Renovating your first ever house can be quite a daunting task, however when it is a period property with lots of quirks and original features, it can become quite intimidating. Dunfermline couple, Katie and Ryan, have done just that with their first home in the city, and have documented it on Instagram.
Ellis Cochrane spoke to the couple about the hard work that went into the transformation and the opportunity that they had to be as creative as they wanted to design their ideal home.
We always loved the look of period properties with the large proportions and character and with this house being so close to the centre of town we couldn’t let this opportunity pass us by. We were actually due to view the house the day lockdown was announced in March 2020 so we ended up buying it without even viewing inside but trusted our gut instinct!
The house hadn’t been touched for decades. Every room was in need of complete modernisation and TLC. We took it right back to the brickwork. The whole house was re-wired, re-plumbed, insulated and fitted with eco-friendly heating. Because it needed so much work, it gave us the perfect opportunity to start with a blank canvas and put our own personal mark on it. We could see the potential and created our own vision by watching a lot of home interior programmes and getting inspiration from Instagram and looking in magazines. We cut out what we liked and made mood boards to see if everything would work. We would describe our style as “sleek & modern with a twist on original”. The interior styles we were influenced by were our period paint samples that we had bought, then went on to tie the rest of the home furnishings to that.
Our biggest project was the kitchen/dining room as we had to knock down the wall that separated the two rooms and install steel beams. We sacrificed the downstairs bedroom to create a large open plan kitchen / dining room. It was a loss, but we felt it had to be opened up for the modern way of living. Due to the age of the house, a lot of the walls weren’t square and required building out. We installed a false ceiling in this room to allow our open plan kitchen to be created with a sleek minimalistic look. We also had to knock down the partition wall and create a new entrance from the hall into the kitchen. This was where the steel beams came in. The floor levels had to be altered as with it being an old property, no two rooms were the same! It was worth the effort as we both agree that it is our favourite room. It blends the modern part of our home with the traditional features such as the staircase. We both love spending time in this area, especially when the sun is shining down through our stained glass window and it lights up the entire house.
We both felt very strongly that the original features were retained, we felt we owed it to the house, with our favourite features being the ornate coving and the original staircase. It would have been a sin to get rid of these due to the craftsmanship that went into creating them.
Our favourite part of the renovation was creating our en-suite bathroom. We took space from a hall cupboard adjacent to the master bedroom and fitted a lintel, then knocked out a doorway and began to build out our idea. Funnily enough this room was the first one to be completed and ironically, did not exist when we began.
The internal renovation work on the house took 6 months to complete. Phase 2 began this summer, where we’ve been working on our garden and basement conversion. We were worried about delays getting materials due to Covid and Brexit but it actually went a lot faster than we thought it would. Although there has been unexpected costs involved, especially with it being an older property. Everything had to be improved to bring it up to the modern standard of living, from a full rewire to insulation and even re-plastering the entire house.
We have really enjoyed renovating this house. It was hard work, but we could see the potential and, with the help of family and friends, we have managed to transform it into a lovely home after being neglected for so long. It was a great project!
Don’t be afraid to commit and go big, as you will end up looking back on things and regret not doing it at the time.Follow the couple’s renovations @edwardian_renovation_
By Ellis Cochrane
Kate Spiers shouldn’t need an introduction. As one of Scotland’s top bloggers and a judge on Scotland’s Home Of The Year, she definitely knows her style when it comes to home décor and design.
Ellis Cochrane sat down with Kate to talk all things home decor, TV work and filming/renovating in the middle of a pandemic.
Interior design guru, Kate Spiers, is a common sight on social media. She has over a million followers across the various social media platforms, where she shares her aspirational but achievable posts on everything from High Street purchases to book and beauty recommendations. Her blog - katelavie.com - has been going for over ten years and her Instagram account has attracted over 300,000 followers. Those fans flock to see what accessories and design tips that the native New Zealander is favouring in her latest posts, which catalogue the renovations on her tenement flat.
