New Sink Splashback Tiles from Bert and May

Four grey and white tiles

Our new tiles have arrived!  I’ve been in search of some small tiles for the sink in our utility room for ages, but strugged to find any interesting tiles that are smaller than the standard 20 x 20cm.

Luckily I came across Bert and May, a London supplier of handmade and reclaimed tiles, who have a fantastic selection of glazed tiles in 13 x 13cm size.  These are the grey and white ‘Churriana’ Tile, which also come in black, pink, blue and green.

We’ve just bought a handful to form an interesting splashback feature for our sink, but they also look stunning as a feature wall (if you have the budget!).

They’re not up yet, but we’ll keep you posted on the final result, as well as the progress on my (miniscule) kitchen tart-up.

glazed-churriana-tiles

 

 

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A Snoop Around Our Favourite Rooms

Have you seen the Habitat Voyeur ad?  It’s a touch racy, but we’re loving all the sumptuous red and copper 70’s style, and envying the very hip pads of the creative folk featured on the site (and coveting their outfits).

Peeking into our houses isn’t quite as thrill inducing, but everyone enjoys a nosey now and then (and some people make a full time hobby of it), so here’s a little tour of our own habitats, and our respective picks from the Habitat collection…

Kath's-place

Kath's-house-dining

My art wall is mainly sourced from Etsy, but I found these two little weird creatures in a wall in Barcelona (they have friends in Liz’s house). The milk bottle is from my grandad’s farm and makes a perfect specimin vase for the flowers I accidentally break in my garden (I’m more clumsy-fingered than green-fingered).

Kath's-house-mantle

Now that my garden is taking shape, I try to make use of the free outisde flower supply when I can – this blossom on the living room mantle is from our quince tree.

Kath's-house-dresser

I love ceramics and vintage curios, so I’m forever rearranging the bits and pieces on this dresser. I was going to replace the images in the photoframes, but I’ve become rather attached to the stern looking chap and the winsome ladies.

Kath's-house-shoes

I have a soft spot for antique mahogany furniture – I love the warm tones of the wood, and the shoe ladder was my inspired idea to make efficient use of space in my bedroom (I’ve colonised 80% of it so far…)

Kath's-house-globe

The globe lives in our spare room, so our visitors can plot their travels. Our desk is framed by washing lines of art postcards – I pick them up every time I visit a gallery. I affixed them with some twine and mini pegs so I can switch them out whenever I want to change the view.

Kath's-habitat-picks

1. Mickey Natural – Rattan dining chair £60   2. Peeta – white metal and wood desk lamp £28   3. Hop – grey hare patterend cushion £12   4. Trunk – small grey metal storage trunk £35   5. Flap – small analogue wall clock £60   6. Marne – small yellow jug £5  7. Marteau – copper coated brass ceiling light £150

Liz's-pad

Liz's-house-study

My room. My stuff. I love my office. The shelving and wireframe storage mean everything is lifted off the desk, giving me more space to work – or to make a mess…

Liz's-house-sweden

I’m obsessed with Sweden and here lies my shrine. Dalahest (Dala Horse) is my fave, rescued from Stockholms Stadsmission. Clearly he’s had a tough life but it was his broken nose that appealed to me.

Liz's-house-objetcs

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.’ — William Morris.

I have a lot of random objects in my house, and quite a few are animal themed. They’re not in any way useful but I, at least, believe them to be beautiful.

Liz's-house-bathroom

The smallest room in the house – my bathroom. Note the animal detail continues…

Liz's-habitat-picks

1. Ginnie – orange office chair £70  2. Tommy – yellow metal desk lamp £18  3. Sushi – cat patterned cushion £12  4. Pollo – grey metal wire chicken object £25  5. Durrie – red/white patterned floor cushion £95  6. Durdle – blue patterned small vase £18  7. Hatch Yellow – metal yellow bin £20

 

This post was created in collaboration with Habitat

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Apple Crate Side Table

Say hello to the newest addition to our dining room!

In its previous life it was a pre-war apple crate, but with a bit of TLC it’s been re-purposed into a  2-4-1 piece of furniture, providing us with a new side table for our settle as well as some overflow storage for my (allegedly excessive) recipe book collection.

I picked it up on eBay for a bargainous £16.95  including UK postage.  They are sold pretty rough and ready, so they aren’t washed or sanded and they show a bit of wear and tear, but it doesn’t take much effort to get them looking pretty.

