Archive | April, 2011

A bird on the handle

28 Apr

I’m always reading how giving a piece of old furniture a lick of paint and adding new handles can transform it, but finding that perfect item of ‘old furniture’ can be harder than you’d think. Plus, all that sanding, undercoating and painting can take ages. So, my top tip is to simply replace the handles on a new piece of furniture – I’ve just added one of these cute bird knobs, £4.95 from www.mithus.co.uk, to a white Ikea bedside table, and lined the drawer with a piece of leftover Japanese print wallpaper. It now looks unique, and only took ten minutes max. Whereas I only had one handle to replace, I reckon a mixture of coloured birds dancing down a white chest of drawers would look awesome.

Jelly good

25 Apr

The last time I ate jelly was back in the very early 1980s, when my mum made me orange-flavoured jelly in a rabbit mould and surrounded it with wobbly green jelly ‘grass’. I don’t know why it went out of fashion – it’s cheap, tasty, low in calories and takes just minutes to make. So, I was pleased to hear that it’s making a comeback, thanks to the retro baking revival (more on that in future posts). My mum no longer has that rabbit mould, so I’ve got another excuse to go shopping – only thing is, I can’t decide between these gorgeous 50s-inspired mini moulds from http://www.dotcomgiftshop.com/, just £2.95 for four; and these pastel silicone set, £7.50 for four from Marks and Spencer (http://www.marksandspencer.com/) which you can also use to cook cakes in…

Just tin time

22 Apr

I’m a big believer in the ‘hide everything away and the place will automatically look tidy’ philosophy. So, anyone who visits my home will see neat-looking chests of drawers and not the piles of rubbish that lie inside. But now my drawers are so full I have to ram them shut, and I’ve realised it’s time to take action. So, I’m going to invest in some pretty tins, like these doily patterned tins from www.berryred.co.uk, (£9.95 for four) and retro fruit tins from Jamie at Home (www.jamieathome.co.uk, £16 for three). That way, when people open my drawers, all they’ll see is a load of pretty tins, not the rubbish inside them…. Well, it’s a start, isn’t it?!

Get your fax straight

21 Apr

This year, I’m determined to be organised… so, I’ve invested in a Filofax. Once the domain of 80’s city types in suits, the brand is having a revival, thanks to new, pretty prints and smaller sizes (some of the old ones were like carting a brick around). I’ve gone for a little green ‘Songbird’ pocket version (above, £27 from John Lewis, www.johnlewis.com), At just 12cm x 8cm, it’s big enough to find easily in my bag, and small enough not to be a nuisance. Plus, unlike an iPhone, it’ll never run out of battery!

Hot goss: bunnies

20 Apr

Stuck for a last-minute Easter present? I’ve fallen in love with these floppy-eared fellas from posh teddy bear company Steiff (http://www.steiff.com/). They come in this year’s pastel shades – pink, blue, lilac and green – with contrasting coloured scarves and carry the trademark Steiff button. At £36, they’re not cheap, but then as nearly everything Steiff make seems to become a collector’s item, it could be an investment. Well, that’s what I’m telling myself, anyhow!

Gnome sweet gnome

19 Apr

Since posting about the bride and groom gnomes specially created for the Royal Wedding, I’ve started seeing the be-hatted little fellas everywhere. In fact, when I saw these cute gnome flares (above) and candles (below), £7.50 each from http://www.berryred.co.uk/, in this year’s hot bright colours, I even started seriously considering buying one for my own garden. I must be getting old…

Thank folk for that!

