Tuesday, 15 December 2015

VINTAGE INSPIRED CHRISTMAS TABLE SETTING

I've been browsing through the shops for the past month looking for inspiration for our Christmas dinner table. This year will be extra special since we will be spending Christmas in our own house. I'm very excited because it means we get to make our own traditions and my husband will cook the Turkey and prepare most of the dishes, believe it or not. I am of course in charge of the decor and dressing the dinner table which I couldn't be happier about.

Ever since I was kid my mum taught me that you put a lot effort into Christmas. She used to change the cushion covers, curtains and have a special table cloth just for Christmas Day. In addition to this, she used make all these things herself with a sewing machine. What an incredible woman! I never really realised how much work it was for her until I have started doing my own Christmas preparations in the last few years. Obviously, I don't make nearly as much of an effort as she used to but I do try. I cut corners where I can. Shops are these days filled with ready made sauces and decorations and it is a big time saver when you have children. However, I do love entertaining and I couldn't think of a more pleasant task than picking the right accessories for our dinner table. It's all looking very Winter Wonderland and vintage inspired this year as you can see.



I am still very much obsessed with gold. I really wanted to use gold accessories for this setting but I wanted make sure it's not too 'bling' (if you know what I mean). A table cloth (I prefer white but any colour these days will do to be honest) is an absolute must in my book for such an occasion. I use place mats on their own with our glass dining room table but special occasions always deserve an extra effort. The only downside is getting the stains out which is why I only use table cloths that can be washed in 60 degrees (although the ironing part is no fun). This is also why I use place mats that are either washable or made of materials that do not stain. I am a big fan of Chilewich and my place mat collection has been growing in the last few years ever since I discovered the American brand. I used Chilewich Gilt Rectangle Place mats for this setting because they are quite glamorous and hard wearing. Unfortunately they have been discontinued but the Dahlia place mats are quite similar.




The miniature Christmas planter, candles and tea lights really make the table setting for me. I love using these budget friendly Andante plates from M&S. We use these plates everyday but they are just as suitable for a special occasion as you can see. They are similar to Villeroy & Boch NewWave collection but much lighter and more practical in my opinion. The frosted miniature planter from M&S also adds a bit of magic to our Winter Wonderland theme. I got the place cards from M&S last year but forgot I had bought them which is why this year I am determined to make some use out of them.

The bird tea light holders (* gifted) and the Christmas Tree Tea Lights are from Laura Ashley. I'm definitely not afraid to mix silver and gold. And as you can see, this year I decided to add white into the mix as well. I like to keep things simple and it's quite easy to add few glamorous touches to your table setting when everything else is so minimalistic. Our dining room table could be a few centimetres wider but we did buy it few years back when we lived in a smaller place. The length is very good though and it's extendable which has been fantastic.



The miniature Christmas cracker and the napkin are both from John Lewis. I much prefer using smaller Christmas crackers in the dinner table. They are more practical and look very subtle compared to giant luxury ones that most shops seem to stock at the moment.

When it comes to Christmas glassware, I am a big fan of vintage. It's much more interesting to have a mix of contemporary and vintage in my opinion rather than just sticking to one style. The dessert bowls (below) were a great find in our local charity shop. They look chic with M&S gold place mats from last year that also double up as a serving tray. Marble coasters from Rockett St George look great with vintage glasses. The wine glasses are Galway Crystal and the impressive champagne flutes are Waterford Crystal 12 Days of Christmas Collection that come with a cute charm. Someone recently asked me if I actually have ever used all of our wine glasses. We do have a lot of wine glasses, close to 60 I'd say, but I have used them all and most of them we have actually received as presents from friends and family. I love rotating the glasses and will probably add some more to our collection at some point. The only problem is that I might need a bigger wine glass cabinet soon!




We are almost all set for Christmas now. I still need to wrap a few more presents and do some last minute shopping. Our house is looking and smelling very festive though and I have already started baking some gingerbread men. Nothing beats the smell of freshly baked cookies! I have one good tip though for post Christmas clean up. As much as I love using a white table cloth for Christmas dinner, I am always dreading getting the oily Turkey stains out that can be sometimes difficult to remove even in a 60 degree wash. If you get a stain that won't come off, soak the fabric in warm water and Fairy washing-up liquid before trying any other stain removers. So far it has done the trick for me but I usually act pretty quick so the stain won't have much time to settle.

