Jungle Fever Part 2

Okay, I admit it, it's been rather a lot longer than a week since I promised this second part of my Jungle Fever post. I blame life. And the children, and very few opportunities to take nice photographs of my plants. Or maybe my idea of 'next week' is different to yours, but here it is, finally...

I love the way the Kentia Palm instantly gives a room a tropical feel. These palms have a reputation of being the easiest indoor palm, tolerating low light and dry air. Oh, and see that chair? My husband has been trying to throw it out for years. It's become a 'hilarious' running joke. I bought it for £10 from a shop that was closing down and it has a strange textured coating on it, and one day I will get it dipped to remove said strange textured coating, and give it the makeover it deserves, and I will not let him sit on it for being so cruel. That will show him, won't it?

Botanical Name: Howea forsteriana
How much: £40
How tall: 120cms
Where from: Online from House of Plants
Care: Easy. I've just repotted mine and moved it to a shadier spot. I water it once a week and it looks healthy and has some new growth, so I think I'm doing something right.
Where: In a shady spot in the dining room.
Receptacle: An Ikea basket. Again.

My Bengal Fig is a bit Jack and The Beanstalkish. It has grown probably 40cms since I bought it back in November, and is not showing any sign of slowing. It's tall and thin, though some of the lower leaves are starting to get quite big now, which I hope will continue, so that it fattens up a little and doesn't get too top-heavy. I've recently re-potted it and it's now a really substantial plant.

Botanical Name: Ficus benghalensis
How much: £15
How big: 140cms
Where from: Online from House of Plants
Care: Easy! It doesn't need much water, so I only give it a little every week or so, and it can happily take a bit of shade. I do wonder if it's 'stretching' a bit, which would be a sign that's it's not getting enough light. Plant pros, feel free to weigh in...
Where: I've just moved it to my bedroom which is bright (south facing), but it's not near the window and I think it will be the perfect spot for it.
Receptacle: Another basket from H&M. Incidentally, I was in there the other day and they have a lovely new basket with a bright pink stripe that would be perfect for the plant I've just ordered online. Oh dear, help me I'm a plant addict!!

Back when I did my original plants you MUST have post, I got my ZZ's confused with my Zamia's (easily done with all those Z's). I must update that. Turns out they are different plants that look kind of similar - both beautiful, but mine is a ZZ plant, or Zanzibar Gem as they are also known. I'd still like a Zamia too, which I think has a bit of a Bonsai look about it (stumpier) with fuzzy leaves, unlike the ZZ which has very glossy waxy looking leaves.

Just don't let the lovely leaves of your ZZ hang over a lamp like I did and then wonder why they look singed. Oops.

Botanical Name: Zamioculcas Zamiifolia
How much: £25
How big: 80cms
Where from: Angel Flowers in Islington again, but these are pretty easy to find, and I've seen them at Colombia Road Flower Market for £15. You may even find one of these at Ikea if you're lucky.
Care: Very low maintenance - I water this maybe once a fortnight or even less. It's doing really well and it has several new shoots growing. I don't know if I should re-pot it because it seems so happy, but it's quite a tight fit in it's container.
Where: It lives in the living room in the darkest corner which it seems to love. They don't like full on sun.
Receptacle: I got the basket in Formentera last summer. I had to carry it home in my handbag so it didn't get squashed, and was quite prepared to wear it as a hat if push came to shove. Yes, I love it. Lots.

So that's it for now on the plant front. I really do recommend any of these as easy to keep alive and looking good, for people that would like to have indoor plants but worry about killing them. It's really not that hard if you consider the position and watering requirements. If I can do it, so can you. Honest!

Never too many...throws

Well apparently spring is officially here, but balmy it is not! Especially in the evenings when there's still definitely a chill in the air, and there's nothing better than snuggling up on the sofa with a throw or two to keep you warm and cosy.

Practicalities aside, beautiful throws are must-have home accessory (casually draped over the arm or back of a sofa or chair of course) that can add lovely texture and pattern to a room without costing an arm and a leg or being a big commitment. You know how everyone bangs on about layering? Well throws should be one of your best friends.

Despite this knowledge and my love of throws, I've realised that I don't own nearly enough of them which I obviously need to rectify pronto. As I'm feeling a bit indecisive about the wall colour in our living room, and we'll also be replacing our filthy disgusting, kid-trashed well-worn rug soon, I've decided to keep things neutral for my next throw purchase, so that it will work with the new wall colour and rug, whatever they may be! This way they can also be used in any room without worrying about the colours not working.

