Posts in Home Interiors
Determined to dine al fresco • Featuring Homesense

I have longed for this time of year, the month where we first laid eyes on the garden and I spied a few sprigs of wisteria in bloom climbing over the old crumbly walls above the back windows. As soon as I walked along the bumpy path from the back gate I could envisage how we would live here, that the garden would steal the show.

4 years almost to the day and everything has burst back into life, my wisteria hysteria is as strong as ever and slowly I can feel we are putting our stamp on the garden as much as we are the house. Just in time for the bank holiday fun this weekend!

It’s easier to make quicker changes inside isn’t it? A coat of paint, a new carpet, not structural changes but aesthetic changes can transform a room.

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But a garden is harder. We are so lucky that the shrub beds are already full to the brim, a testament to 30 years of hard graft with a gardening glove. The patio itself is part of a bigger longer term plan so for now the circular shaped lawn looks back on the rickety pergola with an unruly kiwi plant that takes over each year (sadly no actual kiwis) and the open space in front of the double doors.

We have brought in little touches like new outside lights and finally replaced our heavy timber round table and chairs, that had lasted so well for over ten years but gave up the ghost in the move. The back windows were replaced last year and painted in a pale warm grey and as much as I love the simplicity of a neutral scheme for me it lacked some serious colour and fun.

I wish I was content with a palette of calming whites and greys but I just adore seeing a pop of pink or blue peeking out of the rattan chairs and when I spied all the gorgeous greens in Homesense - well - sold to the lady’s patio in need of some late spring cheer!

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Now I’ve been a Homesense fan for almost the 10 years it has been in existence after discovering it was part of the TK Maxx family. When we lived in Weston Super-Mare I probably “popped” in almost every week when I scooted to join the motorway, to see what new lines had been added that week.

Exciting news for all those living in Weston Super-Mare, a new Homesense opened yesterday within the existing TK Maxx store in the North Worle Shopping Centre, be sure to check it out! 

Taunton is now my closest store (but check for your nearest here as they have over 50 stores across the country ) and has two floors of shelves bursting with seasonal and all year round homeware. Homesense is my go to store for unusual finds. I can only imagine that being part of their buying team must be a dream job!

I still get lovely people asking where I found the boy’s hanging metal plane that hangs between their beds and I am so glad I didn't leave it on the shelf when I was ‘umming’ and ‘aahing’. If you see it and love it, buy it as what you see is what is available. There aren't hundreds of each products tucked in the stock room and that’s what makes it even more attractive for me. You won't end up with the same print or cushion as everyone else in the area! The offer of products with savings of up to 60% off RRP is an added bonus too.

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I walked into the store and it was like an explosion of colour, print and pattern. The tropics had truly come to Taunton and with the incredible spell of exotic temperatures we have all been blessed with and the promise of more sun this long weekend it is the perfect time to start eating outdoors again and make the most of the garden, the park or the beach. 

I have been lusting after the round towels forever and love that they double, or rather triple up, as a picnic blanket and wrap for when the sun goes down but no one is ready to go inside. (£14.99 if you fancy one too.) 

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If you plan on visiting a Homesense store ahead of the bank holiday weekend then you will be spoilt for choice. Whether you love palm print, rainbow colours, simple muted neutrals or Moroccan inspired patterns, there is something to suit all tastes. I love how you can mix and match styles and I decided go bold or go home! Hints of gold and greens that tie in with our cutlery - everyone needs a caddy in their life. I stuff mine with bottles of sauce, pepper, salt and carry the cutlery to the table in one of the sections. I had a good trawl through the clearance section and there were a few in other designs but I loved the slightly tarnished finish on this one. I went in with BBQ tools in mind but I came out with banana leaf print cushions for £12.99, tablecloths (at £12.99 for a huge 264cm long tropical print wonder I had to get a pair!) and marshmallows to roast for dessert. 

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Always, always go for the big green trolley when you walk in, that’s my tip!

We are all set up for summer and the bank holiday now and if it rains well, who cares, we can use the tablecloth as a picnic blanket and move the party indoors!

Get yourself down to your local store this weekend for a good nosey, but be warned you'll want it all! 

In collaboration with Homesense.

6 ways to makeover an unloved conservatory with Thomas Sanderson

I love our house. Love it love it, lemon love it. But, if I had a magic wand, I would wave it frantically over the conservatory at the back of the house. 

I have never ever been a fan of conservatories, too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter and I always find they are full of strange furniture you wouldn't see anywhere else but these indoor greenhouses. That we are pre conditioned to exclusively furnish them with uncomfortable rattan seats and look at the room through a closed door 99% of the year. 

But having finally lived with one, I can't believe I am going to say this, I'm not sure I could live without it and I find myself saving vintage wicker seats to my wish list Pinterest board. Imagine a blogger and photographers dream space for photos, what would it look like? A light filled room all year round with walls to prop tables against and beautiful even light at 6am in the morning through to dinner time in the summer. Our conservatory has been my life saviour over the last 18 months. A home studio to dress and rearrange for different mini shoots combined with an extra room for the boys to use as a playroom. The space is so flexible and has so much potential we just need a way to transform it into a dream room. 