Happy Christmas and Happy Entertaining!

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Tuesday, 1 December 2015

WINTER DECOR

Most people seem to decorate for spring and Christmas but in the last few years I have put a lot more effort into Halloween, Easter and Autumn as well. I don't actually make any big changes to our decor. I find that small, subtle changes can make a massive difference. Sometimes it's enough just to add some fresh flowers or change few cushion covers.

Our biggest project this year has been the new extension. I still love decorating this room, it's not even close to being ready, and I have been looking for some accessories for the winter months that don't scream Christmas. Don't get me wrong, I still love all the sparkly, even tacky, decorations for Christmas/New Year's Eve, but it's nice to have some decorations that you can display a little bit longer.

Changing the cushion covers is probably one of the quickest and most effective ways to change your existing decor. I'm a fan of West Elm cushions and the patterns they have out at the moment. The Modern Crewel Lattice cushion is handcrafted and the navy blue colour looks great with our light grey sofa. All the cushion covers are washable which is really important to me when you have children in the house. I find that sponge cleaning works a lot better though than putting them in the washing machine. I worry that the material is too delicate and don't want to risk shrinking them.



The bulls head (above) is from ebay and even though I didn't buy it Christmas in mind it does go with the theme incredibly well. I think for £50 it was the bargain of the century!

Our sheepskin rug is from John Lewis although it looks like they have sold out now. It goes to show how popular these are this time of year. To be honest, this room has been needing a rug for some time. I am not planning to keep it throughout the warmer months so I will need to find another one to replace it with soon. I love the softness and the texture of it and it actually stays on it's place very well. I was quite lucky to find one that is narrow and same length as our sofa.


A warm blanket is an absolute necessity in our house during the colder months. I am looking for a cosy cashmere throw but the Ikea Ursula Throw will do just fine for now. It's not quite as warm as I'd like it to be but I can use it all year round which is why it has been very practical.


Even though, most of our furniture detailing is silver/chrome, I love decorating with gold. In fact, I am happy to mix both as the outcome is usually more relaxed. One of my favourite British traditions is Christmas crackers. They are fun at the Christmas table and I tend to use them for decorations beforehand. I like buying mine in supermarkets and Sainsbury's have a great selection this year. I find these mini luxury crackers ideal for decorating. For more upmarket ones, check out the Monochrome Christmas Crackers from Rockett St George. The Iittala Nappula Candle Holder (below) looks pretty chic on the side table as well and it is now also available in beautiful grey. By the way, I buy most of my Iittala products in the UK these days. Prices are a lot more competitive, sad but true, and I don't have to worry about baggage allowance.


We got our nutcracker last year from the famous Nuremberg Christmas market (you can read about my trip to Nuremberg here) and I enjoy looking at him on our window sill. Most nutcrackers seem to be red but I preferred navy the minute I saw it. They say that navy is the new black and I couldn't agree more! It was a great souvenir and looks a bit quirky, in a good way of course! Gold and navy also seem to complement each other very well and add a bit of glamour to our decor.


There are plenty of festive cups and plates available right now in the shops. I have been looking for some elegant ones that you can use during the winter months. I didn't want anything that has Christmas written on it. These Christmas mugs from Laura Ashley (*gifted) are absolutely beautiful. I have been using them non stop since I got them. They are also dishwasher safe which is fantastic. I teamed them up with my marble coasters and I also think that marble is such a great material for winter decor. I do use marble all year round but especially around Christmas it seems like a more elegant alternative to traditional Christmas accessories.


I also love reindeer ornaments and stags head shapes that aren't necessarily associated with Christmas anymore. These paper napkins are from John Lewis and they are very understated and elegant. They match our other silver reindeer accessories and the bulls head above our sofa.



