Friday, August 29

Trend-spotting: Bolster Cushions

I'm going to stick my neck out here and predict that oversized bolster cushions are going to be everywhere over the coming months.  And not just on beds - you'll see them on bench seats and sofas too. They look so comfy and inviting - perfect for snuggling up on during the winter that is nearly upon us.

I spotted one a while back on the ever fabulous DesignLoveFest, in Bri's beautiful bedroom. (That's the light I want for my kitchen. Le sigh...)

Image: Bri Emery / DesignLoveFest
I'd been hanging on to an amazing piece of vintage Chinoiserie Linen that I'd found on eBay for a steal well over a year ago, that I just didn't know what to do with. Cutting it into smaller pieces for standard sized cushions would have wasted the design, but I didn't have enough to do much more with it. So when I saw this image, I instantly knew it was the perfect thing to make with my linen.  I used the entire width of the fabric to incorporate the beautiful lattice border.  I used the linen for the front only, piped it with black velvet, and the back is heavy-weight charcoal cotton.  I love, love, love it.  It looks like a really expensive piece, but in fact cost me less than £10 just for the pad - everything else I already had in my studio.

I think this shape looks more contemporary and relaxed than a traditional cylindrical bolster, but anything goes. Really, it's all about using a great fabric. These are a great way to add pattern to a room without the expense or commitment of wallpaper. Unless you go for ├╝ber expensive fabric of course, but if you only use your 'good' fabric on the front, you don't need much at all.  My husband is so thrilled that there's another cushion on the bed. Not.


Tuesday, August 26

The 'new' house plants every self-respecting interior obsessive must have!

I know the title is a tad dramatic, and yes, you've seen some of these loads already, BUT I do think that you will start seeing a few house plants popping up online, in the glossies, and yes, even in real life over the coming months, that you just might not have seen before. And I'm excited.

It's feeling decidedly Autumnal in the UK suddenly (Boo! I want more summer!), but let's not let that fact spoil our indoor plant fun. In fact, surely if we surround ourselves with plants that have a tropical feel, and pop the heating on, on the days when the sun graces us with a bit of shine, we can trick ourselves into believing it's still warm out there.  Maybe?

Yes? Let's give it a go then...

We already know that succulents are a 'thing', and that indoor plants have made a huge comeback over the last year or so, having been absent from the interiors hot list for quite some time, but what plants should you buy, once your little succulent collection is nearly complete? Or, god forbid, dead?
Image: Unknown via Pinterest
Ananas comosus chamaca / Ananas comosus variegatus - Dwarf Pineapple/Ivory Pineapple. I was stupidly excited (told you) when I saw these at Ikea the other week. I can't believe that I just didn't have the hands to buy a couple there and then. I'll definitely be making a trip back for some very soon. The Variegatus has a spiky/variegated leaf, the one pictured (Chamaca) doesn't.  They're both great. Instant sunshine in a pot, and a total no-brainer. Get one.

Image: Unknown via Pinterest
Zamioculcas zamifolia or Zamia furfuracea - That's a Zamia Plant to you and me, and also known as a Cardboard Plant, Jamaican Sago and ZZ Plant. It was complete and utter love at first sight for me when I recently saw one of these for the first time. Just beautiful.  I'll be tracking one of these sculptural beauties down pronto. Oops, just did - you can buy one here.

Image: Unknown via Pinterest

Cryptocereus anthonyanus (yes, really) - also known as a Ric Rac Cactus, Fishbone Cactus or Orchid Cactus. It's seemingly impossible to find a great image of one of these to show off it's beauty, so I'll post one once I've procured one, but trust me, these are stunning. I'm going to hang one in my kitchen, and pray it's warm enough for it as we venture into winter.

Image: Kindra Clineff (via

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora - This one is probably not new to you, but it's new to me. I've decided I need to stop being lazy and calling all succulents, 'succulents', and learn their names (even if I can't pronounce them). We need to know our Aloes and Agaves from our Echeverias and Crassulaceaes, which is the family that this lovely looking specimen falls in to. Commonly known as a Paddle Plant for obvious reasons, and it's totally on my list.

Fiddle Leaf Fig, and if you squint you can see a Zamia peeping out from behind it.
Image: Bianca Hall
And last, but most definitely not least, this one is probably not new to you - we all know and lust after the Fiddle Leaf Fig (or Ficus lyrata if you want to get technical). I actually gasped out loud at the beauty of the one above when I stumbled upon it, having never seen one in the flesh before. How does a plant or tree reach A-list celebrity status? By being incredibly beautiful and photogenic for a start. If ever there was an A-list plant, this is it. Why haven't I got one yet? Because they're not cheap, and I'm terrified of buying one and killing it. This won't stop me from ever getting one, it's Christmas soon after all. Kimberly over at Swoon Worthy discovered an online UK Fiddle Leaf Fig supplier and was kind enough to share back in March. She tells me that hers is doing really well, which fills me with hope for my future as the proud owner of one. Soon, very soon.


