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Monday, July 3, 2000

Audrey and co

"Audrey" (as in Hepburn) as she got named on account of her elegant stance, came from a junk shop many years ago. She's a shop's hatstand. The lamp - amazingly - came from Sainsbury's, and the mirror (one of a pair) came from Graham and Green. It cost more than I should have paid for it - I just couldn't find a nice, solid, plain round mirror anywhere. Until, of course, I'd parted with £160 and they were suddenly everywhere. I'd tried to get the lovely Ikea Agnes one, but they'd discontinued it. If ever they come back in stock - a far more sensible (and, dare I say, slightly nicer) option.

Tuesday, June 27, 2000

Tasty table lamp

Continuing my obsession with lighting, this black table lamp is a modern addition to the secondhand homewares that dominate my house. It was a spontaneous purchase from a big branch of Sainsbury's, which has a surprisingly good selection of interiors additions. Right now, their sister outlet, Homebase, has some nice options. Currently the rather sleek Richmond Touch Lamp, a bronze and chocolate on the look, is just £8.49.

I spent far too much on my pair of round mirrors, which I bought from Graham and Green - why didn't I get these almost identical ones for just £24.99 each from Ikea?

Audrey - as I call my lovely swan-neck hat mannequin - was a long-ago find in an Oxfam shop. See if you can find one on the brilliant secondhand round-up website, Shopadilly, which I can't believe I've only just discovered, or buy a new one for just £14.95 from the sensibly named Equipashop.

Vintage Ebay lampshade

Buying vintage lampshades like this can be so cheap on Ebay - I think this one cost about £4.99, and it doesn't weigh much so postage was cheap too. Mine's on a dimmer switch and hangs over the dining table; feeling that you're being grilled by the Gestapo over a meal isn't good for the digestion.

People often don't pay much attention to lighting but it's so important - all the effort of making a room look lovely is wasted if it's then lit with a brutal overhead light. My mum was obsessed with lamps - the sitting room in my family home must have had about five; illuminating the room was a pain in the ass, but the resulting gentle, cosy glow was worth it.

Another great place for stylish old lampshades - though not as cheap - is The Peanut Vendor, one of my favourite online shops. Mark Parrish also has fantastic taste and a decent-sized vintage lighting section.

Thursday, June 22, 2000

Creepy dolls' heads

I've yet to meet one person who likes my creepy antique dolls' heads. I don't really blame them - I used to find them equally creepy when they lived in my mum's house, but was strangely moved to adopt them when she chucked them out.

Car boot sales are your best bet for finding something similar, or you could try Ebay but might end up paying more than is wise for something that will scare most of your house guests into another room. They sit on top of my grandfather's Victorian dictionaries, rebound for me as an 21st birthday present.

cheap vintage chairs

I bought four of these 1960s/70s wood veneer and black vinyl chairs from a junk shop in Thornton Heath for £20 (the lot). It's on the road back from Ikea to south London - and a great antidote to the great blue and yellow Swedish vortex.

They'd have cost about three times that in a specialist vintage shop. Thought they'd look great in the kitchen, and 'old' it up a little - but they didn't, so I've scattered them about the house. Piled high secondhand furniture shops are always worth a rummage. I also found a brilliant Stag three-piece bedroom suite for £60 in another junk shop - I'll post that up shortly.