18 Apr

One quirky trend that’s quietly sneaking onto shelves at the moment is ‘folk’ inspired products. Think Polish papercutting, homespun accessories, traditional fox and dove motifs and brightly-painted Romany patterns. Folk stuff looks unusual and expensive, but you can pick it up quite cheaply if you know where to look.
Here’s my pick of the best:
Folklore tea towel, £9.99, The Contemporary Home http://www.tch.net/; Set of three nestling folklore tins, £12.99, Strawberry Fool http://www.strawberryfool.co.uk/; Ania Mug in turquoise/berry, £8, http://www.dotmaison.com/

All things considered

15 Apr
The perfect wedding present is well-designed, useful, classy, and has a bit of personality. Stuck for ideas that aren’t a) picture frames or b) vases? Check out the Well Considered range of quirky, colourful products at The Conran Shop (http://www.conranshop.co.uk/). Seeing the word ‘Conran’, you’d assume they were pricey – which is exactly what you want people to think when you give them a wedding gift! – but while this stuff looks designer and comes in pretty boxes, the prices are very much high street.
Next time I’m invited to a Big Day, I’ll be splurging on either the cute set of four mixing bowls, £29; this cool bread bin, £19.95; or a couple of these handy kitchen/garden chairs, just £12.95 each (also available in black, white and turquoise – if certain colours aren’t in stock, they’ll disappear from the website, but keep trying!).

Flask in the sunshine

15 Apr

I’m not a big camper; I’m not one of those people who needs a hot drink on their way to work; and if I’m going on a picnic, I’ll just chuck a couple of cans of pop in a cool bag. But there’s something so lovely about these new candy-coloured flasks, £20 each from www.berryred.co.uk that makes me want to change my ways immediately! The only problem I’ve got now is which one to choose…

Eggs-tra special

14 Apr
There’s a Waitrose next to my office, and since moving here, I’ve had to try and avoid it, as their stuff is always so prettily packaged that I end up spending a small fortune. Still, I couldn’t resist these gorgeous jelly eggs today (£3.50 or three-for-two). In theory, I’m going to put piles of them in a cute butterfly serving bowl, £11.58 (below, available in yellow, blue or lilac) from Formahouse.co.uk on my Easter table; in reality, I’ll have scoffed them long beforehand. But it’s a nice thought.

Come dry with me

13 Apr

I’ve seen some crazy Royal Wedding memorabillia in recent months – everything from crown-shaped biscuits and ‘commemorative’ garden seats to bride’n’groom gnomes (below, £20 a pair from B&Q, if you must know!). And as someone who secretly has a soft spot for the Queen, I wanted to get at least one souvenir of the Big Day. So, I’ve just bought the blue and green “I Do” tea towel, by Swedish designer Maria Dahlgren.
It’s got sweet little touches like a “W hearts K” carved in the tree, and two little birds, one of whom is wearing a crown, carrying a heart-shaped twig (or is is, slightly less romantically, a worm?) in their beaks. It’s available all over the web, but www.firebox.com have it cheapest, at £11.99 (with free P&P).

Just the stool for the job

12 Apr

The humble stool, one of the most useful pieces of furniture you can buy, is making a comeback.
I’m loving this beautiful lacquered bamboo version from House of Fraser (www.houseoffraser.co.uk). Available in sunshine yellow, purple, hot pink and this year’s ‘it’ colour, teal, it works as both a handy seat or mini table in any room of the house. It looks ultra expensive, but is just £40 – a bargain if you’re just buying a single stool, but I’m betting that once you get one, you’ll probably want the full set!
NEWS JUST IN! I’ve just discovered these stools are reduced for a limited time only – they’re currently £32. Snap ’em up quick!

Ear we go…

11 Apr

Now I know, and you know, that no-one ever really ‘needs’ salad servers – a couple of big spoons will do the job just as well. But then I saw these – not much to look at out of the salad bowl, but stick ’em in a heap of lettuce and they’re transformed into something genius. Rabbit Ear salad servers, just £5.95 from www.cubicuk.com

Build a little birdhouse in your soul

8 Apr
Following my failure with the birdtable, I’ve now decided to try a different tack – I’m going to try and lure birds into my garden by providing the best-looking birdhouses on the block.
There are lots of ‘ordinary’ ones around, but I’m going to go for something prettier, like this Decorative Wood birdhouse, £8.99, The Range (www.therange.co.uk) or this brilliant designer-look Hot Pink Cube Nest Box, £4 (was £4.98) from B&Q (www.diy.com).
Can’t be bothered to buy one? Get a paint tester pot and revamp an old wooden birdhouse by painting it in a bright purple, teal or sunny yellow.