And, finally it wouldn't really feel like Christmas without the Jo Malone Pine & Eucalyptus candle. This is my 'must have' Christmas candle. It's pricey but if you like the smell of pine trees (and don't have a real tree like me) you will not be disappointed. The quality is superb and the scent lasts very long. It also disguises cooking smells amazingly well and is perfect on Christmas day when you don't want the whole house to smell like roast Turkey. You can read my last year's Christmas candle review here.


We put up our Christmas tree last weekend but I have so much more decorating to do. I think after this Christmas it's time to throw out some old decorations and make some room for new ones. My taste has certainly changed in the last 9 years we have lived in the UK and every year I seem to add a few more items to our collection. Would you believe we are still holding onto our old (tiny) Christmas tree that we bought for our very first flat. My husband is the one who is refusing to get rid of it as it was the first Christmas tree we bought together. I guess it does have some sentimental value which is why I am quite happy that we have a designated area for it in our bedroom.
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Tuesday, 10 November 2015

LAURA ASHLEY PRESS DAY SS16'

It's that time of the year again when brands are showcasing their new collections for spring/summer and I was excited to attend Laura Ashley's Press Day last week for the first time. It was held in their stunning headquarters near the Chelsea Harbour and I must say the new collections did not disappoint.

It was great to see so many contemporary pieces which is something I wasn't expecting to be honest. Laura Ashley are definitely trying to gain new customers by introducing more contemporary designs in their range as well as keeping the traditional flower patterns that their old customers would expect.

The City Dwelling Collection was my favourite out of all of them. Black and white images and greys and whites couldn't be more up my street. I particularly love the styling of this bedroom. There is something very relaxed about it and it doesn't look too 'staged' even though it is incredibly stylish.


I was also excited to see so many contrasting colours which is apparently a big interior trend for 2016. I love decorating with elegant grey colour tones and whites combined with metallics and darker colours. The dark/black cabinet (below) is beautiful and I love the materials they used for this collection. The whole collection has a real industrial feel about it but still feels very luxurious and stylish at the same time. The Alfred Light below (named after Alfred Hitchcock) is pretty fabulous too. In fact, Laura Ashley lighting collection really blew me away this time. They have so many stunning pieces that it's virtually impossible to pick your favourite.


I have always loved their textiles as well and I have quite a selection of cushions at home already. The designs did not disappoint me this time either and I am especially loving this black/grey bolster cushion. It is such a timeless design and has a real art deco flair to it which I adore.


Nordic design also seems pretty big at the moment and these minimalistic bar stools prove that less is more. The textured wood looks amazing against the black feet which really give them an edge. If I ever have a kitchen diner with an island, I would go for something similar.



I am loving decorating with white ever since we got our new extension earlier this year. In fact, our extension is looking pretty all white at the moment with a dash of brass, navy and grey. This white magazine rack is beautiful in all of its simplicity. You could also use it as a log holder so it's pretty versatile.


And, finally some colour! I am still in the process of adding some colourful prints to our extension (as well as the rest of the house). This peacock print caught my eye and it looks great on its own but you could also add a stunning vintage frame to make it a more of a statement piece. It could even look great as part of a 'messy' gallery wall.



Laura Ashley Art & Crafts collection is also worth mentioning and it's pretty clear that gold and brass are still very popular. This map side table looks very chic with the pineapple candle holders and I also happen to be a big fan of the Laura Ashley Pineapple Lamp which is available in two different sizes.


Take a peak at Laura Ashley Blog where you can admire the rest of the SS16 Collections. They have covered both home and fashion collections and there are some amazing pieces worth discovering. The new collections are out in February so keep an eye on the website for your favourites or pop into your nearest Laura Ashley store to have a closer look.

For more information visit www.lauraashley.com

PS. You can read about my recent collaboration with Laura Ashley here.
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Tuesday, 20 October 2015

COLLABORATION WITH SNAPFISH UK - DIY MONOCHROME COASTERS

I am a big fan of coasters and as far as I'm concerned you can never have too many in the house. They are great when you want to prevent scratches, especially since our dining room table is glass, and I love using them when entertaining. I have thought about getting personalised coasters or placemats before but never actually got around to it.

Snapfish UK are a leading online digital photo printing service and I have used their services for our Christmas cards in the past. I've always had a great experience dealing with their customer service as well so I was thrilled to be asked to work with them recently to create some unique DIY coasters.