I gave this one a light sand down  – enough to knock off the roughest edges, but not so much that it sanded away the original branding, or the rustic look and feel.  Originally I was going to wax it, and I did use a clear Briwax on the inside (worked in with some wire wool), but I switched up to a couple of coats of clear varnish on the outside to give more protection from water marks and to seal some of the remaining rough, splintery bits.

All in all it was about £20 and an hour or so’s labour to give this crate a second lease of life (and in a cider lover’s home – very fitting!)

 

p.s. if you don’t fancy the hassle of prepping them yourself, you can also pick some up here from Baileys Store where they pre-scrub them for you.

 

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Can’t Find A Low Bedside Table?

milking stool bedside table

I’ve recently redecorated my spare room. And although it’s not quite ready for ‘before and after’ pictures just yet (it’s still lacking in furniture), I thought I’d share my ingenious bedside table discovery.

It’s tricky to find a bedside table to go alongside a futon bed. It’s so low; you don’t want your guests having to awkwardly reach up from bed to set down their book or glasses.

I originally had the idea of a tree trunk table, similar to this from French Connection, but about half the height. I scoured the web to no avail, and didn’t feel brave enough to grab an axe and hack down one of my own. Then I had a brainwave, and started search for a small wooden stool instead.

As usual, eBay was my first port of call, and it didn’t fail me.  I managed to pick up this lovely little antique milking stool for the princely sum of £15. It’s just the right height, with enough space for my new little Habitat lamp (£28) and a glass of water (or a cluster of snowdrops in this case).

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Before & After: Floor To Ceiling Bookshelves

Bookshelves in home office

Once upon a time (like many little girls), I had a brief ambition to be a Disney princess.  It wasn’t the frocks or the (interchangeable) princes I was after though, it was Belle’s library.  Books as high as the eye can see, floor to ceiling windows, spiral staircases to balcony walkways, an open fireplace and period furniture.  It’s basically an interior designer’s dream, and as a book lover it caught my imagination – definitely a better romancing strategy than the usual ‘saving from an evil witch’ schtick.

Skip forward 20 years or so to buying our first house, and though our budget didn’t quite stretch to a palatial library wing, it was my ambition to have a room I could make into a small office with my very own (modest) wall of books.

Books Make a Home Book

It was one of our first home projects, and our talented carpenter friend John did the tricky bit of actually building them for us. I found inspiration in Damien Thompson’s ‘Books Make A Home‘. I sent John away with post-it notes in the pages of the book marking the style of bookshelves I liked, and John ingeniously managed to work out how to recreate them using materials within our budget.

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Ceramic Discoveries in Sheffield

vase4

While on a recent visit to Sheffield (visiting the cousins-in-law), I paid a visit to the rather spectacular Kelham Island museum, which celebrates Sheffield’s industrial past complete with a huge working steam engine.  As luck would have it, on the weekend we were there, there was a mini festival on and the museum was filled with various traditional craft stalls; from lace makers, to wood turners and quilters.  Whilst the husband was lured away by the real ale stall outside, my eye was caught by the wares of Caroline Lee Ceramics, which had a stall overflowing with beautiful pieces.  I picked up a couple of Christmas gifts (early planning!) and also picked up a small  white vase for our mantlepiece, which has a gorgeous crackled glaze and rustic feel.

Caroline’s a native of Rotherham, South Yorkshire, and her website lists the various craft festivals and stores in which you can find her work.  Below are some of my favourites from her gallery (which might be appearing on my own Christmas list…).

Grey and copper ceramic bowl

Sawdust fired copper bowl

More under the cut….

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How To Buy Vintage Furniture On eBay

Kaths-ebay-bargains-chairs

Liz is the queen of the charity shop furniture find. She ferrets out a bargain like a true Yorkshire lass – those poor Mancunians mustn’t know what’s hit them.

I, on the other hand, am a dab hand at the eBay furniture auction. I’m generally a mild mannered sort, but an eBay auction brings out the competitive side of me.  I’m not proud to say it but I do get a bit of a thrill from making a last minute bid to swipe away a bargain from my fellow vintage furniture hunters.