Here are the contenders....

Image: Rockett St George
I love this Chevron throw from Rockett St George, it's a classic - you just can't go wrong with black and white, and at £29.00 it's a bargain to boot. Please note how well the casual drape is working here.

Image: Esprit
Next up is Esprit. Who knew that Esprit did homewares? Not me til recently. They have some rather lovely throws, and this one ticks all the boxes - herringbone AND fringing? Yes please! The Stone colour is a beautiful neutral, but I have to say both the Lime and Salmon are calling my name too. In fact the brighter ones would be perfect for evenings in the garden once spring truly arrives. We try to dine in the garden as much as possible when the weather is warmer, to make the most of the limited outdoor dining opportunities we have in England, but once the sun goes down, grabbing a couple of throws from inside to wrap up in is always a good idea, to prolong that time as much as possible!
This Heavenly Honeycomb Throw at The Future Kept is also on my list. Perhaps not strictly neutral, but close enough. It's currently out of stock which is probably just as well as I'm in really in the mood for a spot of shopping from my sofa...

So I should just buy all of them, right? I've always said you can never have too many cushions, and I think I'll add throws to that list now too.

Cabin, no, I mean Jungle Fever! Part One

In August last year, I wrote a post about the 'new' it plants, which was basically my plant wish-list. I didn't actually own many of them back then, but I do now. Obviously. I mean what kind of interiors fashion victim would I be if I didn't rush out and buy them all? A failure, that's what, and I AM NOT A FAILURE.

Now that's off my chest, and there is a vague feeling of hope in the air, (a couple of blossoms on the odd tree, and the tulips in the garden are starting to pop up - that's good enough for me even if it is still freezing), I thought I'd give you an update on my current favourites, but a bit more in depth so you can get an idea of whether you're cut out to be a plant parent this year. Because in case you haven't heard yet, the indoor jungle look is in. BIG TIME.

Up until a few years ago, I considered myself to have a 'black thumb' - unable to keep a plant alive to save my life, and generally totally clueless with any form of greenery. But it occurred to me the other day that perhaps the reason I never used to be able to keep a plant alive was that I wasn't really interested. Every plant that came my way over a period of probably thirteen years - from seventeen when I moved out of home, til the end of my twenties, was dead within a month or two. But had I actually put any effort into keeping it alive? I think not. But the idea that I was 'no good with plants', stuck. So for the following decade I just ignored their existence, and up until a few years ago I owned just one lonely plant - a Jade plant (money plant), that has stayed with me through thick and thin, and came back from near death on several occasions. These days I'm quite sure of what it needs (very little!), it really just wants the right amount of light (not as much as you might think), and a good water every now and then. Figuring out how much water and how much light your plants need are the basics, and all you really need. Just 'listen' to your plant - if it's not looking happy think about the basics - position and water - would it like more or less direct light? Are you giving it too much water or not enough? That thing called the internet is also really very useful to find out what conditions they like best, and if they like a bit of plant food a few times a year. Honestly, it's not that hard.

Over the last two years I've slowly collected more plants as my belief that I can actually keep them alive has grown. I now have a small but slowly expanding collection of beautiful thriving plants that I'm really rather fond of. If I've jinxed that by writing this post I'll be quite devastated to lose any one of them.

Right then, I'm clearly feeling a bit rambly today, but the lecture is over - let's get down to business...

I'm including a bit of information about what receptacle each plant is in, because I've found it quite challenging finding affordable ones that look good (and leaving the plastic pots exposed is NOT an option!!) so this might give you a bit of inspiration. Think outside the box here - baskets are my go-to, I have them from Ikea and H&M and from my travels. Most of the time you can just leave a plant in the pot it came in, pop a plate underneath and put it in a basket. Remember, these plants are inside, so heavy, expensive planters are not necessary.

A fiddle leaf fig in designer Bianca Halls London home www.frenchforpineapple.com

Yes, I thought I'd start with every bloggers favourite. I bought mine in September last year, having missed out on the insanely cheap tree that I'd spotted just before going away on our summer holiday (I still regret not buying it), so when I saw a smaller plant a few weeks later I snapped it up...

