Wednesday, November 28

Battening Down The Hatches [Combatting The Winter Blues]: Warmth

Today in my ongoing Battening Down The Hatches series, I'm looking at warmth. Both physical and visual warmth are super important at this time of year - we all want to feel cosy in our homes when it's cold outside, but we also want our homes to look warm and inviting for ourselves and guests. Texture, in the form of throws, cushions and perhaps the odd sheepskin work fast miracles in this department.



Drape a throw or two over the sofa and armchairs, add a Mongolian sheepskin and some textured cushions and voila, you can take a space from cold and stark to cosy and inviting just like that.

I've pulled together an edit of my current favourite pieces to help you warm up your space. I'll have one of everything, pretty please!



1. Soft Palette Blanket by BFGF at A New Tribe

I've been obsessed with BFGF throws for quite a while now and am determined to own one one day! These are such cool pieces that really are works of art in their own right and would look brilliant framed (admittedly the frame would cost more than the blanket, but the point is, you'd have a large scale heirloom piece of art for a fraction of the price that something that size would normally cost). But as we're talking about warmth, just throw it on the sofa for now, and maybe have it framed in the Spring!

2. Faux Fur Brushed Tips Throw - West Elm 

I of course knew that West Elm would have some fabulous throws - you can't really beat a bit of faux fur for cosy texture, and these are so stunning!

3. Rain Throw by Sylvain Willenz at Hem

I spotted this one the other week at the Hem pop-up at the new Coal Drops Yard in Kings Cross. Can't stop thinking about it, so here it is.

4. Labyrinth Throw - One Nine Eight Five

Obsessive?! How very dare you! Okay, yes, I am obsessed with this amazing Labyrinth throw by One Nine Eight Five (made from 75% recycled cotton) - it really is talking my language.

5. Mongolian Sheepskin Throw - Suburban Salon

Nothing adds texture like a Mongolian sheepskin, and the very clever Julia from Suburban Salon has nailed it with her beautiful collection.

6. Jacquard Weave Leopard Print Blanket - H&M

I bought one of these fab leopard print blankets a while ago (pictured up top) and they work brilliantly with so many different styles.

7. July Throw by Slowdown Studio at Opumo

Yes I'm also slightly obsessed with this throw by London based Illustrator James Daw from Slowdown Studio which would also make an incredible piece of art. I really really really really want one!

8. Stripe Mohair Blanket by VISO at The Conran Shop

A blanket blowout, but boy is it beautiful. And such a gorgeous colour combination!

Right then, onto cushions...



1. Dot Tint Cushion by HAY at Really Well Made

The Dot Tint cushion is a classic with a twist. The cotton-linen blend is a timeless finish with a beautiful texture and that central button makes it extra special.

2. Round Lush Velvet Cushions - West Elm

What can I say?! They're round and they're velvet. I had to really stop myself from shoving one into my coat when leaving a dinner with them last week. True Fact. Oh and they come in blush too!

3. Cumulus Cushion Cover - Caravane

Texture, texture, and more texture. This delivers in the texture department in bucketloads. Love!

4. Soft Cushion - Tom Dixon

Hello my pretty pretty (pretty) plush mohair velvet dream. Bet you'd look good on my sofa...

5. Fluffy Cushion Cover - La Redoute

A bit of quiet texture to complement any other sofa pals.

6. Frame Cushion Cover - The Conran Shop

This cushion has gone straight to the top of my wish list. I'm completely in love with the striking pattern and to die for colour combination. Hello Santa, are you listening?!!

7. Close To My Heart Cushion - Bella Freud

I'm not immune to the charms of Bella Freud, and I really rather love this cushion. Besides, merino wool and embroidery really tick the texture boxes.

8. Wool and Cotton Jacquard Motifs Cushion - Maisons Du Monde

Another hardworking offering. Wool? Tick! Tonnes of Texture? Tick! Pattern? Tick! Pink? Tick!

Now go forth and get cosy, and don't forget to tune in next week for the next installment of this series (I'll be talking about all my favourite home fragrances), plus my mega Christmas Gift Guide!











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Thursday, November 15

Festive Family Christmas With Balsam Hill

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you might remember that last year we went for a faux Christmas tree for the first time. And much to my surprise, we all loved it.

I was not expecting to be such a convert to be honest, though I definitely did miss the smell of the real thing, but that was the only downside - I may buy some off-cuts to decorate the bannister this year to make up for it and have the best of both worlds.