When we first moved into our house from our little two bed flat, we had a small amount of (mostly Ikea) furniture and a lot of space to fill.  I wanted to invest in pieces to last, but also didn’t want to bankrupt us (particularly as we’d just spent most of our spare cash on buying the house itself).

eBay turned out to be our saviour – the dining room is furnished completely from eBay buys – the table, chairs, sideboard, settle, drinks cabinet and dresser all came from the auction site.

Kaths-ebay-bargains-montage

It does take some getting to grips with though, and you have to invest a bit of time to sort the wheat from the chaff and be fairly savvy to not pay over the odds. Here are some tips I use to make the experience easier:

1. Narrow down search results - when you’re searching for items you can us the ‘minus’ sign to exclude certain words (or certain sellers).  For example if you want to search for cabinet, but exclude filing cabinets you can search for “cabinets -filing”.  Filter options are also handy – I always use the item location filter to see if any items are within pick-up distance of my postcode (to avoid paying delivery costs).

2. Choose your words carefully – when an eBay search brings hundreds of items back, I add in descriptors  (like ‘rustic’ or ‘farmhouse’) to narrow it down to a specific style (though ‘vintage’ – it can return a lot of dodgy second hand stuff!).  If it’s quality you’re after, look at the period filters in the ‘antiques’ category.   Within ‘antique’ you’ll see items that are new but antique ‘style’, but if you filter to ‘Edwardian’ you tend to get the real deal.  If painted furniture’s your bag, try searching by paint names like ‘Farrow and Ball’ and ‘Annie Sloane’.

3. Check out the going rate -for an item like a kitchen dresser where there are a lot of vintage options on eBay, it can help to look at previous prices to get a sense of what’s good value.  To see what price similar items have gone for, go into the advanced search, type in your search terms, and check the box to search ‘sold listings’.  It’s a useful gauge to check that you don’t pay over the odds, but remember that if you’re looking at vintage furniture, factors such as condition and provenance can affect price.

4. Bidding techniques – don’t bid too early and never get into a bidding war – it can force the price up, and you’ll be showing your hand to other bidders early on. My golden rules are:

– set myself a budget

– set an alert on my phone to remind me of when the item is due to end

– get myself logged in within 10 minutes of the auction ending

– bid close enough to end of the auction to beat other bidders, but give myself enough time to re-bid if the offer isn’t high enough. Even if you’re the only person bidding, you may bid under the (hidden) reserve price set by the seller, so you need time to put a second bid in before the auction closes.  I usually go in at about 20-40 seconds to go (depending on how long I can hold my nerve!).

–  make my maximum bid just higher than a round number.  If the most I’m willing to pay is £100 I would actually bid £101.10, as some people will bid £100.10 or £101 to try to pip you to the post in the dying seconds of the auction (it’s a vicious game!).   Remember – eBay will only bid just enough to beat the highest bidder, so you don’t actually have to pay the maximum unless someone puts in counter bids to drive your bid up.

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Carpet Copycat – The Wonders of Natural Flooring

Liz's Coir CarpetLiz’s living room with ‘tiger’s eye’ sisal carpet

Admittedly carpets aren’t the sexiest thing to blog about.  Even interiors magazines give them pretty short shrift.  You never have to consider such things as a renting dweller, but when you buy your first home suddernly have to start thinking about things like flooring choices.

When replacing our living room fireplace, we found ourselves with a nice new hole in the carpet as the replacement was smaller than the previous hearth.   Being thrify types we repurposed the carpet by shifting it to the upstairs offce, which saved money but we now had a bare living room floor.

My first port of call for inspiration was Design*Sponge (the US design blog), but every single living room I wanted to emulate had a wooden floor.  Every single one.  I was beginning to think it was a situation akin to the great hidden TV conspiracy – there wasn’t a carpet in sight.  Much as  I love the original floorboards look, it just wasn’t going to work here – not only are the original floorboards a bit of a mess and missing in places, but the room is north-facing  and a touch on the nippy side in the middle of a Yorkshire winter, so it really needed full-floor covering.

I happened upon an interesting alternative – a sort of half-way house between the natural, rustic look I wanted with floorboards, with the warmth and coverage of capet: natural flooring.  Often it’s looked to as an option for hardwearing spaces like hallways (especially the jute and coir types), but some of the finer materias like sisal and seagrass are less rough and can make for an interesting and unusual carpet covering for living rooms.

living room wth sisal carpet2Kath’s living room with copycat carpet (spot the difference!)