Since being chosen to be one of the judges for BBC’s Scotland’s Home of the Year show, her fame has gone stellar but how easy will it be to continually find new different houses for the show?
“This year’s show is a step up in terms of the homes,” Kate says. “There are some incredible, incredible homes featured. More people have seen the show and as a result, loads more people applied, which helped with the selection process but also made it pretty tough to whittle them down for the final!”
She’s also looking forward to reactions to the range of homes. “Last year we had a lot of period properties, whereas this year it’s a good mix of newer builds and fun homes. It’s going to be a great series, I reckon.
“There’s one that I actually mentioned on my Instagram, with a kitchen that had tiles that I had actually planned on getting for my own kitchen renovation,” she says. “But I ended up not doing so because we were in lockdown and they were coming from a different country and I didn’t want to take that risk. When I saw them in this home, I was like OMG I want this tile!”
For the new series, we see Kate reunite with fellow judges; renowned interior designer, Anna Campbell-Jones and architect, Michael Angus. Something she was looking forward to.
“Over time, we have gelled a lot better because we’ve spent so much time together and it comes across on screen,” she says.
“We’ve grown a lot closer and have a better rapport between the three of us,” she says. “That’s one of my favourite things about filming, we go to so many places that I wouldn’t ordinarily go to. If it wasn’t for the show I would never have been to places like Orkney, Shetland, Skye and Lewis. We were so lucky to see these parts of Scotland, especially in lockdown. We also went to Harris this year, which I adored.”
Although Kate has a reputation as an interior design blogger, it makes her laugh as that was never her intention.
“People often ask if I’ve done a course or something on interiors but to be honest, I just sort of fell into it!” she laughs. “I have a passion for tenements and when I started renovating our first tenement flat, I started writing about it and people all over the world were interested in seeing the high ceilings and what it is that makes a tenement what it is. I managed to get the edge on tenement renovations as no one else was focusing on doing that eight years ago. My home decor content always has the biggest reaction of anything that I post on social media so I just roll with it and continue to share it. In reality, I actually do cover everything on my blog.”
Tenement living is what made her name, and now Kate and her husband Jordan have moved to their second tenement, she continues to renovate it although lockdown proved difficult.
“We probably had our flat for about a year, buying it in April 2019, before a crazy year of life and work stuff,” she says. “When we initially started work on it, it didn’t work out with the original tradespeople as they didn’t have the same vision that we did. We then found new tradespeople but then I started filming the show and we ultimately had to down tools because of the pandemic. We also didn’t know if tradespeople could come round or what shipping was like. And a lot of the smaller companies that I had planned to shop with had closed completely.
“We did make some rash decisions. I like to think of my new kitchen as my ‘pandemic kitchen’. At the time we just needed a kitchen as we didn’t want to move in and not have a functioning kitchen. I thought that it would be temporary and eventually I would change it. But now that I look at it it’s fine and I like it, so I don’t know if we will change it.
The pandemic also impacted on filming of the latest series.
“We typically start filming at the beginning of August each year, but in 2020 we begun in September instead,” she says. “A lot of us didn’t think that we would be able to film at all last year because of the pandemic, so we were surprised that we actually managed to do it, although it was tough. It was almost like a team building exercise because we were all in the same bubble.
“We actually filmed in the period between the first and second lockdowns in 2020 and there were lots of restrictions. We had regular COVID testing every couple of days, had to wear masks and had our temperatures taken twice a day.”
As Kate is a self-confessed amateur when it comes to interior design, her fellow judges have different strengths. So what does she look for?
“We all have our different areas of expertise”, Kate says. “Anna has extensive experience of being an interior designer, while Michael’s experience is in architecture. As a lifestyle blogger, I’m looking more at the liveability of a home.”
Kate’s keen eye for texture and trends come into play all the time. “I consider how the textures come together, how the rooms flow, how they’ve made it feel like it's personable. I like to see how they’ve injected their own character and personality into their home and how charming it feels. I also think about what kind of aesthetics are current in terms of Pinterest and Instagram trends. (If you don’t already follow Kate on both of these platforms, you are seriously missing out!) This is a totally different kind of interior than say, what Anna gets asked to do for her clients.