I loved that our beautiful faux tree didn't drop any pine needles - lets face it, even the so called non-drop varieties still drop. I loved that it looked perfect until it was time to take it down, that it didn't lean precariously to one side - or fall over for that matter, and the kids loved that it went up earlier and not at the last minute. The jury is still out on that one for me, but I was happy that the kids were happy!

Oh, and did I mention it was pre-lit? That's a total game changer actually, as in the past an even spread of fairy lights was completely unachievable for me with my very limited patience for things like that. I'll paint a room for days, but if fairy lights aren't immediately perfect, I'm out.


This year I've teamed up with Balsam Hill again this year for their Festive Family Christmas campaign to showcase some more of their fab products.

I had planned to go much more pared back with my decorating theme this year - well for this test round anyway, but alas, the pink and gold was calling me and I was powerless to resist! I seem to have ended up with a fairy wonderland theme, with a bit of black and white stripe and matt gold thrown in for balance. Honestly, when I thought about going really pared back, I realised my kids would be really disappointed, and what really matters at Christmas is them. So pared back can wait.




Besides, the pink and gold theme ties in beautifully with the freshly painted front door (and its new brass hardware), and I absolutely love the way the beautiful wreath looks on it. I added some faux glitter berries to it which really pop with the door, but I love that this wreath is beautifully simple on its own, or can be jazzed up in any number of ways too - with ribbon, fresh eucalyptus or even faux or fresh flowers.




The theme this year is fun family traditions, and whilst I didn't think we had any to share, I've realised that we actually do have a few. Perhaps I'm more of a traditionalist than I thought...

A relatively new family tradition is a trip to the flower market the Sunday before Christmas to stock up on crazy amounts of eucalyptus, and if I can find any, ornamental baby pineapples and pink proteas. These are my all time favourite things to have in the house, at any time of year, but Christmas is the one time I don't feel too guilty buying them as the latter two are super pricey!




It's not a given that there will be any of the latter two, but I'm sure I'll find something else lovely to pop on the sideboard and dining table if not. And eucalyptus actually goes a long way in making up for the lack of pine scent too.

My mother will be here this year for the flower market trip which is lovely for many reasons - not least an extra pair of hands to carry the loot back home!

Another tradition is home made mince pies - though I don't use a traditional recipe (I use Nigella's one from her brilliant Christmas book in case you're wondering), and does it count as a tradition that I traditionally make them really last minute? Let's say yes!



My husband and Edie (our 14 year old) usually take a trip into town to look at the Christmas windows at Selfridges on Christmas Eve, but now that Baxter is seven I don't think that's going to cut it as he'll want to go too. Maybe he and I can start a new tradition of making christmas biscuits together at home instead. Or maybe we'll all go - my favourite shopping destination at Christmas time is definitely the Selfridges - particularly the food hall.

I also do a Christmas Cocktail each year which I need to start planning to share here on my blog, and I always make a giant Pavlova too. In fact I think this year that the kids definitely need to get involved with that.



One tradition that we don't have, and that I'd really like to introduce this year is a yearly Christmas family photo. We have precious little photos of us all together at any point in the year, so starting this year we're going to get dressed up (when I say 'dressed up' I'm not talking Black Tie, I'm talking less scruffy and not paint splattered!) and attempt a family portrait. And what better place to do that, than in front of the Christmas tree? Or perhaps on the doorstep in front of the newly pink door with the beautiful wreath. If we manage to get just one photograph with all of us looking at the camera that we're all happy with, it will be nothing short of a Christmas miracle. So here's hoping!


So having realised that we have traditions after all, I'd love to hear about yours in the comments too!

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This post is collaboration with Balsam Hill.





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Wednesday, November 14

Discovering Sanderson Paint


A few weeks ago I spent a lovely day at the Sanderson Hotel in London with Sanderson for a colour workshop and to check out their re-launched paint collection, including no less than fifty new shades. That’s right, fifty! Their new colour card is a delicious feast for a paint lovers eyes, and I found it tricky to narrow down my favourites.


French For Pineapple Blog - Discovering Sanderson Paint - display of ceramic pots with paint colour range

In fact so much so, that I ended up needing a crazy number of tester pots to help me decide what colours I was going to use for my projects (and before you get cross with me, don't worry, I send all my no longer needed tester pots to the art department at my daughters secondary school, where it is much needed and well used).

