it too. Enjoy!

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Inspired by the new Scion range – Lohko

I’ve been working on a fabulous new bedroom makeover for one of your favourite interiors magazines (I’ll reveal all when it’s in print) and the scheme has been driven by the most lovely new range by the wonderful Scion. The range is called Lohko and it has a relaxed, retro vibe and, like most of their collections can be used in so many different ways. So having been happily immersed in the oh-so-lovely colours and prints I thought I’d write a post on being inspired by a new range of fabrics and wallpaper.

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When you’re giving a room a new look, especially if the wall paintwork is fine, fabrics can be your best friend and completely change the space without lifting a paintbrush (though you’ll spend a few hours at a sewing machine). I’m working in a room that is currently a dark neutral – a taupe colour, in fact a neutral colour that will be in hundreds of homes up and down the country. Nice neutrals, inoffensive, easy to live with but by adding some Lohko you add a good dose of oomph turning bland to beautiful.

So where do you start? Look at all the images and see what catches your eye. There are pretty pastels that have a gentle Scandinavian feel, as well as brighter zesty combinations so it’s simply a question of deciding what you like – do you want a bold revamp or something more subtle? There are a few ideas to choose from – orange and black is just lovely when added to a neutral room because it’s grown-up but energetic and these bold prints are fabulous.  As an alternative, the pastels have depth – they aren’t babyish or sugar-sweet.  The addition of chalky grey-pinks and coral make them more sophisticated that will give a fresh feel that’s got a bit more bite than “ordinary” pastel shades.

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Wallpaper: There continues to be a trend with a single feature wall of strong pattern that creates an immediate focal point and the places to use this effectively are behind a bed headboard, to frame a dining area, or, in a large open plan space, to create a specific zone. Create retro drama with the large colourful patterns, bold yet understated impact with chevrons or use this really lovely feather design just because it’s beautiful.

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Wallpaper doesn’t have to draw the eye though, and I am a big fan of delicately patterned papers like this one that from a distance will look like a plain wall, with the delicate pattern only being revealed on closer inspection. It’s available in several colours but if you want a little something but are scared of a giant print, this is a great choice.

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Fabrics: Too much matchy-matchy fabrics can look a bit dated so don’t use exactly the same print on curtains, cushions and lampshades. Spread your wings and embrace the different patterns and use at least three (with coordinating plains) for a finish that’s confident yet casual. The Lohko range means that there are several different designs with the same colour palette so you can mix and match safely as you please knowing all will work together.

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What can you make? Can you do a straight (ish) line on a sewing machine? Then you can make a simple envelope cushion cover and even a few of these will make a difference to a plain room. If you don’t want to do a zip, have two hemmed pieces of fabric on the back that overlap to give an opening. You can sew simple curtains too and there are lots of great tutorials on Pinterest if you fancy giving it a go.

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The other thing I love to do is make lampshades. They look elegant and are far more interesting than something plain and a trade secret is they’re really easy to do if you use the brilliant kit from Needcraft that costs from just over £8 and allows you to create a professional looking shade from the fabric of your choice. I promise I’m not saying something’s easy when it isn’t really – the kits are straightforward to complete. Though don’t blame me when you make more and more because it’s a little bit addictive…

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So if you’ve been struggling to decide what to do to bring your home out of it’s wintery dullness, I suggest clearing a bit of time, making a cup of tea and having a slow peruse at all the colours, prints and ideas that Lohko has to offer. It’s nearly spring, so I think a room revamp is the perfect way to welcome a new season and give your home, and you a lift.

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