Saturday, February 19, 2000

Lovely shops

Amazing archives of photography available in all sizes and finishes. 
A Little Bit of Art 
Tasty printed wall art at mouth-wateringly low prices.
Adeline Country Cottage
Cute vintage bits, wonderfully wrapped. Melbourne-based (perfect for Aussie rellies).
Great graphic-y art, like my Always Look on the Bright Side of Life lyrics Monty Python print.
Get your design kudos here – not often knowingly underpriced (though occasionally so).
Art Republic
Loads of affordable wall art, as well as limited and rare edition prints.
Attic Interiors
Mid-century furniture, ceramics, lighting and more.
Home and living accessories with a Polish twist.
Bodie and Fou
Chic, modern gifts and accessories – from out-there wallpaper to tasty tumblers
Bold & Noble
Very British, very cool, and yet very affordable prints.
A showcase of a shop packed with affordable pieces by small-scale designers
Candy Pop Images
Cheerful and bright images which can be ordered as cards or prints of different sizes.
Cath Kidston 
Her pretty florals are ubiquitous but there's much more to Kidston's store.
Super nice new stuff at super nice prices.
David Mellor Designs 
Well designed home and kitchenware "to improve your life". Great for foodies.
Days Gone By 
Great vintage-inspired gifts, useful home bits and great for historic photos and posters.
Designers Guild
Fabulous fabric, wallpaper, furniture and accessories from Queen of Colour, Tricia Guild.
Devon Driftwood
Does what it says on the label – beautifully.
Donna Wilson
She's everywhere now, but I'm still a sucker for Donna Wilson’s quaint creations.
Owned by the artist, Sharon Elphick, who has very good taste, it's packed with affordable art.
Quirky, contemporary accessories.
Fancy Moon Fabrics
Acres of fab fabric (rare/retro/new/quirky). Do use the handy "shop by theme" tool.
The French House 
Salvaged gallic gems. For the blow-the-budget centrepiece.
Funky Little Darlings 
Cool stuff for kids' walls.
Fresh, modern and still one of the best for stylish essentials.
House Industries
Obsessed with fonts? Try this unusual US store and design agency, who also sell other objects.
Like crack, but great for essentials and often gifts, too. In emergencies, try Ikea Hacker.
Jane Foster 
Heavily retro and very cute screen printed goodies.
John Lewis 
Never knowingly undersold festive things, cool textiles and generally much great design.
Keep Calm Gallery 
Clever and cool wall art at super cheap prices.
Labour & Wait 
Timeless, simple and utilitarian products.
Lisa Jones Studio
Beautiful printed designs on cards, tea-towels and more
North Rock Gallery 
Thanks Victoria's Backyard (great garden blog) for highlighting these new-designer goodies.
Not On The High Street 
Zillions of independent designers flaunt their wares here. Particularly good for gifts.
The OK Corral
LOVE these well-picked, affordable vintage finds. Got half my Christmas presents there.
Outline Editions
Limited edition prints from Britain’s most talented illustrators.
Patience to wade through tat? You'll find gems in the homewares/books sections.
The Peanut Vendor 
Crammed with old-school interior loveliness.
Specialists (with spectacular taste) in solid British design. Go with a full purse.
Penguin's gift store
Their cool covers in many formats
Pip’s Trip
Retro a-go-go!
London-based illustrator, Xtina Lamb, specialising in printed art.
Pussy Home Boutique
Cute gifts and accessories.
Quietly Eccentric 
Pretty printed accessories for pet addicts.
Rue du Chateau
Fancy French furniture and decorative objects from 1900 to 1970. Most stylish.
The super cool indy design store.
Fun and affordable fabrics.
Signature Prints
This Oz site is licensed to reproduce the chic textiles of Florence Broadhurst (d. 1977).
Source Antiques 
Cuts out tiresome Ebay bidding and exhausting flea-market trawling.
The East London store showcases sexy products by a range of hip designers.
Urban Outfitters
The hipsters' fashion store also does cute homewares.
Viva La Frida
Frida Kahlo inspired prints and textiles.
The V & A Shop
A great go-to for gifts.
Wessel & O’Connor 
This gallery specialises in amazing vintage and contemporary photography.
Winters Moon 
Lovely vintage or vintage-like bits – some of it recycled into swish new stuff.

Handy resources

  • Architect Your Home Can’t afford an architect to manage a whole project? Here you can pay by service according to your budget – from meeting and chat only to drawings, help with planning permission and surveys and more.
  • Attic Interiors As well as selling cool vintage furniture at affordable prices, this Brighton-based company also offers non-chintzy interior design ranging from small renovations to major refurbishments.
  • Bathstore Nothing uber-fancy, but great for simple, stylish bathrooms on a budget, with spectacular customer service to boot.
  • Dandy’s Want to make your home as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside? This site offers the best and cheapest selection in outdoor building materials.
  • Door Chimes UK Must all door chimes be so naff? Make the little details count and choose a design-led doorbell that won’t make you cringe.
  • E Frame An affordable and efficient online store – go ready-made or affordably bespoke
  • Funky Little Darlings As well as selling fun and fabulous kid’s wallpaper, FLD offer a bespoke design service for your little people's rooms. 
  • Lighting Direct A vast selection, not all of it beautiful, but brilliant for architectural stuff like ceiling spots, outdoor lights and wall-fitted lamps. 
  • London Design Festival The umbrella event for the capital's annual nine-day celebration of style – but the website is also packed with news and other happenings all year round.
  • Own Art Scheme Ever wished for your very own masterpiece but couldn’t afford it? This scheme offers interest-free loans to help cover the cost of that coveted piece of art or craft.
  • Retro To Go Want to create the retro style of the 50s and 60s in your own home? This site pulls together the best of the internet and provides links to the relevant retailers. 
  • Screw Fix DIY nerd heaven, selling everything from nuts and bolts to paint and power tools – all at trade prices. 