French For Pineapple Blog - Discovering Sanderson Paint - Sanderson Paint Chart
Image: Sanderson

Did you know that the Sanderson Hotel is actually the original showroom of the brand? It's ridiculous to think that that I’d never put two and two together before this event, especially as I’d been known to spend a bit of time there propping up the bar before kids. Or maybe because of that.... Either way, it was lovely to know about the buildings history, and to be there whilst hearing about the new paint colours.

French For Pineapple Blog - Discovering Sanderson Paint - Sanderson Paint Can with Floral Display

I was looking for a new colour for the front door - a job that had been on my list for over two years (eek!), a hall colour, and a deep rich colour for one wall on the top landing. A spot very rarely, if ever seen on my blog!

I’d originally been planning to paint the front door a lilac shade, but in the end pink won out, and I went for Rose Ash Light. A very pretty pale pink shade, that is really set off so beautifully by the new brass hardware. I absolutely love it. More than I even thought I would, and it makes me happy every time I come home. You can't argue with that now can you?


French For Pineapple Blog - Discovering Sanderson Paint - close up of brass door knob on Pink Ash Light paint
As with so many things that I take ages to get around to doing, it was actually a really quick job, requiring only a light sand, and a coat of primer, followed by two coats of the colour. I used the water based Eggshell which is suitable for interior and exterior woodwork, it's is a really great consistency and super easy to work with.

French For Pineapple Blog - Discovering Sanderson Paint - Pink Victorian Front Door painted in Pink Ash Light
I had heard good things about Sanderson paint, and they were all true, and the coverage was brilliant. I love the pink so much, that I'm thinking about doing the inside of the door too. Who am I kidding? I'm totally going to do the inside of the door - such a beautiful colour!

For the majority of the hall I've chosen Birch White, which is a really beautiful warm off-white, that is firmly on my list of brilliant light neutrals. I've said before that these colours are particularly tricky to get right, so I keep a list of the best ones.

French For Pineapple Blog - Discovering Sanderson Paint - close up of pink front door painted in Pink Ash Light

This will eventually go on all the hall, stairwell and landing walls and I'll do all the woodwork in the same colour. However, as anyone that's taken on the painting of a hall, stairwells and landings in a three storey Victorian semi will tell you, this is not a quick job, so I'll be updating you when that's done in the new year. I'm looking forward to this brighter but still warm shade going on, as a fresh coat of paint in the hall is particularly satisfying!

French For Pineapple Blog - Discovering Sanderson Paint - Sofa on landing near stairs with gallery wall painted in Beech Grey

At the very top of the house on the landing, I wanted to create a little reading area and use a deeper shade on that wall to zone it and make it feel extra cosy. I chose Beech Grey, which is definitely more brown than grey to my eye, and I absolutely love it. This spot is flooded with light, so during the day it's anything but dark, but it has a beautiful richness, with the shade adding a definite air of boutique hotel chic to the space.

French For Pineapple Blog - Discovering Sanderson Paint - Sofa and Stella Vine gallery wall painted in Beech Grey

At night by lamplight it's deep and inviting. And in fact, again I'm thinking of taking the colour onto all the walls on this landing - seems a shame to just have one wall of such a lovely colour.

I'm super pleased with my colour choices, and the Sanderson collection of 154 colours is a great size. Enough so that it's not too limited, but not too many as to be completely overwhelming. As Goldilocks would say, this is juuuuuust right.

Do go and check out the range yourself here.

French For Pineapple Blog - Discovering Sanderson Paint - Stella Vine Gallery wall painted in Beech Grey

This post is in collaboration with Sanderson.




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Monday, November 5

Orchid Styling Session – There’s an Orchid for Every Interior

Did you know that there are over 25,000 species of orchids? True fact! Amazing right?

Orchids bring back fond memories of the months I was living in Thailand working, which is where I met my husband many moons ago. I had orchids in my room and just loved being surrounded by such striking flowers.

Earlier this year I noticed them pop up a few times in Milan when I was there for Design Week, and declared them the new peonies, so I was pretty happy when I was approached to work on this 'We feel better around orchids' campaign!

I still love a peony as much as the next Instagrammer, but orchids are a fabulous antidote to the blowsy blooms that have been so prevalent for the last several years.

Image: Bianca Hall







While there is an orchid to suit all styles, with their incredible form and structure, I think they fit particularly well with a slightly less maximalist look. Or as I like to call it, a mini-maximalist look, because a minimalist I am not!