Russian around

7 Apr

Ever since I was lucky enough to go to Russia on a school trip (back in the days where travelling there was cheaper than buying a return train ticket to London, and vodka was 50p a bottle – dangerous territory for a group of 16-year-olds…), I’ve had a soft spot for fat, friendly-looking Russian dolls. so, when I heard a dance troupe of Russian grannies, called The Babuskas was vying to be Russia’s Eurovision entry this year, I thought I’d cheer them on by showing you all three of the cutest Babuska-themed goodies going. Pictured from the top are: the brilliantly-named Babuskcups, £11.25 for three, http://www.flamingogifts.co.uk/; Little Women mug, £12, http://www.notonthehighstreet.com/; and Matryoshka measuring cups, £9.95, from http://www.cubicuk.com/ – perfect for recipes that involve American ‘cup’ measures.

Cup a load of these!

6 Apr
Hands up who remembers those brilliantly kitsch spotty plastic beakers that seemed to be everywhere when we were kids? I’ve been hunting for some recently, as the sunny weather combined with the fact I’ve finally got round to filling in the giant hole in my back garden where an ornamental koi carp pond used to be (not my doing, honest) has been making me think of updating my picnicware supplies. 
They’re surprisingly hard to track down, but I finally found them at www.arkcambridge.co.uk, £9.95 for a set of six different colours. However, just as I was about to click the ‘buy’ button, I also found these classy coloured plastic glasses at www.gltc.co.uk,  £15 for six in this year’s ice-cream coloured shades (below). Decisions, decisions…

Welcome to the cheap seats!

5 Apr

Before you pooh-pooh BHS as a good place to shop for chic homewares, take a look at their website. Hidden among the sensible blouses and Christmas gift sets are some surprisingly stylish pieces. I was particularly impressed by their chairs – some of which wouldn’t look out of place in Elle Deco. Check out my favourite, the Valencia rocking chair – at £85, it’s way cheaper than a similar designer version, which would cost around £400; plus you try getting a rocking chair for under £100 these days. It’s hard, I tell you!

Squirreled away

4 Apr

I recently bought a bird table. I had fond visions of painting it eau de nil and making friends with the robins, bluetits and blackbirds.
Sadly, after just one day, I realise this will never be. The reason? Squirrels. There are two of the critters who visit my garden every day, and when I looked out of my window this morning, one of them was sat right in the middle of the table, bold as brass, eating all the crumbled biscuits I’d left out (I’d read that sweet things are better for birds than bread). Outrageous!
I don’t want to shoot them as some people have suggested (!), so I’ve decided that the only thing to do is to embrace the furry little beasts. Not literally, you understand, but by championing squirrel-chic as a cute way to decorate your home. So… check out this friendly-looking coat hook, £10.50 for two, and drawing pin set, £7.95, both from www.cubicuk.com.

Chick of the day

1 Apr

This Easter, both my mum and sister-in-law have sworn off chocolate. While this means I can ‘help them out’ by eating all their eggs, it also means I have to come up with something else to give them other than the usual Lindt bunny. And I think I’ve found the answer. These mega cute Funky Chicken (that’s their official name!) doorstops are made from vintage retro print fabrics and come flat packed – making them easy to pop in the post – ready to be filled with rice. Oh, and all the packaging is eco-friendly too. There are 20 designs, each with it’s own name (pictured are Blake and Heidi) and at just £12 each from Greenwich market in London or from http://www.refab.co.uk/ you can afford to treat yourself to one too!

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