Trying to get the feeling of what it is like for a home to be lived in is something she is concerned doesn’t come across on screen. “You can have this curated space but could you imagine living in it?” she laughs. “When you’re there in the home you can feel just how special a space is but that doesn’t always necessarily translate on screen. We don’t actually see a home before we visit, so any reactions that you see are completely natural as that’s just the first time we have seen it on camera! We now enjoy keeping it a surprise until we open the front door.”
Tenement living isn’t for Kate forever, though. “I always thought that I would live in a tenement for the rest of my life but I think that we would like a proper garden at some point,” she says. “I think we’d probably like a Victorian villa with a garden and a wee extension that opens out onto a patio. That would be my dream but I don't think that it would be too far away from my style at the moment either. I know what I like by now and I would definitely have some nice panelling, a bit of colour and when it comes to original features, I’d be looking for high ceilings and cornicing.”
Having now got two tenement flat renovations under her belt, does she have any tips for other wannabe home interior designers?
“Live with and live in the space first,” she adamantly says. “Maybe fix the things that are bothering you, like if you have magnolia walls, maybe give them a fresh lick of white paint. But in terms of changing big things, particularly the kitchen, you want to experience how you use a space first before jumping straight in. I’m personally not into a dark wall, particularly as someone who lives in Scotland. In the winter you need the lights on all the time so I cannot imagine what it would be like to have a dark or completely black room. I would probably avoid doing that as I love a bright, light, airy space. I love original detailing, as you might be able to tell. It’s always nice to see homeowners use local artists or items that are local to the area.”
“Also a lot of people may rush into a renovation or use too many ideas at once. I can definitely be guilty of it, especially when it comes to tile combinations. I want to use all of the tiles! But that’s when moodboards can come into their own. You can plan it all out and see how it would work in a space before you commit to it. ”
Reintroducing original features is a trend that Kate thinks will continue, and more imagination will be needed as Scotland has its own style of buildings.
“You can look at photographs of a flat and immediately know that it is a Scottish tenement flat,” she says. “Because there’s so little that you can do structurally, it means that people have to think outside the box, like in the living room and kitchen there are little recess areas where beds used to be. Some people just put the kitchen in one of those recesses and then have an extra bedroom. What people do with those spaces is fun. We have a very unique style in Scotland when it comes to original floorboards and cornicing, for example, too.
“Panelling and parquet are definitely having a moment currently, as is swapping out ugly radiators for column radiators instead. Adding original features back into a space, like buying cornicing and adding that back in, like we did in our kitchen and bathroom can add a lot to a space.”
Colour and shelving are going to also become popular, she predicts.
“Bespoke and open shelving and playing around with colour more will be appearing,” she says. “For a moment there, it was all about white walls but people are now experimenting with the likes of half walls of colour or even just a feature wall of colour.”
The first contenders for Scotland’s Home of the Year had so much tartan that BBC Scotland actually made a bingo card for viewers to play along, and there were a lot of stag heads, what can she reveal about this series?
“We haven’t actually seen that much tartan in the past couple of series,” says. .”I’m not going to reveal too much but there’s lots in there that are going to cause controversy. Sometimes we have three great homes in one show and there could be a tie. There’s a great tie in the upcoming series, so it will be fun to see what people’s reactions are to that. It all depends on the homes that are in each category, for example, a second place home one week could actually have a higher score than a home that wins on another week. I love that everyone gets involved and has different opinions. It’s all down to your own personal taste!”
By Ellis Cochrane
In January last year, husband and wife, Antonio and Silvya Palladino bought their first ever home in the city of Edinburgh. Moving in just before the first lockdown hit, the couple got to work transforming the space to be perfect for them, changing the interiors completely from a light to dark colour palette.