Personalised coasters make great gifts and keepsakes as you all know. Now, some of you might consider photo coasters a little old fashioned or even 'tacky' but they don't have to be. Personalised means that you can print anything on them; funny quotes, food photography, polaroid style photos etc. They can feature so much more than just family photos, all you need to do is use your imagination and get creative.

Photography is a passion of mine so I knew straight away I'd like to use some of my own photos for this project. I could have of course used those thousands and thousands of pictures I have taken of my daughter but I wanted the coasters to be a little different. I felt they should reflect my own personality and style and be a pleasure to use of course. My other passion is interiors so I decided to feature some of my favourite tabletop pictures on them.

1) Choose your pictures

I started going through my old photos and had some serious trouble deciding what pictures to choose. There are so many interior shots that I have taken but I wanted all of them to belong to the same theme, like they would be part of a proper set. In the end, I chose photos with strong composition featuring some of my favourite glassware and accessories. Also, I cannot think of anything more timeless than black and white photography so it was pretty easy to stick to a monochrome theme from the beginning.

2) Edit & Photoshop

Now, this is the fun part. I used Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop Elements to edit my photos but there are plenty of free online editing softwares available as well. I like to do basic tweaks in Lightroom and then the more serious (I mean fun) stuff in Photoshop. You can actually do a bit of editing on the Snapfish website but it's mainly for cropping and auto correct. You won't have access to any filters, so if you want to get really creative you will need another software.

First I converted my photos to black and white and then I started playing around with filters in Photoshop to see which ones work best for each photo. In the end, I decided to use maximum two filters as I wanted all the coasters to look fairly similar. Cutout and Poster Edges were my favourites since they make the photos look as if they were painted.

Before!


After! (using Poster Edges Filter)


The great thing about filters is that you can get as creative as you like. You can instantly make a dull image interesting and people and architecture work as well as close up shots. I also noticed that they can really improve the images and hide imperfections very well. If you are using Instagram filters, remember that the photo quality is lower and once you apply them it reduced the quality even further.

3) Order on Snapfish

Ordering via the website is very quick and easy. You login, upload your photos and then choose what product you wish to purchase. I find it easy to navigate, although I prefer to use the search box rather than the drop down option. You can make some last minute changes before you hit submit and even after you have submitted your order. I also had to go back to resize a few photos as they would have been too cropped on the coasters otherwise. If for some reason your photo resolution is not sufficient, an orange triangle will pop up as a warning. If this happens, it's better to choose another photo so you won't be disappointed with the quality of the print.

There's one thing I would like to improve though. It would be nice to be able to zoom in the coasters before purchasing them. The smaller image is good enough to view the photos but zooming in would give you a even more realistic idea of what they will look like.

My coasters arrived within 3 working days and I am thrilled with them. I cannot quite decide which one is my favourite as I love them all! They have heat resistant, non-slip backing and measure 4"x4" x 1/8". The quality looks excellent and the glossy surface works very well with black and white images. I love the contemporary look and I'm sure we'll get plenty of use out of them.

What do you think?






I have taken my photos with a SLR camera but a fancy camera is not a requirement for this project. It's a lot more important to be creative and have a good eye. I have seen some really funny coasters that would make great statement pieces for a dinner party which is something I might do next.

* Although this is a sponsored post, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Tuesday, 13 October 2015

MINIMALISTIC HALLOWEEN DECOR

I seem to get our house Halloween-ready earlier each year now. It's a great celebration when you have kids and it's a perfect time to throw a costume party for adults too. Last year I went for sparkly Halloween decorations (read here) but I decided to keep things a bit more minimalistic this year. Mainly, because we have a lot on at the moment and I don't think I will have time to do much DIY or even throw a party. I still wanted to add a few simple touches to our house that are classy and bring a bit of colour to our black and white decor.

I am loving orange at the moment. Bright orange roses are ideal for Halloween. Sometimes all you need is a simple vase and some pretty flowers. It can be tricky to find the right shade of orange but I think these are perfect. They are fluffy and bright and add an instant pop of colour to any white room. 


