Every now and again, I treat myself to a vintage hanger, seeking out those that are printed with interesting advertising slogans or the names of hotels, laundry services or holiday resorts. They’re cheap to buy at flea markets and look lovely enough to hang in your hallway, out on display.
I found this pretty, vintage 1940s (?) classroom poster at a flea market recently and couldn’t resist. It shows Beech (in Autumn), Sycamore, Horse Chestnut and Larch trees and it’s the perfect, simple, nature-themed print for a bedroom wall.
(Woodland bluebells at Basildon Park, May 2016)
The Bluebell is the sweetest flower
That waves in summer air:
Its blossoms have the mightiest power
To soothe my spirit’s care.
- Emily Brontë
Another post about chickens?! A tad egg-cessive perhaps (groan), but finding fresh, still-warm eggs in their nests is now my favourite morning ritual, rivalled only by eating them for breakfast. And they look SO lovely lined up.
I never get round to sharing my magazine features on here – mostly because I am too busy writing them to be honest (!) – but I am going to make more of an effort to upload a few recent bits of work now and again as well as the usual random musings and photos of flowers (!) …so, here’s the new June 2016 issue (just out today) of Homes & Antiques magazine, in which I explore the fascinating world of antique maps…
…did you know that California was accidentally mapped as an island for over a hundred years? Neither did I! It was a really interesting feature to work on – the history of cartography is a realm filled with sea monsters, politics and personalities.
Another feature out this month is Decades of Design, in the new June issue of House Beautiful magazine. In this piece, I explore the evolving decorating styles of the past 90 years, from Art Deco interiors in the 1920s to the Memphis movement of the 1980s…
I’m lucky enough to be working on some lovely features for some of my favourite titles at the moment, including Ideal Home magazine, Style at Home magazine and Junior magazine. As you can tell, I love my job because most of the time it doesn’t feel like ‘work’!
In other news, I was chuffed to be featured on the lovely Cotswold Company and Graham and Green blogs recently, and am looking forward to judging the upcoming Hilden Style Awards 2016 (as I will get to check out some seriously chic hotels!) as well as the Junior Design Awards 2016, where I’ll be hunting for timelessly-stylish designs.
OK, so we’re not quite there – we still have a fortnightly supermarket delivery – but with daily fresh eggs from our (rather naughty) hens Isla White and Princess Layer, plus a glut of rhubarb and leeks from the allotment this week, I’m feeling semi-self-sufficient! Some advice for first time chicken owners: White Leghorns are great layers of pretty, white eggs but they are also nervous and essentially bonkers. Speckeldy hens (Coucou Marans) are good layers, too (of brown, speckled eggs) and are friendly, curious and clever. When you first bring your hens home, they will be so freaked out and traumatised by the journey that they will sulk in their nesting box for days. Don’t worry. Just make sure they have access to food and water and they will soon forget the drama and grow braver. Mine were petrified of humans for the first few days but were pecking food from my hand and letting me stroke them within a week. Bribe them with food every time you visit them – a handful of rice, an earthworm (!) or a cabbage leaf and a soothing ‘tut tut’ noise will soon put them at ease. I kept them in their coop for a week so they got the idea that it was their ‘home’, then let them roam free. If you’re going to let them free-range, be prepared to lose some plants. My alliums are basically gone. And get ready to pick up / hose away poo every now and again from your patio. (By every now and again I mean, like, every day.) Apart from that, they’re amazingly low-maintenance. They peck about, eating slugs and bugs – and when it gets dark, they sensibly put themselves to bed, so all I need to do is lock the door behind them in the evening.
This huge slate slab is part of a chunky Georgian kitchen worktop in Castle Green House, Cardigan Castle. Hundreds of years of chopping, slicing and food prepping have left thousands of tiny knife marks in the surface, giving it a textured, beautiful finish. (Incidentally, there was also a massive Welsh slate salting sink in this kitchen, which I really wanted to take home with me!) This slab is ‘wabi sabi’ in action – one of the many wonderful results of using natural materials in a home – they stand the test of time, but evolve, changed and sculpted by the human hands that touch them over the years. A few months ago, while visiting the impressive Middleport Pottery in Stoke-On-Trent for a feature, I learned that generations of workers there had shaped the very building itself; a brass tap had been buffed to a high-shine by clay-covered fingers and a wooden stair banister, polished by generations of dusty hands, was glossy as a conker. (Incidentally, both Middleport and Cardigan Castle have been revived by the Prince’s Regeneration Trust, an organisation with a refreshingly light touch when it comes to renovation, hence these details remain intact.)
Worn, well-used interiors are all the more appealing precisely because of their imperfections, which are imbued with rich histories and the ghosts of times gone by. There’s something reassuringly permanent about the markings we leave behind us – the cooks who chopped vegetables on this slab are long gone, but some evidence of their existence remains – locked in stone. We can’t resist running our fingers across such marks, to briefly touch the past.
I recently had the pleasure of visiting the newly re-opened and restored walled kitchen gardens at the National Trust’s Croome Court, which is a truly remarkable feat of restoration and attention to detail. The garden is still a work-in-progress, but the original greenhouses have been rebuilt and are as splendid today as they would have been in the 1800s.
I’m always drawn to old greenhouses, with their white-washed bricks and elegant glazing. Surrounded by exotic plants – lemon trees, figs – in tropical air, you’re transported to another realm. Admiring neat rows of terracotta pots and seedling trays, studying the carefully-pencilled gardener’s labels and lusting after vintage twine scissors, I’m quite happy pottering about for hours, much to the husband’s chagrin. Love old greenhouses? West Dean in West Sussex also has some incredible Victorian ones (which are being restored at the moment)…
…and Charles Darwin’s blue-painted glasshouse at Downe House is another stunner.