We spoke to Silvya about why they decided to take the plunge with the dark interior style and her perspective may even alter how you feel about a dark colour scheme…
Can I reply in my own style? Ha ha! Jokes aside, it's difficult to label my approach to interiors since I'm drawn to different things and styles, so I might carefully say eclectic with a dark, somewhat bold twist?
We had been renting for years and this is our first home. So you can easily imagine that I’ve come to quite deeply dislike safe and dull colours that most landlords seem to be so fond of! It was a no brainer for me to steer clear when it came to choosing colours for our own home. I've always been fascinated by bold use of colours that, contrary to popular belief, don't necessarily mean turning your home into a gloomy dungeon! They can define and inject some personality in a space if you learn how to play with them. Dark palettes can make a space stand out more. They can create an accent feature or do exactly the opposite, making a less attractive feature disappear or blend in more with other elements. Not to mention, darker colours can make spaces feel warm and cosy.
The embracing, warm feeling that welcomes me every time I come back home or I retreat into our bedroom. It’s the best.
When we first looked at hiring some decorators, not many we consulted were open to the idea we wanted to go dark. Especially when I told them that I wanted this seamless, ceiling to wall look in our bedroom. Most of them frowned at us or tried to warn us the space would be, well, dark. It was hilarious! Even though it was frustrating trying to battle that stereotype, I can now smile about it. Initially we had some people work for us, but then we eventually learned how to do most of these things ourselves. Now, when someone walks in and looks around and says, “I wouldn't have thought it, but these colours look great”; I smile at the idea that I might have changed someone's mind.
With darker colours on the wall, I find it really important to play with different accent features, like lighting and furnishing, in order to contrast and balance the overall look. One of my favourite elements to play with has to be brass, which I use here and there as an accent. For example, I’ll use light fittings or accessories and obviously lots of different patterns or plain fabrics. Contrasting colours to either enhance the moodiness of a room or brighten it, depending on the mood I want to embrace or as the season changes.
Lighting is really important since obviously on a white wall, even the dimmest of bulbs can still brighten a place decently, whereas from a darker wall there's no light blatantly bouncing back so the placing of light becomes integral. I usually try to pick lights and bulbs that would give me the best of light, without being either too harsh or too gentle. I usually go with light dimmers in order to have control over the mood that the light can create in that space.
The geographic position of a room and how many windows it has and the light it gets during the day are still the same whether your walls are light or dark. The only thing that changes is the way you perceive the space. For instance, contrary to what most people think, a poorly lit and small room would stand out even more with a lighter colour on the wall that would make it easier to tell where the confines stand around you. Whereas if you paint the same space dark - this is particularly true if you opt for a seamless look, meaning ceiling, walls and skirting boards painted in the same shade - a curious thing happens. The corners of the room appear less defined and almost disappear, believe it or not. It becomes hard to tell at first sight where the walls end and meet the ceiling, therefore the depth of the room changes around you. It’s like an optical illusion.
Darker colours make me feel at home. And I'm not just saying this because of my aesthetic choices. I feel they make the space cosier and welcoming so I feel a sort of embrace each time I walk into a particular room. This makes me feel calm, relaxed and serene within.
I'd say to start from the bedroom. It's the room we use less during the day, so it makes it easier for people to get used to darker palettes. The bedroom is a space where embracing darkness would also mean better sleep, for example. If not at your first attempt, it's definitely the perfect place to eventually try the seamless look (wall, ceiling, woodwork and even radiators in the same shade). I've been an insomniac for most of my adult life, and even though I can't tell you I'm cured and I sleep like an angel every night, I can definitely tell you having a dark bedroom definitely helps me relax and unwind. In other rooms, start playing with bolder and darker colours on accent walls so that the change is less intimidating. We've been brought up with this idea that dark colours convey sadness, melancholy, gloominess and therefore using it in your home would mean evoking these very same feelings around you. I dare anyone to give it a try and see for themselves if it really feels that way. Dark palettes are an amazing way to inject character in a home. They might give you the opportunity to even make the best out of a dimly lit corner! Through my Instagram account I'm trying to promote a new way for people to perceive these colours and be less intimidated by bolder choices in their own homes. If my own gran ( who was absolutely confused at first when she heard of my palette choice) says she would never think a room with black walls could be that beautiful and welcoming, I think I just might be headed in the right direction.