Botanical Name: Ficus Lyrata
How much: £30, but expect to pay up to £600 if you have your heart set on a huge 4 metre tree.
How tall: 140cms
Where from: Angel Flowers in Islington, who always have a lovely selection of plants at really reasonable prices. Fiddle leaf figs aren't particularly easy to find in the UK, so if you can't get one locally, you can get a plant from here or a tree from here.
Care: So far so good. I did so much research on caring for one before I bought it, but honestly, didn't come up with much. The thing that stuck in my mind was consistency - they don't like being moved about, and they like a regular water. This may well be total nonsense, I'm no expert, but it seems to be working, so I don't move it, and I give it one cup of water once a week. On Wednesdays. Yes, Wednesday is watering day here at Hall HQ.
Where: It currently resides in my south facing bay window that gets loads of natural light. I may have to move it away from the window when summer hits as apparently too much direct sun could be a bad thing. I'm a bit nervous about that.
Receptacle: It's original plastic pot on a plate inside an Ikea basket.

A Ponytail Palm in designer Bianca Halls London home. www.frenchforpineapple.com

Don't you just love this pretty little thing? The Ponytail Palm is a sweet addition to any room, and so far, seems pretty unfussy too.

Botanical Name: Beaucarnea recurvata
How much: Around £20 I think.
How tall: 60cms
Where from: Angel Flowers in Islington again, but these are pretty easy to find, in plant shops and online.
Care: Super easy, needs very little water as it stores it in that chunky base. A little water every month or so in the winter and not much more in the summer.
Where: It lives on the hearth in our living room (it's not a working fireplace), and gets loads of natural light from the south facing bay window.
Receptacle: It came in a charcoal plastic pot that I don't mind despite its plasticness.

A paddle plant in a metal urn in designer Bianca Halls London Home www.biancahall.co.uk

I love my little paddle plant. When exposed to enough sunlight the leaves turn a beautiful pink colour, just like a happy blush. Bit like me really.

Botanical Name: Kalanchoe thyrsiflora
How much: Around £10
How tall: 20cms
Where from: That Flower Shop at the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch. Love this little shop which also acts as the street entrance for one of my favourite places to dine and drink cocktails. These are widely available, so you shouldn't have any problem finding one.
Care: Pretty easy, though about a week after I first got it, it got really droopy and looked so unhappy. I thought it was because it wasn't getting enough sun, even though it was in the sunniest spot in the house, but it turned out that it's not like other succulents and they actually like quite a lot of water. Weird because I've read they don't like much water, not the case with mine though. Now I've figured that out, it's a happy, if a little crazy looking specimen again.
Where: It currently resides on our kitchen table where it gets lots of light, though it might move back up to my studio for a proper dose of heat in the summer to get those leaves nice and pink!
Receptacle: I got that fabulous little aged metal urn on Ebay. I'm definitely getting another one to put a Boston Fern in.

 A Snake Plant in designer Bianca Halls London Home www.frenchforpineapple.com

There's just something so cool and sculptural about the thick waxy leaves of a Snake Plant don't you think? And I love the yellow border and pattern on the leaves. They remind me of watermelon skin - I wonder if they're weirdly related...

Botanical Name: Sansevieria trifasciata
How much: £18
How tall: 60cms
Where from: Online from House of Plants
Care: Easy! I water it every now and then (once a month or less), and it doesn't really seem to mind where it lives, it's a slow grower, so you'd be forgiven for thinking it was fake, but mine is starting to grow a new leaf, so I know it's the real deal!
Where: Currently residing in our south facing bedroom away from the windows, so it gets lots of indirect light. I'll probably move it to a sunnier position in the summer.
Receptacle: Another basket from H&M.

Phew. That's it for part one of this post. There just aren't enough hours in the day at the moment (or enough sunlight to take decent pictures). Make sure you subscribe so you don't miss part two of this post next week including the ultimate indoor jungle plant!

A vaguely cautionary tale...

I bought a vintage chest of drawers for our bedroom on ebay recently, which turned out to look an awful lot better in the photos than they did in reality. That's ebay though - it's always a bit of a gamble if you're buying vintage, or anything for that matter, that you've not seen in the flesh.

I probably couldn't accuse the seller of mis-selling exactly, more of using flattering photography / lighting / angles, and a vague description. When it was delivered, I saw that the fronts of the drawers were covered in what I think were watermarks, the drawer fronts were also very faded - and they generally looked old and grotty, as opposed to the old and a little bit glam I was expecting.

I wasn't super disappointed though, as it had great bones and was the perfect size for the space - I wanted the largest chest of drawers I could fit along the wall to maximise storage space, and this is 122cms wide by 95cms high and 55cms deep - a sizeable piece, so was by no means a complete disaster of a purchase as it's flaws were only skin deep.