Thursday, August 21

Confessions of an eBay addict

I'm an eBay addict. My addiction goes through phases of being 'worse' and 'better', and sometimes lies dormant for a several months, but I'm often in the throes of a buying frenzy, and can sometimes be found listing stuff to sell too. Though it's fun selling, nothing beats the thrill of the last second, adrenalin-rush-inducing, bid. Especially when you win.

Lately I've been on a bit of a bender, which is directly related to my being on a mission to whip our house back into shape, as it's been somewhat neglected over the last few years (which coincides with the arrival of our littlest).

I realised that things were looking rather average in pretty much every room. You know when you're so used to seeing things that you don't notice them anymore? And then when you do notice them you realise that not only do you not like them, but you actually hate them? Yes, that. That's been happening loads, so I'm having a big shakeup round here. You may know I'm currently revamping our kitchen, which is of course taking way longer than anticipated due to a barrage of illness going around in circles in our house. Bear with me though, it will be finished(ish) in about three weeks, then I can finally show you the fruits of my labour.

Most of the things I buy on eBay fall into the decorative, furniture and DIY categories. I often giggle when I see what my husband is looking at as we share the same account, so our watch list is combined, and it couldn't be more varied. Whilst he's looking at Japanese denim, vintage workwear, skateboard paraphernalia, and bicycle wheels, I'm looking at vintage ceramic lamps, brass side tables, tiles, spice racks and wicker chairs. We have an unspoken rule, that neither of us can comment on what the other is currently stalking. And it is a form of stalking.

My friend Kimberly over at Swoon Worthy wrote a great post about how to become an eBay ninja. I proudly put myself firmly in that category already, but if you're not and you want to be, I suggest you study this helpful guide.

People often say, 'you find the best stuff, you're so lucky', or 'I never find anything good on eBay'. I say YOU'RE NOT TRYING HARD ENOUGH. You have to really want to find the good stuff, it won't find you. It's not uncommon for me to look at hundreds and hundreds of listings when I'm looking for something in particular, often over a period of weeks or even months.

I think that for me, a huge part of my eBay obsession is that it serves as a substitute to going to antique shops and markets as I just don't have the time, and couldn't think of anything less relaxing than doing so with two children in tow even if I did have the time.

So, here are a few(!) things I've bought over the last two years, where they are in our house, AND the prices I've paid for everything!

A pair of ceramic Chinese Foo Dogs (or Temple Dogs) - £40.00. They live on a glass and chrome trolley also from eBay in the living room.

A solid brass vintage panther - £5.51. He's a recent addition, and currently hanging out on the new kitchen table (not from eBay!), but he'll most likely move into my studio.

A pair of antique brass Welsh guards coat hooks - £4.99. These will be tea towel hooks in the kitchen.

A pair of ceramic Staffordshire Spaniels - £26.59. They live on the dining room sideboard. I love their ridiculous faces!

A 1.4 metre piece of vintage chinoiserie linen - £11.40. I've just made a huge decorative bolster cushion from this for our bed.  I have some left over, so might make some smaller cushions too.

A grey sheepskin - £22.00. This is new, in fact it just arrived this morning, and it'll cosy up a sofa in our living room. It replaces an old cream one that was a victim of the recent spate of illness in our house.  I won't subject you to the details - it wasn't pretty, but what a brilliant excuse to buy the grey one I'd been wanting.

Oh my god, I'm like the very hungry caterpillar!!

Not pictured, but in the spirit of this confessional post, here goes...

A seventies or eighties lucite side table on castors - £49.99. Love this, a total bargain.  It's in our living room.

A seventies chrome and glass trolley - £51.00. Again, in our living room.

A mini wicker chair - £26.00. May have paid a little too much for this, but it's adorable.  It hangs out in Baxters room, with a teeny green zebra print cushion I made for it.

A pair of lampshades custom made with Sanderson fabric to die for £70. These are so beautiful. I found this woman who just happened to have the perfect amount of Sandersons Rainforest fabric in green to make me two shades. These are on some eBay lamp bases (surprise surprise) on the dining room sideboard.