By Chloe Suze
Yes We Can!
We spoke to Martin & Joy about their journey on building their home throughout the pandemic and lockdowns. And how despite the challenges they have created their own ideal home.
Have you searched endlessly for a new house only to find nothing that quite fits the bill?
You’ve seen houses you like but you’d need an extension, or the windows are too small, or the room layouts just don’t flow. If that’s happening to you a lot, maybe building your own house is for you.
Years ago, that would have been a daunting prospect to most people, but now there are home build kit companies out there, able to hold your hand through the process.
Self-build houses come with the allure of being, essentially, a blank canvas. The design possibilities are endless, as self-builds can be any style you like, whether it's a contemporary and modern home, or a rustic countryside barn.
Budgets can run from the very modest to multi-million pounds. The Wee House Company of Ayr, Scotland was set up by Jennifer Higgins after she struggled to get on the property ladder. Their prices start at a modest £89,000 for a one bed studio home. At the other end of the scale is the sleek German style kit homes like Huf Haus, with their large open plan spaces and vast expanses of triple glazing that can sell at around £500,000.
Most people think of self-build houses as being brick and mortar, but in Scotland, the majority of new houses are timber frame kits with a brick skin. The timber frames give the advantage of being assembled in a matter of weeks, enabling the roof to be added and the structure watertight very quickly. Timber kits are also flexible and forgiving - allowing you to make some changes as you go along. So what inspires people to self-build and what things should you think about before taking the plunge?
We spoke to one family, Martin and Joy Fleming who recently completed their self-build, situated between Kingseat and Cowdenbeath in Scotland. (It was easy enough to do this, as it’s my family and I’m lucky enough to live in the house now it’s been built!) Here’s what they had to say…
What encouraged you towards doing a self-build?
Martin- We wanted a house that had big living areas downstairs but didn’t necessarily mean we had to have lots of bedrooms.
Joy - Our children are grown up so don’t live with us full time, however we wanted somewhere they could always come back to and we could still host big family gatherings. At the same time, it needed to be a comfortable space when it was just the two of us.
Martin - We designed the house effectively as a one bedroom bungalow downstairs but with guest bedrooms, a study and galleried living room upstairs. Overall, the house has 3 bedrooms and three bathrooms- one just a WC, the other two with a bath and shower.
Joy - I’ve always wanted a free-standing bath!
How did you settle on a style for your home?
Joy - We both prefer modern and contemporary architecture. As the house was to be built on a farm, a modern twist on a barn seemed the best option.
Martin - We spent several years combing through home magazines looking for inspiration.
Joy - Pinterest was also an excellent source of ideas and we created our own boards saving what we liked. An architect drew our ideas up for us and we approached Fleming Homes (no relation!) at Duns ,Scotland to manufacture our kit. They were amazing and the project really came to life when they got involved.
What was considered a deal-breaker with your self-build?
Martin - We wanted a large open-plan kitchen, dining, living room with vaulted space over the living room. We loved the idea of everyone being together when we were in the house and not separated into different rooms like we had had in previous houses.
Joy - I also really wanted my own mini library in the house! Other than our youngest daughter, we’re all quite avid readers in this family, and have a good number of books between us!
Martin- We ended up putting this upstairs, in the study area; another space we thought was essential to have in our home!
How did you decide on which contractors/suppliers to use?
Joy - We got so lucky on this. I had recently started a new job and a colleague recommended a builder (Carneil Homes) he had used twice before. We arranged to meet them and liked them instantly. We remained on great terms throughout the project and couldn’t have done it without them.