I had really wanted a new piece to fit the space in our bedroom, albeit a new piece in a mid century style, like this chevron grained beauty from West Elm. I really, really wanted it. In fact, I still do. Sadly though, even with a big price reduction when it was on sale (£949 reduced to £549.95), it was still way above what I could afford to spend, so I had to let it go (let it go..!).

Chevron Grain Chest of Drawers West Elm

I really wanted to have the luxury of smooth running drawers and, something that could just be put into place and didn't require any work at all on my part for this piece of furniture. I already have a huge list of half finished DIY jobs and not enough time to complete them, but alas, it wasn't to be this time. Yes, maybe next time. Back to reality. So, this is what mine looked like on ebay...

Not bad for £120 huh? But this was the reality... Hmmmm, not quite so pretty now, is it?

You can see from the dust in the image above that I'd already started taking to it with sandpaper. Impatient as ever, and a bit of a risky move considering that it's veneer, but thankfully, good quality thick wood veneer, so it's taken a sand perfectly well, and all the marks have come off. You can also see in the image above that the handles were not in good condition at all. They were probably once lovely shiny brass, but that plating was long gone, and no amount of elbow grease was going to make them sparkle again.

I looked into having them re-plated, but it was surprisingly more expensive than I'd thought it would be at around £13 a piece, so a total of £104 for the eight handles - nearly as much as the chest of drawer cost to start with, and I just didn't like them enough to spend that kind of money, so I started the hunt for some replacements. The replacements had to fit or cover the existing holes, which meant my choice was quite limited, in an already limited market. However, I absolutely love the ones I found. I have a post dedicated to cabinet hardware coming very soon, so you'll have to wait for the details, but they were £6.30 each. I'd possibly have preferred a natural brushed brass if it was an option, but I do love their shiny goodness.

I removed the old handles, and sanded to get rid of the uneven faded varnish and watermarks, and filled the existing handle holes with a drill-able filler, as the new holes needed to be precariously close to the old ones. I drilled new holes, and gave each drawer three coats of clear Osmo Oil, before fitting the new shiny new chunky handles... Ta dah!

I'm pretty proud of this one, even though it was very straight forward, because it's made such a dramatic difference, and taken a battered and really average piece of furniture, to something I love and will keep for years to come. Not to mention the fact that we can finally put all our clothes away.

Now remember kids, the moral of this story is that you should probably ask more questions than I tend to when buying vintage on ebay, and perhaps for more closeup shots too. Or just take the gamble, which is quite probably half the fun.

So what do you think? Have you had any ebay disasters that you managed to salvage? Or not? Do tell...

Otomi Textiles by Montes & Clark

I took a stand at a local Christmas market just before Christmas, because, you know, I didn't already have enough going on. Markets are funny things, you never really know what to expect of either the punters or the other stall holders, and the range of products is usually, um, pretty diverse, and not always in a good way. What I really didn't expect to see, was a stand selling the most exquisite authentic Mexican Otomi textiles on a stand a few aisles away from mine...

I've loved Otomi textiles for years, and my new Tropica collection was influenced by them (along with traditional textiles from Hawaii and Panama), but I had only ever seen them online, not having made it to Mexico yet in my travels. They were everything I'd imagined they'd be in the flesh - each piece of fabric is embroidered in beautiful colours and different designs by hand, taking weeks or months depending how many women are working on a piece.

The stand was occupied by the lovely Kate Clark and Lucy Montes de Oca, who are friends and now business partners in the recently launched Montes & Clark. Lucy's husband is Mexican, and whilst visiting his family in Mexico she discovered and fell in love with Otomi textiles (well, who wouldn't!?). She spent several months there, researching and seeking out cooperatives and individuals producing the finest textiles, bringing them back to the UK to make into cushions, throws and lampshades. I hear wall hangings will be available soon too.

I dream of one day owning a huge throw for my bed, which would most definitely be an heirloom piece. Until that day I'll have to (happily) make do with a cushion.

I think you'll be hearing a lot about Montes & Clark in the press this year, and everyone in the UK will go nuts for Mexican textiles, so get in first before everyone else does. The Americans have been on to it for like ever, so it's about time we caught up.

Oh, and did you know that 2015 is the year of Mexico in the UK, and the year of the United Kingdom in Mexico? Nope, me neither. To strengthen the bond between us apparently, so really, it would be rude not to buy something wouldn't it?

Hasta la vista, baby.