Stylish blogs

  • Bright Bazaar Will, aka Mr Bazaar, loves colour and showcases the boldest and brightest interiors around as well as offering advice and inspiration.
  • Daisy Fay Interiors Daisy Fay’s love of homes and interiors is infectious and her knowledge of London’s best and most quirky shops is superb. 
  • Decor 8 Vast, well-respected and lovely, this American blog is packed with great pics for inspiration.
  • Design Shuffle One of the best for idea – tonnes and tonnes of pictures which are organised into handy categorises so you can narrow your search and find what inspires you. 
  • Design*Sponge YHIL could probably not love Grace Bonney's craft teaching, style inspiring, entrepreneur-encouraging and all round genius blog any more. 
  • Living Etc Super chic and unique design ideas and advice.
  • New York Times Great Homes & Destinations Top interiors (and exteriors) porn from across the Pond – check out their fab slideshows.
  • Nice Day for a Sulk A most inspiring scrapbook of nice-looking stuff. 
  • Pippa Jameson Interiors Bursting at the seams with helpful advice and inspiration from stylist, Pippa. It’s no wonder this is one of the leading interiors blogs in the UK. 
  • Retro to Go A seemingly never-ending stream of everything retro. Includes fashion as well as homewares – not everything is lush but if you have time to sift, do.
  • SCP Blog Keep up to date with the Shoreditch furniture store's latest news and updates.
  • Victoria's Backyard Editing supremo at the Independent/garden addict with her own spectacular outside space (and much more soil-based brilliance) on show here
  • Wishwishwish Follow this young fashionista’s musings of life, shopping, people and places.
  • 4Homes A great source from Channel 4 for easy DIY tips, inspiration and advice.  

Thursday, February 10, 2000

Two weeks after buying my house, I sat on a dirty, broken plastic chair in the garden, left behind by the previous owners, and buried my head in my hands in despair. 

What had I taken on? Well on the plus side a bargain - I couldn't believe my luck at landing such a whopper. And there lay the fear: how in hell was I, all on my own, going to tackle a four-bedroomed house and - alien territory - a garden, filled with DIY obstacles I had no experience of tackling, jobs for workmen I couldn't afford, and about a zillion decisions to make - all on a zero budget?

Gnome place like home: about a month after
I moved in - no curtains, no furniture, no cash...
but at least I had the flashing gnome (left by
the previous owners) to keep my spirits up
Your Home is Lovely is, partly, the story of how I'm slowly transforming my house: it's also about everyone's homes. It's hard work - and that's just the thinking part. Yes, I had found a bargain (relatively speaking - this was the summer of 2007, after all) but hadn't left any money over to spend on making the place somewhere I'd enjoy living (see left...!). 

I wasn't after a designer interior, didn't want anything flashy - I just wanted to create somewhere I'd like enough not to live for a long time. Which meant getting rid of the 1988 warehouse rave-themed hallway ("like being inside a packet of Opal Fruits" was how one friend described it); the claustrophobic bathroom (having a shower felt like being locked inside a faux Victorian panic room); and creating bedrooms civilised enough to - down the line - be rentable out to lodgers to pay off the bits of debt I couldn't avoid accruing (which involved, among many other things, seven coats to cover up the black painted woodwork and wallpapering skills to blot out the larger than life copy of Rembrandt's Blue Boy painting, which filled an entire wall of one room - and had eyes that followed you around it). 

And so ensued a crash course in DIY (I could not have been more reluctant to pick up a paintbrush or familiarise myself with my dad's box of drill bits - far too impatiently cack-handed) and a deep well of resourcefulness that included procuring live-in builders (literally, rent for plastering). I also quickly had to adapt my journalistic research skills in order to find things to fill the place on a budget of next to zero; having moved from a small Victorian flat into this vast, boxy, 1968-built Span house none of my lovely old furniture looked anything but freakily incongruous (and, besides, I only had around one fifth of the quantity required).

The aim of this blog is to share some of the stuff I learned - and am still learning - and to get your tips in order to share them with everyone else. I hope you enjoy reading it.  About the author