Martin - When it came to the windows, we have 3 huge floor to ceiling windows facing west on an exposed site. As a result we knew we wanted to specify high quality triple glazed aluminium clad windows from an early point. We met Internorm by Scotia at a homebuilding and renovating show in Glasgow and were delighted with the quality of the product they were selling.
How did COVID-19 impact the build? Were there any hurdles you had to overcome?
Joy - It didn’t affect us but our builder had to work much harder with the delayed supply chain. He often needed to order things many weeks in advance of when he needed them to avoid things grinding to a halt.
Martin - Fortunately the builder had built up strong relationships with local suppliers for a number of years and that definitely helped him stay at the front of the queue for materials as they arrived.
Joy - He has said the cost of some materials has risen over 30% due to Covid.
What was your favourite part of the process?
Martin - Watching the kit go up. It made such a big difference in such a small space of time.
Joy - We went up every night and couldn’t believe how much progress had been made each day. Fleming Homes had an erection team of 3 men who must’ve been eating their Weetabix in the morning as they never stopped and it was clear they took a lot of pride in what they did.
How did you settle on the interior designs of each room?
Martin - The kitchen caused the most angst (laughing).
Joy - We decided early on to go with all white walls to give us a blank canvas. We warmed this with oak doors and balustrades, and an Egyptian limestone floor downstairs. Inspiration for bathrooms and kitchen again came from Pinterest and magazines. We visited many kitchen showrooms as we couldn’t agree on the style for that.
Martin - We liked the look of a Schuller cabinet. German Kitchen Studio in Kirkcaldy sell the Schuller range so we made an appointment with them. Eventually we managed to agree on “aqua blue matt” units with imitation knotty oak.
Joy - The designer Roy was great. He listened to all the things we wanted in the kitchen and even though we had seen many designs already, he managed to come up with something different. It was the first kitchen we both liked. He recommended Silestone worktops by Cosentino and we would have to say that it's even better in real life than it was on paper
How long did the build take to complete? Was this what you expected?
Joy - We bought the plot over 3 and half years ago and spent a lot of time initially with the architect and the planning office.
Martin - The build itself started in May 2020 and we are moved in February 2021.
Joy - We had hoped to be in by the end of 2020, but a few last minute delays pushed us back. The bad weather in February meant the landscaping wasn’t done when we moved in.
Martin - With the pandemic we thought that was an excellent result!
Did you have any unexpected overruns with your budget?
Martin - We decided to spend a little more on feature lighting and a Lutron lighting system as the house seemed like it would benefit from it.
Joy - Our limestone floor came in over budget too and caused some of our delays as it got stuck on the boat from Egypt.
What advice would you give to others looking to self-build?
Martin - Get your funding in place first and use an experienced builder who understands your vision. Keep in regular dialogue with your builder during the build with regular site visits to keep the decision making easier.
Joy - You won’t believe how many decisions had to be made.
Martin- Also be patient for planning permission, it comes eventually! Oh and avoid hold ups by pre-empting your decisions, plan ahead so you know what you want to do.
Would you ever do the self-build process again?
Joy and Martin - No! (laughing)
Joy - Don’t get us wrong, we absolutely love the house and are over the moon about how it turned out. We were lucky to have such a good relationship with our builders and suppliers which made the whole process easier.
Martin - Yes, it was just the sheer hassle at the beginning to get planning permission! It took us a lot longer to get than we had expected it would.
Joy- Agreed. I don’t think we would ever build another house again, but we haven’t ruled out a granny annexe/studio flat above our garage.
Martin - We quite like the idea of potentially having a space where the kids can be close to home but that we all have our own space.
Joy - Or even as a space for my mum and dad to use too! Watch this space!
There is always a lot of talk at Decor and Design Scotland about how we love bringing the outdoors indoors (might be our weather!), however, one couple has gone above and beyond, incorporating the outdoor trend throughout their home in the most maximalist way possible.