I'm sharing some care information below, directly from The Flower Council of Holland, and it's really specific too which is great. Hopefully this will give you the confidence to buy an orchid plant, as they truly are such beautiful things to have in the home. Compared to the price of cut flowers which usually last a week at best, they're amazing value for money too, and they're renowned for making you feel good too!

Image: Bianca Hall









Before I get into caring for your orchid, there's a fun quiz you can take to help match you with one that works with your interior style - there's an orchid to suit everyone! Let me know what your 'Orchitype' is in the comments below once you've taken the test.

I got matched with the classic Phalaenopsis, which is probably the most well known type of orchid. The white ones that I have in my living room are just stunning, and this species also comes in the prettiest pinks, peaches and purples.

Sarah Akwisombe is the UK Orchid Ambassador, and we had a chat about styling and caring for orchids, and of course Cleo wanted to get in on all the action too.

Image: Bianca Hall
Surprisingly, and unlike so many plants and flowers, the Phalaenopsis is apparently non-toxic to both dogs and cats, which is just as well and there's nothing Cleo likes more than sneaking a nibble on a pretty flower!

Sarah and I agreed that the white against my cream walls was perfect - the beautiful translucent petals are just SO pretty! We put the standard Phalaenopsis plants into a simple concrete pot and a footed aged one, while the mini version is in a glass pot with moss to surround the root ball, which looks really sleek and modern.

Image: Bianca Hall

Orchid Care Tips

Watering

* If you keep your orchid in its original plastic pot within another decorative container, you can simply lift it out keeping it in the plastic container, and pop it in a bowl, sink, or bucket of water for five to ten minutes. Do this once a week in the summer months, and once a fortnight during the winter. Keep it up weekly if you tend to keep the heating on constantly in the cooler months though!

* If you don't have time for that, or if you've re-potted your orchid and it's not in the plastic pot anymore, you can use one shot glass of water (approximately 60mls) and pour it into the side of the container. Make sure you don't pour it into the middle on the leaves as the leaves will rot.

* Normal tap water is fine, but orchids particularly love rain water or water from a condenser clothes dryer as it's devoid of minerals and lime. Now that really would be recycling at its best!

* In the summer months, you can add orchid food to its water once a month. Make sure it's specifically for orchids as normal plant food is too strong.

Image: Flower Council Of Holland - Phalaenopsis 
Image: Flower Council of Holland - Cymbidium


Maintenance

* If you want to re-pot an orchid, make sure you buy potting soil specifically for orchids with the right composition for them to thrive.

* Like many plants, they like plenty of natural light, but not direct sunlight.

* They don't like drafts and the perfect temperature for them is between 15 and 25 degrees.

* Be wary of placing them near fruits and vegetables as some emit ethylene which can cause an orchid to drop all its buds!

* Cut off dead flowers if they don't fall off naturally, so the plant can put all its energy into creating new buds.

Images: Flower Council of Holland - Zygopetalum / Phalaenopsis Mini / Phalaenopsis
Image: Flower Council of Holland - Cambria








Blooming Again

* When your orchid finishes blooming, cut dead flowers right back to the base. Or for the Phalaenopsis it's better to cut it off right above the second node (the little bumps on the stem).

* To encourage your orchid to bloom again, you can move it to a slightly cooler spot.

* Make sure you continue to water it, but less frequently. Once a fortnight is good, and reduce feeding to once every two months.

* After a while the branches will start to grow again, and you can move it back to its original spot, and enjoy watching it bloom again.

Image: Bianca Hall


This post is in collaboration with The Flower Council of Holland.



About the campaign ‘We feel better around orchids’
The ongoing promotion campaign ‘We feel better around orchids’ is an initiative of Flower council of Holland. The goal of the campaign is to inform consumers within the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom and Germany about the versatility of the orchid, to inspire them and to stimulate awareness and sales.

For more information please visit the following website and social media channels:









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Saturday, November 3

Battening Down The Hatches [Combatting The Winter Blues]: Mind

You may have read my manifesto (of sorts) last week, about how I'm intending to put measures in place to cope with the long winter months. If not, you can catch up here.

In todays' Battening Down The Hatches instalment, I'm focussing on the mind. Though it's actually a combination of all the things on my list that will ultimately pool together to (hopefully!) create a happy me this winter, one of the specific things I've already started doing is light therapy by way of a SAD light and Bodyclock from Lumie.