Having few single roses works too. I find that often less is more and I tend to use this candle holder more as a vase than anything else. I got it in sale last December from John Lewis but you can find a similar one from here.


H&M have a great selection of Halloween accessories this year and I am loving their monochrome tableware. Black and white are always an elegant choice for a dinner party and I don't think you can go wrong with it for Halloween either. It's definitely the classier alternative to Halloween but I do wonder how long it will be before the mini-decorators will take over?! I tend to use paper cups and plates for Halloween since they are so convenient and easy with children. It's also nice to be able to go for a different look each year. I got the Chilewich Mod Placemat in brass from my favourite online shop Amara and it has now found it's permanent spot on our Habitat KILO side table. By the way, Pretty Little Party Shop also have a great selection of stylish Halloween supplies to choose from.





I am also a big fan of vintage glassware at the moment. There are plenty of second hand shops near where we live and I like to visit them every few weeks to see if anything new has arrived. It is a bit of a hit and miss sometimes but I have recently gotten very lucky. Often I just end up buying something and spray painting it in different colour (especially if it has some marks on it). I got these vintage ice cream bowls a while ago and I keep using them all the time. They are almost a bit too small for ice cream (or perhaps I should be making smaller portions..) so I tend to use them for decorative purposes most of the time.


I don't usually share recipes on the blog but I had to take a picture of these decorated marshmallow pops as they were incredibly easy and quick to make. I had to prepare something very fast few days ago when a friend was visiting and these fit the bill perfectly. I dipped the marshmallows in (melted) white chocolate and covered them with sprinkles. My daughter actually did most of the decorating and seemed to enjoy the preparation almost as much as eating them. I didn't have any lolly sticks so I just decided to cut our striped paper straws in half. I will be definitely making these for our next dinner party!


Finally, I couldn't resist getting this door sign for our house from Waitrose. I've been looking for one since last year and this one seems to be much better quality than anything else I've seen. I cannot wait to hang it up on our front door on the 31st and wait for the trick or treaters. My husband wore a skeleton costume last year and managed to scare most of the kids (and adults) on our street so I just hope that they do show up this year!?


Happy Halloween!
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Tuesday, 6 October 2015

HOUSE FULL OF CANDLES

I'm addicted to scented candles and I always like to try out new ones (although I tend to go back to my old favourites in the end). Since there is a real sense of autumn in the air, I feel like lighting a candle in every room in the house in the evenings. My bath candles smell very different to the ones in the lounge or dining room. I also feel it's particularly nice to have one in the hall so that people smell the scent the minute they walk in. As much as I like to recommend candles, it's all down to personal taste really. Here's few hits and misses that I recently discovered.

DIPTYQUE BAIES

I have been dying to get my hands on these iconic candles. They have been featured in many blogs and magazines and I just had to see what the fuss was about. Diptyque candles remind me of my favourite brand Jo Malone. They smell luxurious and the packaging is simple and elegant (which really appeals to me). I decided to get one of their more popular scents Baies which is actually a pretty light, feminine scent (think of roses and blackcurrant leaves).


Baies is a very subtle, beautiful scent but in our open-plan dining room/kitchen/lounge combo, I felt like it got lost a little bit. I hoped that it would be a bit more fragrant than it was in reality. Maybe I should have gone for the bigger size, who knows? However, this scented candle is perfect for our living room and bedroom but I certainly wouldn't use it in a large open plan area. It also took a long time for the wax to melt (over 3 hours) and I could see some tunnelling which thankfully disappeared after it was lit up for the second time.

Also, my husband found the scent too feminine so I'd say it's more suitable for women. If you are curious to try these out, it might be better to get the travel size (90 g) candle first.

NEOM TIME TO UNWIND

NEOM is a firm bath time favourite of mine. The smell of essential oils make you feel like you're in a spa getting a massage and in fact many luxury spas use Neom products. The candles not only smell nice, but have therapeutic well being benefits as well. Time To Unwind has a soft, calming fragrance of bluebell, guaiac wood and rose that will help you to destress and regain focus. It is the ultimate spa candle and I like to pair it with the bath foam. The good thing about Neom is that they have sales online and I've also seen their products in TKMaxx and Achica. They are excellent value and you can also collect points with every purchase which is nice.


