Chateau love

Last summer we went on a road trip through France.  We ended up at a vineyard called Chateau de Claribes near Bordeaux, that makes delicious wine.  It was French heaven and our gite was a beautiful example of sympathetic restoration.  I hope this post shows you how a very old building can be modernised without losing any of its charm or character.

French gite

The gite at the Chateau de Claribes.

French gite and chateau

Surrounding barns ready for restoration.

Our trusty mode of transport.

French gite with wood burning stove

The sitting room has exposed stonework and beams, a wood burning stove and a cool tiled floor. The warm but neutral colour palette allows the original features to be the main focal points.

French gite with wood burning stove

The open-plan layout downstairs enables light to flood in. The furniture and curtains have been kept minimal and simple so as not to take away from the wonderful interior.

Ikea kitchen in french chateau gite

A simple Ikea kitchen, though modern, works well in this old building as the wooden work top ties in with the exposed beams and old wooden dining table and chairs.

Fireplace in French chateau

Beautiful exposed fireplace and stone wall with vintage jugs as ornaments.

Fireplace in French chateau

The exposed beams add character to the kitchen.

Fireplace with wood burning stove in French chateau

Wood burning stove looks lovely but also very functional in the cold, French winters.

Simple furnishings and wall sconses let the beautiful building shine.

Fireplace in French chateau

The warm, neutral colours create a wonderful ambience.

Exposed beams in French chateau

The bedrooms are just as characterful as the downstairs due to the vaulted and beamed ceiling.

Exposed beams in French chateau

The Ikea furniture is simple with clean lines.

Exposed beams in French chateau

The exposed brick of the chimney comes up from the kitchen into the bedroom creating a wonderful original feature.

Exposed beams in French chateau

With such wonderful period features you can get away with a simple Ikea bedframe.

This wardrobe tones in with the paintwork so it doesn’t dominate.

French garden

The house looks out over a valley of vineyards.

French vineyard

The vines continue at the back of the house, which is perfect for barbeques.

French vineyard

The delicious wine at Claribes is well worth a taste!

I wish I was there now…

Hat wall

I’ve never created a hat wall myself simply because I’m not a ‘hat person’. However,  I’ve seen others do it to great effect and what could be easier or cheaper? Hats have an instant impact and you can bargain that by the end of a party or dinner at your house everyone will have helped themselves and have turned it into a hat party.  Before hanging hats you just need to consider what type of hats you intend to hang and in what formation.  Have a look at the following examples for inspiration.

Hats, rather than art, add to the relaxed vibe of this readng nook.

Vertical hat display

Vertical line of overlapping hats hung on a gap between two doors in a hallway.

Hat hanging on bedroom wall.

A single hat can make an impact.

Hat wall

These hats become ornaments in this hallway.

I love this simple, horizontal line of straw hats.

A hat display

An eclectic mix hung in a planned formation adds interest to a blank wall.

Hat display in hallway

Use hats to decorate a blank stairwell, hanging them in a random formation.

Hat wall display

Hats can soften hard lines or dark furniture.

Hats hung in hallway

You can hang a row of hats on hooks.

Woven straw baskets hanging on wall

Not quite hats but these baskets have the same effect.

I might need to buy myself some hats.

Liberty and Lloyd Loom loveliness

I have an original Lloyd Loom laundry basket that used to be my grandmothers and some beautiful Liberty of London ‘Poppy and Daisy’ fabric (I really can’t get enough, I think it’s becoming an addiction).  My grandmother covered the lid of the basket in beautiful Sanderson ‘Chelsea’ fabric, probably about fifty years ago.  Needless to say it began to look more shabby than chic. So I decided to rejuvenate it so that it can also be used as a seat. The beauty of this tutorial is that there are so many possibilities as you can tailor it to your exact needs: Change the colour of the basket using paint, use any fabric of your choice, use a different piece of furniture like a toy chest.

You will need:

1. Lloyd Loom basket, ottoman or similar piece of furniture that needs new upholstery (if you search for Lloyd Loom on ebay you will see you can pick up a bargain for around £25)

2. Fabric (strong enough to withstand being pulled and stapled – cotton will do but if you want to make a toy chest/seat for a child’s nursery you may want upholstery fabric to withstand the wear and tear)

3. Foam cut to size (I bought it from efoam, which is really simple as they will cut it to size for you – just tap in the dimensions you need on their website and they will give you an online quote)

4. Dacron (widely available on the internet, very cheap and it can also be used as wadding for quilts)

5. Scissors

6. Tape measure and pencil

7. Staple gun

You will need: Staple gun, foam, dacron.