French For Pineapple Blog - Battening Down The Hatches - Combatting The Winter Blues - Mind

I posted a little while ago on Instagram about how the grey skies affect my mood and asked if anyone had tried SAD lights, and I was really happy when Lumie got in touch to see if I'd like to try some of their products.

If you don't know what SAD is, it stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder, which the NHS describe as a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern, with the symptoms being more severe and apparent in the winter, and is linked to reduced exposure to sunlight in those months.

I don't suffer from depression, but I feel less happy and driven in the winter and the grey skies really get me down, so whilst I may not be clinically diagnosed with SAD, I definitely suffer from the Winter Blues, or am on the milder end of the SAD spectrum.

French For Pineapple Blog - Battening Down The Hatches - Combatting The Winter Blues - Mind

One of the treatments for SAD symptoms is light therapy (which is recognised by the NHS), and Lumie make several different products for just that. They sent me their Brazil SAD light and their Bodyclock Shine 300, and I've been using them for a few weeks now.

The Brazil is their biggest and most powerful SAD light, and for me the effects are immediate. Like a moth to a flame I'm drawn to the light and it makes me feel instantly happy. Funnily enough, both the kids are drawn to it too, yet Ed is indifferent, and it made me wonder if people who don't need it aren't drawn to it. Speculative I know, but interesting...

French For Pineapple Blog - Battening Down The Hatches - Combatting The Winter Blues - Mind

As I'm Antipodean and the UK isn't my natural habitat, I do wonder if that also makes me more susceptible. I'm speculating here again, but it kind of makes sense. Anyway, apparently around 3% of people in the UK are affected with a severe form of SAD, whilst 20% are somewhere on the milder Winter Blues spectrum like me. I suspect that in truth the percentage is much higher judging by the number of conversations I've had with people since bringing it up, in my small 'sample group'.

I have my Brazil light sitting on my desk next to my computer, and have it on for at least half an hour a day.

French For Pineapple Blog - Battening Down The Hatches - Combatting The Winter Blues - Mind

This is what Lumie say about it...

'Just as sunlight naturally makes you feel good, topping up with extra bright light in the winter months, or when you're stuck indoors, is proven to put you in a better mood and make you feel more awake. Using Brazil every day makes a big difference to symptoms of SAD such as tiredness, over-eating and a lack of energy and motivation.'

The Bodyclock Shine 300 is smaller, better looking and more high-tech than I expected, and apparently using it in tandem with the Brazil has a more powerful effect on combatting SAD. I'm impressed that the 'sunrise' wakes me up without noise, though you can have an audio alarm set with it too if you like, choosing from the radio or a selection of sounds. It also has a sunset option to help get you off to sleep, though I usually go to bed pretty exhausted and don't really need any help in that department!

French For Pineapple Blog - Battening Down The Hatches - Combatting The Winter Blues - Mind

Waking up with the sunrise setting is said to improve mood, energy, productivity, and you could also use it for kids who wake way too early, setting an acceptable time for them to get up!

Here's what Lumie say about the Bodyclock...

'Bodyclock Shine 300 is an alarm clock that mimics the light and colour of a real sunrise so when you open your eyes you feel properly awake and refreshed. Waking like this helps to regulate your sleep-wake cycle and has even been shown to boost mood, energy and productivity levels for the rest of the day.

A sleep/wake light like Bodyclock Shine 300 is not just a nicer way to start the day. It can help beat the winter blues and is a useful complement to a lightbox in treating SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). The British Swimming team use Lumie Bodyclock to get them up bright and early for training on dark, winter mornings.'

I love Lumie's passion about their products and their keenness to spread the word about how helpful Light Therapy is, and I was more than willing to help spread the word as I know that sometimes simple things like this can be so effective. See also Vitamin B, Vitamin D.... but that's a whole other conversation.

French For Pineapple Blog - Battening Down The Hatches - Combatting The Winter Blues - Mind

My Brazil light will be my constant desk companion over the winter, and the Bodyclock has settled in well on my bedside table. I feel I'm heading into winter better armed to deal with the grey skies and that alone makes me feel more positive.

Lumie have given me a discount code to share with you which is not something they normally do so don't miss out! It's active for the next two weeks only, and ends at midnight on Friday 16th of November. Enter the code FFP20 for a brilliant 20% discount.

This post is in collaboration with Lumie.
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