Archive for the ‘houses’ Category

Seven Days of Positive – Day 114

In houses, Interiors, junk shopping on February 2, 2015 at 10:32 pm


Every year this makes me happy, the day the daffodils come into the shops.

I know they’re grown in polytunnels in Holland, but they’re coming out by the side of the road now too, such a cheerful sight.

I love the smell of them as well. There’s something so optimistic about it.

My dad always used to bring the first ones home for my mum and it reminds me of him to have them in jugs all around the house. And at £1 a bunch you can make a great splash for the price of one bunch of service station carnations.


I also particularly like this spot in my house, where I always put flowers. It’s at the top of the stairs in the hall, where they go down to the kitchen.

The lamp is one of a pair, a junk shop find when I first moved to Hastings. The cabinet is a post-war Utility furniture shoe cupboard, where we keep our scruff about shoes. Snow boots, trainers, Ugg boots, walking boots, that kind of thing. It cost £10.

The convex starburst mirror another treasure from the wonderful five-floor warehouse of premium junk which has now been made into flats. I furnished most of my house from it, including two velvet-covered Chesterfield sofas, £400 the pair. I will never stop missing that emporium of joy.

The heart-shaped pebbles are from Hastings beach, the Chinese gryphon (or whatever he is) is another junketeering trophy.

The paintings are particularly precious because they were given to me by Australian artist Pat Harry, who I wrote about here

Having those bits and bobs, nothing special or unique (apart from the paintings), just stuff I like, makes me happy every time I go past them.

But I’m not going down to the kitchen tonight again if I can possibly avoid it. I had to make the dinner wearing a puffa jacket and a hat – that’s how cold it is.

So the daffodils might be poking there brave little heads up, but we’ve got a lot more of winter to get through yet.

Seven Days of Positive – Day 101

In Friends, houses, Interiors on January 4, 2015 at 11:02 pm


I’ve had a trauma. Yesterday my daughter arrived in the kitchen with elaborate pencilled-in eyebrows. They looked awful, like Elvis era Priscilla Presley.

I sent her up to the bathroom to wash it off and she came down with a scarf tied round her head, hippy style. I wrestled it off her to find that where there had been two eyebrows of utter perfection – there were two terrible little commas.


She’d shaved them.

I cried.

If they grow back at all they’ll never be the same. I’ve get several friends who mullered their eyebrows in their youths and they didn’t grow back, so I’m just praying hers will.

I can’t imagine what was going through her head, as I’ve talked to her about eyebrow plucking and leg shaving since she was really young, hoping I would stop her making either of those mistakes.

If you ever feel self conscious about anything like that, I told her – tell me and I will help you get it sorted professionally. Her legs are fine at the moment, but if they ever do go hairy I’m going to get it lasered off for her.

She claims the eye brow catastrophe was the result of peer pressure. ‘ALL’ the girls at school have plucked, threaded and in some cases, hideously drawn on, eyebrows apparently and they’ve been ‘bullying’ her about hers (which I’m sure just means a few jibes, really).

Oh the hell of peer pressure.

If she’d had a mono brow, or even Cara Delevingne’s I’d understand it, but she had really perfect eyebrows. Just strong and full enough to frame the face.

There was much gnashing of teeth.

If anyone has any tried and tested tips for growing eyebrows back, I would be very grateful.

Today was much better. Three of my very favourite people in the world came down for the day.

I met interiors stylist Hilary Robertson back in the day when I was editing ELLE and she was a contributor to ELLE Decoration. The pic at the top is from her house in Brooklyn. The whole place is that gorgeous.

This is the cover of her most recent book.


After that we didn’t meet again until about ten years later, when we both moved to Hastings and had children of a similar age.

I can still remember very clearly the first time my husband and I went to have dinner with Hils and her husband Alistair McCowan. The house was heaven, the food was amazing and the clinching factor? The music was the sound track from One From the Heart, one of my favourite all time albums, with all the songs by Tom Waits, sung by him and Crystal Gayle.

The lyrics are amazing. ‘I can’t tell, is that a siren or a saxophone?’ If you don’t know it, here’s a taster.

I knew people who had that playing were serious kindred spirits.

That was about ten years ago and we’ve been great friends ever since, with Peggy and their son Gus also great pals and we’ve had many joyous shared holidays and Christmases, the kind of good times you have only with your very best friends.