A wicker side table - £20.00. I spray painted this black, and it's currently my bedside table, but we're switching rooms (again) soon, then it will become a plant stand in the studio or kitchen. I need to get a piece of glass cut (maybe smoked or mirror) for the top as it's a bit wonky.

A huge vintage ceramic Wedgwood lamp base - £20.00. I adore this lamp and it was a complete bargain. It's a golden mustardy colour, and I bought a huge silk turquoise lampshade to go on it. That wasn't a bargain by any stretch. With the shade it stands just shy of 70 centimetres tall (about 27 inches), so it's a real statement piece, and looks great on the lucite side table in our living room.

A vintage ceramic chinoiserie lamp base -  £12.00. This lives in our bedroom.  It's a yellow/mustard colour and currently has a purple shade, which actually works really well, though it was just one I had hanging around.  I may change the shade when we move rooms.

Several other lamps - some more successful than others, so we won't talk about that!!

Most recently, this week in fact, I won a pair of antique bedside cabinets which are ready for a glossy coat (or five) of paint which you'll see in due course, for £51.00 (plus £39 for a courier delivery). That's quite a big spend for me on eBay, but I've been searching on and off for years for something like these.

Oh, and a wicker rocking chair, FOR NINETY-NINE PENCE! Okay, so I haven't laid eyes on it in the flesh yet, as my father-in-law has kindly collected it for me, but it was photographed dreadfully with hideous filthy cushions on it, and I think it might just be a total bargain.

So, am I done on my eBay spree?  Ah, not likely.  I'm currently stalking a piece of furniture for my about to be re-vamped studio, and I'm always on the lookout for a nice but relatively cheap wicker Peacock chair for my daughters bedroom. And a million other things I don't even know about yet.


Saturday, August 2

Golden Numbers

Until a few years ago, I hadn't given a thought to what our house number looked like, or any house number for that matter - they were purely practical things that just existed.

However, I came down with a serious case of Front Of House Envy, when I spotted a house a few streets away, and besides it's gorgeous charcoal exterior, pale teal front door, and perfect hedge, the house number was gilded on the window above the front door, and I LOVED it.

It was the house number that really sealed the deal, and I became ever so slightly obsessed, often going out of my way to walk past that house, just to admire the house number. Again.

Kristen Cutlip is an artist and sign-writer who learned the art of glass gilding under the eye of Sandra Spannan, who is responsible for the gilded sign writing that graces Balthazar in New York, amongst many other Manhattan establishments and homes. Together they worked on the London branch of Balthazar, and Kristen continues to work on both commercial and domestic projects in and around London.

Kristen happens to be a friend of ours, and when she heard that I wanted our house number done, she offered to do it. Ummmm, OKAY!!!!

After six years or so, I was a bit concerned that the old window film I'd put on may have stuck permanently to the window, or be a total nightmare to get off, but it came off cleanly to make way for our very own golden numbers (yes, thanks Mr Hall).

'Transom' is the American term for the window above a door, however, there doesn't really seem to be a specific name for them here in the UK. They're sometimes referred to as a 'Fanlight' (if it's a fan shape), but I think I'll stick with 'the-window-above-the-front-door'. Stop me if I'm getting too technical.

We had previously agreed on the typeface, size and colours - classic engravers font in real gold leaf, with a black outline, so the first step after making sure the window was squeaky clean, was to transfer the outline onto the inside of the window by hand, using black sign-writers enamel.  There's quite a bit of drying time involved after each step, so I plied her with Matcha and croissants (of course).

Next, the inside of the number is prepped with a gelatine mixture, before the gold leaf is applied. Once dry, the edges are cleaned up, and a gold enamel backing is layered on top of the gold-leaf to protect it and make sure no hairline cracks show up.  This is then followed by a black coat (or it can be left as is, or matched to whatever outline colour you've chosen).

Et Voila! A beautiful work of art, hand-painted, Front Of House Envy inducing, house number!

Our beautiful new house number has inspired me to get my act together and sort out the bay window that is in desperate need of some TLC, and finish painting the door surround. When that's done I'll show you a proper before and after of the front of the house, but I wouldn't do the gilding justice revealing it in it's current state. Trust me.

Meantime, you can contact Kristen if you want your 'window-above-the-front-door' number gilded, or any other gilding or sign-writing for that matter.  The cost varies depending on the number and size (obviously a small number 1 won't take as long or as much gold-leaf as a large number 92), so it's best to phone for a quotation. Quick before one of your neighbours beats you to it!

Cutlip Signs / 07816 577 963
You can also see some of Kristens work by searching #cutlipsigns on Instagram

© Bianca Hall. All rights reserved.