JO MALONE

Jo Malone has been my favourite for many years now. Their scents are strong and you only need to burn the candle for a short time and the scent lingers for hours. I am using two candles at the moment. Pomegranate Noir is my favourite scented candle of all times and if I could only buy one candle it would be this. The scent is fruity with a hint of spice. It's sophisticated, understated and elegant. I find this candle ideal for dinner parties or when you want to unwind. Jo Malone candles are definitely a luxury but because they usually last ages (at least 4 months) I can just about justify this obsession of mine.

We are currently using a 3 wick candle in our lounge which is ideal for a large open-plan area or a room with high ceilings. I usually place the candle on the dining room table and it definitely fills up all three spaces. I also find that 3 wick candles burn more evenly than 1 wick candles but with Jo Malone that is usually not a problem. Also, don't forget that just like Jo Malone fragrances, the candles can be mixed (by burning them at the same time) to create unique scents that complement each other.


Last year Jo Malone launched their new home candle collection by fashion editor and stylist Charlotte Stockdale. It features 4 new home scents that will help you to relax and unwind: Lavender & Lovage, Green Tomato Leaf, Sweet Almond & Macaroon and Incense & Embers. We are using the Lavender & Lovage home candle in our living room at the moment. I love the clean, crisp lavender but the aromatic rosemary and thyme are a bit too much for me. My husband really likes this candle so I have a feeling we will get another one very soon but personally I'm more curious to try the Sweet Almond & Macaroon scented candle as I love the smell of creamy coconut and vanilla.


LALIQUE FIGUIER

Lalique's Figuier Amalfi was a present from my sister a while ago and the first thing that came to my mind was their stunning crystal decorations. I had no idea they also do candles but I was positively surprised. I could smell the scent in our hall before I even managed to light the candle. This scent really makes you feel like you are in the coast of Italy rather than in your living room in England. The citrus flowers and fresh and dried figs give this candle a bit of 'oomph'. I would say this is a unisex scent. I mean who doesn't like the smell of sea breeze?! It is ideal for summer/spring as it's quite light and fresh but I suppose it's down to your personal taste.

I also adore the black glass case and I have no doubt I will be holding onto it even once this candle is finished. The scent might not be ideal for a large open-plan area but it's perfect for medium/small size room. I also noticed that the smell got stronger towards the end which was interesting. I do think this is one of my pre-holiday must-haves now.


BOTANICS SUMMER PICNIC BY HEAL'S (* gifted)

Heal's started their own Botanicals range last year and I received one of these candles in their press show. Heals Botanicals Summer Picnic features mandarin, basil and lime bringing the essence of a parkland picnic to your home. It is definitely a scent for the summer and much fresher/lighter than Lalique's Figuer. I'm not sure if anyone else has noticed this but most pillar candles don't seem to give as much fragrance as the ones in containers? The worst thing is they all seem to tunnel which is annoying/difficult to fix. I know pillar and poured candles are best for long burning sessions and I do think that you need to burn them for a long time to get enough fragrance to fill a room.

There is definitely room in the market for mid range candles that are good value for money and luxurious at the same time. Unfortunately, the Summer Picnic scent wasn't strong enough for my liking. I would be tempted to try Woodnotes mini candles in stead as they are supposed to give more fragrance than the British Botanics range.


SAINSBURY'S FIG & OLIVE OIL TEALIGHTS

Finally, I had to try some supermarket tea lights even though they seem to disappoint me most of the time. These smelt amazing in the shop but once I was burning them I could hardly smell the fragrance. I adore the smell of fig but I would have to say that the Fresh Fig Signature Candle from The White Company is a lot better value for money. I find the travel size good enough especially when you light 3-4 at the same time.

Does anyone have any good recommendations? Now that Christmas is around the corner, I am considering some new candles to test out. You can also read my last years Christmas Candle Review here.

Tip!

Some candles have great cold throw (scent when the candle is not lit) but this doesn't actually mean that you can smell the fragrance when burning them. I've found that candles that are oily to touch, tend to give more fragrance. So rather than just smelling the candles, try touching them as well to see what the texture is like.
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