To my huge distress they moved to New York eight years ago and I miss them furiously all the time – although it’s a very good excuse to go over there and see them. This is another shot of their house.


So it was such a treat that on the last day of their trip back to Blighty to see family at Christmas, they made the effort to come down to the coast to spend a day with us.

We had lunch at our lovely nearest pub The Crown and then went to the Jerwood Gallery to look at the paintings and have coffee looking out over the sea.

It was really a perfect day.

Here’s Hils’ blog

And there’s a film of her in action here.

Seven Days of Positive – Day 75

In homewares, houses, junk shopping, Lewes on December 2, 2014 at 11:52 pm


I can now declare the best place for junketeering in Southern England. Hastings and St Leonards, where I live, are pretty good, but Lewes about forty minutes west is stellar.

My daughter was doing an audition afternoon to get onto a ballet ‘extension’ course, which will bring her on faster than her current five hours a week, not far from Lewes.

So as we wanted to check the ballet school out, we made it a family outing, with my husband and I having a kind of date day, while she skipped about in a leotard for five hours.

I’ve been to Lewes a few times, but never feel I’ve explored it properly because I always get sucked into the antique warehouse vortex at the bottom of the High Street (the bit called Cliffe High Street) and before I know it, it’s time to head home again.

Happened again today.

I briefly browsed one emporium which had a brilliant selection of chunky old necklaces, but my phone rang and I had to go outside to take the call before I’d even got to the back of it.

Then I was distracted by some interesting looking light fittings in a shop opposite and before my brain had made a decision my feet had crossed the road and gone in. Lewes Antiques Centre, it’s called.

Aladdin’s Cave.

Five floors of it. Going a long way back. I think it must have been some old grain store or something, it was huge – and it had so much good stuff.

I was looking for something specific for a Christmas present for my best mate (can’t say what, in case she looks at this…), but my eyes were dancing about and falling on so many choice items of all different kinds – Lewis tweed jackets, gilt mirrors, tables covered in blue and white china, an orange velvet 1920s opera cloak – I was practically hyperventilating.


The thing that made me really gasp, though, was this chest of drawers printed with a map or Asia, featuring the whole of Russia. TSome London dealer needs to pick it up pronto. It was £350 which isn’t crazy for something so original. I wish I had somewhere for it.

But I don’t, so I carried on and found a really brilliant Christmas present for my daughter – which will be revealed in 23 or so days time.

Then I headed upstairs and found these shoes.


My size. £10. They’re a little bit tight but a really nice girl saw me posing in them and made appropriately appreciative noises – then when I mentioned that I was deeply in love, but they nipped a bit, she said:

‘But those are the kind of shoes you only need to wear for two hours and then you can get someone to carry you home.’

It was like meeting a character from one of my books. (And I set one of them near Lewes, Cents and Sensibility, so maybe she was.)

I thanked her for being my shoe shopping enabler, picked them up and carried on browsing. After drifting to the back of that floor and nearly having a conniption at a whole glass case of willow pattern china, I stumbled on the perfect present for my bestie. Not what I’d set out to find for her, something much better.


Then I found my curtain.

I have one curtainless room at the moment. It’s the small bedroom (small, because I stole a third of it to be my walk-in closet, ahem…) which used to be my daughter’s room.

She’s moved into a full-size bedroom and the small one is now a single spare room, combined with being my boudoir, containing my Louis Fooey 1960s dressing table and painted the same colour as my foundation. You can see a post on choosing that colour, here

The bed in there has a headboard covered in blue toile de jouy and that’s a very tricky fabric to put anything else with apart from more blue toile. The only choices are blue and white stripes, or blue and white checkers and I didn’t want either. Too neat.

So I stopped in my tracks when I spotted this curtain in an amazing massive scale wavy blue and white print. It looks a bit like a Matisse cut out. The label said it was a 1960s Heal’s design and I think it might be a Barbara Brown.


There was only one curtain, but I could see it would be big enough for the window in my boudoir and it will actually work better pulled back to one side, as there’s no space on the far edge (due to aforementioned closet-making, room-stealing activity).

Down I went with my purchases, not even allowing myself to look at the other three floors… three!

But there are still those very appealing mid-century small-scale chandeliers (pictured at the top of the post) that I first spotted to consider.

They’d be great in my bathroom.

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