Lloyd loom laundry basket and Liberty Tana lawn fabric

You will need: Lloyd Loom basket and fabric.

I’m using Liberty Tana Lawn Poppy and Daisy cotton.


Lloyd Loom basket and foam top

1. Place the foam on top of the basket.

Lloyd loom basket with foam and dacron cover

2. Place the dacron over it. Make sure you have enough so that it can be pulled over the underside of the lid and stapled.

Using a staple gun

3. If there is someone to help you for this stage the better. If one of you pulls the dacron over the sponge (as taut as possible) and the other staples the dacron to the lid of the basket.

Lloyd Loom laundry basket

4. Once you have stapled the dacron all the way round the lid cut away as much excess as possible.

Reupholstering of Lloyd loom laundry basket

5. Now you are ready to cover the seat in fabric.

6. Measure the fabric so that there is enough excess to be pulled and stapled onto the underside of the lid.

7. Just as you stapled the dacron complete that step with the fabric (and with help if you have it). Start at the sides and then do the front of the lid. At the corners make neat folds in the fabric, like hospital corners on a bed.

8. Leave the material at the back of the basket hanging down.

9. With the lid closed draw a V-shape on the fabric below each hinge: the top of the V should be as wide as the hinge and the point of it should meet the edge of the fabric. Pull the remainder of the fabric through and staple as before leaving the Vs hanging down the back of the basket.

10. Cut along each V and pull the resulting triangles around either side of the hinge. They can then be stapled along with the rest of the fabric.

Ta da! This can be used as an occasional table, laundry basket, storage or seat.

Next time I am definitely going to do a toy chest, which will double as a low seat for children.


Bermondsey roof terrace

I do not know anything about gardening. However, I really want to learn, not least because we are lucky enough to have the most amazing roof garden that looks out over London as far as you can see.  This is rare in London so it seems stupid not to make the most of it.  It’s a really large space but lacks any colour, interest or beauty.

The developers decked the terrace, which is fine, but they used a horrible red coloured stain for the fencing and a different colour wood for the pergola. It would be best if this mis-matching wood could be covered with climbing plants.

Roof terrace pergola

The pergola could be absolutely stunning if over the next couple of years we could cover it in climbing plants entwined with lights.

Sunbathing up here is blissful.

The roof garden has 360 degree views of London. I just love it up here.

View towards the north looking over the river Thames to Wapping.

View to the east out towards Canary Wharf.

View to the west over London Bridge station and the Shard.

Our first step is to join with some of the other residents from our apartment block to form a ‘gardening club’. We apply for some funding from ‘Capital Growth’ and a three hour gardening session, which we do on lovely Sunday in February, one of the first bright days this year. The planting that was done by the developers is so boring looking so we begin by pulling up all the plants, potting some of the nicer looking ones and destroying others like the buddleia plants, which get everywhere.

There are eight of us working together to transform out roof garden.

It was really important to dig up the numerous buddleia plants that can become a pest as they grow so large, spread very easily and develop huge roots. Very large plants are not suitable for the raised beds we have as they will dominate too much.

Another reason for trying to clear the beds was we needed to try to improve the soil as the developers had used very poor quality, sandy soil that is not conducive to lush growth.

We had planted a few food plants last winter and these are out inspiration to try to make the majority of our planting edible and any crops will be shared amongst the residents in our block.

The next step is to move the compost bin we set up last year. At the moment it is slap bang in the middle of the biggest bed and very un-sightly. So we move it to a corner, turn it, and use what compost has been made to enrich the soil in each bed.

Compost can be made by adding food waste (uncooked is best, especially if you don’t want it to smell) and cardboard and turning it every now and then.

The bits of waste that have not turned into compost yet will need to be ripped up into smaller pieces and added to the compost bin again.

We then decide what to grow and where.  The ladies from ‘Capital Growth’ talk us through lots of different varieties of salad leaves, vegetables and flowers that will work well together and they give us a quick lesson about the best type of compost to use and how to look after soil.

Rotating crops enables the plants to grow as well as possible as each plant uses different nutrients.

Leaf mulch, coconuts husks, food waste compost.

We decide to have herb, wildflower, vegetable and lettuce beds and other various flowers to make it look pretty and to attract certain pests so they do not ruin the food crops. We then learn how to sow seeds.

We try to choose plants that will complement each other for example, we plant nasturtiums that will attract black fly away from our food crops.

We will buy a cheap cold frame to keep these seeds in until they are ready to plant out.