In the Highlands of Scotland, Eilidh and Rory have successfully managed to turn their once historic home into a jungle paradise filled with eclectic decor to make their home unique. Thinking of going maximalist with your interiors? Read on…
When we bought the house seventeen years ago, let’s just say it was a doer-upper! The previous owner had taken it from a wreck and replaced almost everything. There were no original features left. There was a concrete floor, the fireplaces had all been boarded up to be replaced with ‘home-made ‘ wood-burning stoves. They were also paranoid as housing estates started to be built around them in what once was a clearing in Culloden forest! That led them to install eccentric security from 20ft leylandii hedging in front of barbed wire fencing or walls with glass tops, metal bars on all the windows, and locks and padlocks in all the rooms. And the decor was fairly ....tired. When we moved in with our six children, it was a three-bedroom wreck with one bathroom. It was a good job the kids were small and were a close family!!
We had a contractor friend build the wooden frame but as Rory works in the building trade, he had a lot of contacts, so there were lots of favours from people, that’s why it’s taken so long to complete.
The house is now an eclectic mix of old and new. It took us five years to get planning permission from Historic Scotland for the extension, which now joins onto the old Culloden house kennels (our bedroom) and it’s taken us a further five years from the start to get it to almost complete. Of course, most of the kids are grown up so we’re left rattling around.
I’ve always had eclectic tastes and been a collector (hoarder) of stuff so maximalist eclectic unfortunately just comes naturally. I didn’t have to settle on design choices. Rory said he wanted a ‘rock-star pad’ so this is my interpretation! I’ve always liked dark and moody decor otherwise we wouldn’t have bought a crumbling gothic tower.
Inspiration for each room usually comes from ‘a thing’. For instance, in the new living room/ diner ‘the thing’ was the chandelier. It was up before the plasterboard, much to everyone’s dismay. In the bedroom, it was the golden bath.
Yes! There are plants in every room although, in the older part of the house, they’re mainly faux as there isn’t enough light, especially in winter. Since we’ve expanded into the extension, the real big boys have moved in. I’ve always liked biophilic design [the use of nature indoors] even before it was an actual thing. There are many interpretations of plants from stuffed velvet monstera leaves to knitted cactuses and, of course, dried pampas. This year's obsession is forest cactuses - last year’s palm trees - hence the 2m high plastic palm tree in the bedroom, which goes just perfectly with our 2.5 meter giraffe holding chandelier in the bedroom.
I enjoy incorporating nature and wildlife. It is a toss up whether I like the house or the garden more! The house is just an extension of the garden, so it’s natural to incorporate as many elements, which explains the plants everywhere. The garden is also divided into ‘rooms’. There’s the white garden; the Japanese garden; the sunken garden to the bar and bbq hut and the two greenhouses in the cottage garden. That’s before you get to the five ponds and our new ‘Frenchie park’! This is just a huge lawn for our six French Bulldogs to run around on! Yes, every time a child leaves home they’re replaced by a Frenchie, although the youngest hasn’t moved out yet! Not like we’re leaving a packed suitcase at the door or anything!
I find finding things easy! I’m easily led astray, so Gumtree, all my favourite little antique shops, reclamation yards and of course second-hand shops. Probably what I’ve missed most about the pandemic is the lack of a good hunt!
To layer, I usually use a dark colour on the walls and ceilings. That acts as a fabulous foil for all manner of things from plants to paintings. Then I’ll often have a colour pop and then work off this with texture. That’s why there’s a ridiculous amount of Icelandic sheepskins dotted about everywhere, and velvets. I’m not very comfortable with patterns or repeat patterns on the wall, hence the beautiful Avalana (www.avalanadesign.co.uk) designed mural in our bedroom. I think the only wallpapers I’ve used recently are the black and white stripes in the inner hall, and a touch of leopardskin in the en-suite. I also have had a slight obsession with things hanging about like plants; my prized 70’s capsize shell chandelier; silver hanging balls; golden disco balls to all the ‘quirky’ lighting (descending monkeys holding lights from the roofs) giant wire chandelier and my homemade butterfly ball in the tower.
By Chloe Suze
Image Credit @couthyhome