Unbenownst to me, Liz was also looking for the same stuff for her newly redecorated living room.  She’d seen pictures of it but didn’t know what it was called.  I think she was typing things like ‘hairy brown carpet’ into Google which was bringing back some interesting results…

I realised what she was talking about, and pointed her in the direction of Kersaint Cobb and Alternative Flooring (UK manufacturers of natural flooring).  She found a local stockist and swifly narrowed the vast array of choices down to the Kersaint Cobb ‘Tiger’s Eye’ sisal carpet in amber.  As usual I dithered for ages, before sheepishly choosing exactly the same one as I loved the look of it when it was out on display at our local stockist in Baildon.

You’ll need someone who knows their stuff to lay it, as it’s trickier to work with than normal carpet and it needs ‘resting’ in situ for 24 hours before they pinning it down as it can shrink slightly after it acclimatises to your house.  It hides the dirt really well, but it’s not a fan of spills as it can’t be washed as easily as woolen carpet, so you need to think about the usage before you go for it, but we’d definitely recommend as an alternative option to floorboards.

 

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In Search Of A Hallway Light

glass pendant light

Taste in light fittings is sadly not something we shared with the previous owners of our house.

The hall light was the most extreme case in point. It was a chandelier with ivy leaf and butterfly detailing, which we inherited as they were emigrating to Oz (sadly I have no pics of the original but it was similar to this).

It was a quality Laura Ashley-esque pendant, but jarred with the simple, traditional feel we were trying to create. And replacing it became an increasing priority, as more and more visitors to our home assumed it was our own newly-purchased style statement (“wow, I love your light, is it new?” “Er, no, we’re getting rid of it.” “what, why? It’s gorgeous.” “um, it’s not that we don’t like it, it just doesn’t really fit with the rustic vintagey style of the other furniture we’ve bought”… “that second hand stuff?” *awkward silence*)

But who knew the search for a hall light would prove so hard? I spent over a month scouring UK websites with not one respectable candidate. Success came as we extended our search to the US and came across a glass bell pendant from Pottery Barn.

The simple design is exactly what we were looking for – something that wouldn’t jar with our Victorian house, but isn’t overly traditional and twee. It’s rather susceptible to dust, but worth the effort as it part of the first impression to visitors, and the first thing you see when you come home every evening. We also managed to sell the butterfly light on Gumtree to a delighted buyer who drove all the way from Chester to Leeds to pick it up, so it too found a an enthusiastic owner and loving home – happy endings all round.

We bundled the bell pendant in with shipping for a rug – to buy alone with tax and shipping currently comes to around £100. Of course, as soon as we bought it I started to see similar classic glass pendants everywhere (sod’s law!). So if you like the style, I’d recommend UK retailer Fritz Fryer which has one of the best selections of classic glass pendants.

 

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The Miraculous Metamorphic Chair

I admit that library steps aren’t on everyone’s priority purchase list when buying your first house (unless your house looks like this). But being 5ft and determined to have floor to ceiling bookshelves, I justified that they were a necessity.

In traversing the breadth and depth of the internet for “library steps”, I stumbled across the revelatory invention of the metamorphic chair. This genius 2-in-1 piece of furniture is both a chair and a mini step ladder. You just flip it over and voila:

metamorphic chair changing from chair to steps

Obviously I had to get myself a set, and I picked this set up for about £80 on eBay.  When it was delivered I had a moment of doubt, wondering if they were an impulse purchase that might embarrassingly gather dust in the corner, but it has turned out to be one of the most used and commented upon pieces of furniture in our house.

You can also find metamorphic chairs on Antiques Atlas as well as the more traditional library steps. In fact, after missing out on a beautiful set on eBay (which really stung as I lost out by forgetting to bid rather than a fair and square bid-off), I’ve been eyeing up this set of traditional foldable steps on Dig Haüshizzle for our study:

antique folding library steps

For those with more of a modern eye,  those clever Italians have been working on some (prototype) designs to bring them into the 21st century.

This is the ‘suppergiù’ chair/ladder by Milan-based designers Studioventotto which changes into steps via a split in the seat:

studioventotto metamorphic chair ladder

And this is the ‘Elda’ chair by Scoope Design with a more traditional mechanism, brought up to date with a white finish and colourful felt ‘hood’

Elda Metamorphic chair

 

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