I also plant a few flowers to get us started. I put some sweet peas at the back of a couple of the beds as I’ve learnt they grow very tall and like to trail up or along whatever is there.  I also put in some geraniums and snap dragons for a bit of immediate colour.


Geraniums will add colour to the corner of the beds..

A row of sweet peas will grow tall and cover some of the ugly red fencing. They also smell divine.

What have I learnt so far?

1) Plants need to be re-potted or fed (once or twice a year) to remain healthy as it is just as important to look after soil as it is to look after the actual plant.

2) Leaf mulch makes excellent compost.

3) Flowers and food plants should be mixed together as this prevents pests (I need to find out more about this).

4) Plant bulbs at the beginning of the autumn.

5) If you don’t harvest the food that you grow it will flower (otherwise known as bolting).

6) You can sow lettuce seeds in the spring and as long as you continuously harvest the outer leaves they will last the summer long.  There are varieties that you can then plant at the end of the summer that will last throughout winter (names of these varieties to follow).

7) A perennial plant is a plant that lives for more than two years so these are easy to maintain. They will usually die back over the winter and then return in the spring from their root-stock rather than going to seed as an annual plant does.

8) Once bulbs, such as daffodils, have faded you don’t have to have an empty pot or bed.  If you have planted the bulb deep enough you can plant perennial bedding plants (such as snap dragons, geraniums, pansies) on top of the bulbs.  This creates a very easy to maintain and pretty bed or pot that does not require planting every year.

9) Compost needs turning regularly.

10) You should try to recreate the wild as much as possible, which means you should combine as many different types of flowers and plants as possible. For example, a lot of flowers keep away pests from vegetable plants and vice versa.


I will keep you updated over the next few months on how much progress we make.  Hopefully, Bermondsey will be in bloom soon.


French exterior goodness

This post is not so much about interiors, but exteriors.  Our trip to the amazingly beautiful Ile de Re and then south west France gave me the opportunity to photograph breathtaking French architecture that has been a constant inspiration to me. I love the simplicity of French architecture rather than the more fussy, opulent aspects of some French interiors.  I hope these images inspire you as much as they inspired me.

The Ile de Re is absolutely stunning.  We stayed in a hotel called La Baronnie, which was nestled right next to the bustling harbour of St. Martin.

St. Martin Ile de Re

The symmetry of these coastal houses is so appealing. The light render, window shutters and terracotta roof tiles are all synonymous with French architecture.

St. Martin Ile de Re

The back entrance of La Baronnie lies off this little street.

French chateau with window shutters

I love the look of windows with shutters; they frame these beautiful tall, slim windows.

Vintage metal garden furniture

Wonderful antique metal furniture in La Baronnie gardens that just look so ‘French’.

French chateau garden

Although each part of La Baronnie is a different shape and size they are all tied together by their colour and roof tiles. This cohesive look is another aspect of French architecture that appeals to me.

French chateau with window shutters

Paint work on a lot of French buildings always looks so tasteful as a limited colour palette is used that includes grey, sage green, verdigris and duck egg blue.

French chateau terrace

Simple, cohesive outdoor furniture.

wood clad french chateau bedroom

Our room was clad in wood with exposed beams and painted floorboards. This style reflects being next to the sea and the light. The typical French toile de jouy bed linen is palatable (usually far too fussy for me) as this is the only print used in the room.

wood clad french chateau bedroom

The furniture in the room is sparse and simple, which makes the room feel more modern.

The pretty windows are framed with internal shutters and floaty white curtains to ensure the light can reach every corner of the room.

Small details like the sheer curtain across this door and the door handle instantly create the unique French style.

By using glass between the bathroom and bedroom it means the window-less bathroom is as light as possible.

wood clad french chateau bathroom

The bathroom is also clad in white wood with painted white floorboards.

We then travelled on to the Chateau de Lalande, whose architecture is as French as can be.

French Chateau

A beautiful example of an original French Chateau.

Ivy covered French Chateau

The ivy covering is very French.

Ivy covered French Chateau

The grandness of this Chateau is softened by the ivy and wisteria.

Hydrangeas at French Chateau

Hydrangeas line the entrance to the chateau and they reflect the blue of the shutters.

Ivy covered French Chateau

White, metal garden furniture would be more appropriate in this garden.

Swimming pool at Ivy covered French Chateau

The effort that has been put into this pergola absolutely covered in wisteria adds to the style of this Chateau.

French wallpaper

This is not to my taste but the chateau is decorated in opulent, old fashioned French style throughout.


I will be back as soon as I can be!