I had the pleasure of meeting Thomas Sanderson at the Ideal Home Show a while ago and realised that there are so many ways I can bring ours back to life. 

I just wish we could paint it, re roof it, change the doors and the window handles... you name it - I'd like to change it. The mahogany stain is so out of character with the rest of the house, and I dream of the day far into the future when I take this exact photo but instead there's a beautiful orangery staring back at me.

Because it turns out, that I do in fact love the principle of a conservatory or garden room, I'm just not so in love with ours right now. And I am sure I am not the only one who wishes I had a fairy godmother who could cast some magic over this unloved shell.

So what can we do?!

I've found 6 ways to make the most of your conservatory, to give it a new lease of life and make it into a dream room. 

1. Instant update with New Blinds

I talk with friends who say the same. "It's a sauna in the summer and a freezer in the winter!" It's silly really because there are clever people out there who can help and ta day! An extra room in your house you can use 365 days of the year.

I had no idea about the range that is available now. Forget the old fashioned styles you'd have seen at your parent's houses in the early 90's there's a wealth of styles, finishes and colours for every taste.

These Duette® Energy Smart blinds put our old ones to shame. Not only do they help to relate and control the temperature but the clever double layered fabric design also absorbs noise. The honeycomb design has a special coating on the window side to help improve energy efficiency even further. Ours can feel like the sky is falling down during a heavy rain shower and I can't hear myself think let alone take a phone call - the impact of the raindrops on the ceiling feels like you are in a tropical thunderstorm, without the beach in the distance! 

2. Fill it with things you want to look at

It sounds like a obvious statement doesn't it? But so often I see conservatories that are the forgotten room, a little souless and almost like the after thought. Odd furniture, obligatory plant, rooms that don't scream come and sit in me! I feel so inspired when I am surrounded by the things I love. Artwork I've collected over the years, cushions that I've bought year after year that fill the sofas, but our conservatory is filled with random bits of furniture and hasn't had the same sort of TLC we are giving the rest of the house. 

I love how this room is decorated with precious possessions and this photo taken by Natalie Jeffcott makes me want to lean into the screen and thumb through all those book pages and peer at what is under those glass bell jars. 

If your space is full of you, your things, your most loved things I guarantee you will want to spend more time there. 

3. Embrace Shutters

I long for shutters, with the same longing I feel for an ice cold cocktail on a balmy summer's evening. I must have visited an old french house at some point in my life and had the image of these beautiful window finishes etched into my subconscious. Because every time I pass a house with shutters I have to stop and let out a gentle sigh. And try and sneak a cheeky photo.

Beautiful and practical - a winning combination! I can't imagine there is a window these shutters couldn't fit with a bespoke and ready made service to choose from. I felt the PVCu engineered samples and was so impressed with the finish, if we were keeping our conservatory indefinitely I would blanket every window with them.


4. Say Hello To New Flooring

We have a sorry looking carpet in our conservatory that dogs and boys have trampled all over, not wiping their feet or their paws and a wet start to this summer means it is almost crying out to be replaced. A new floor can instantly lift the whole feel of a room and I adore this bold use of patterned tiles in Ulises and Melissa's modern sun room

We went for something similar in a blue colour way for the downstairs cloakroom but I hadn't thought about covering a much larger space with such a statement print. It's a treat for your eyes and the light bouncing from the walls and ceilings makes it shine brightly. I love the subtle colours they chose letting the heavy terracotta pots and house plants bring a natural colour palette into the room.

We have chosen these Fired Earth tiles for our ensuite but how spectacular would they look in the conservatory?!

5. Paint the house walls

I had never really thought about the idea of making the wall of the house adjoining the conservatory into a feature. Now we are in a listed house so we might not get away with such a bold statement but I think the idea of choosing a colour and making a feature out of the brickwork or stone is a fabulous one!

This modern glass extension by Sigmar in London features a contrasting charcoal grey wall that compliments the dark radiator and window frames perfectly.

And it could work perfectly in any sized conservatory or sunroom, you could even repaint the wall as the seasons change.

I would kill for a white brick wall to shoot against! You can also easily add a false stud wall in front of the fabric of the building itself and paint that. 

Making a feature wall gives you so many decorating options. 

6. Give it a right good clean

I hold my hands up. I have no idea what our conservatory looks like when it's sparkling clean, because in 18 months we have never really touched it on the outside. What we need to do is book a conservatory valet and I bet it would be a revelation. To have the handles and hinges properly checked and repaired, to have the guttering professionally cleaned and the roof panels meticulously washed and scrubbed would absolutely make a difference to the whole look and feel of the space. 

So what would you do with your conservatory? Or are you thinking of adding one to your home? My ideal garden room would have a window seat around the base of the brickwork and an open plan space which lead onto the kitchen. Hues of calming green, stripped wood flooring and a day bed. Just pass me a cup of tea and a magazine now could you?! 

In collaboration with Thomas Sanderson

How to Grow Your Own Cut Flower Patch • April

Hooray for April showers because we know what that brings... May flowers! I think we've seen more raindrops pouring down the window panes than beams of sunlight streaming through the curtains this month, but at last the grass had it's first proper cut of the year yesterday. The liquid sunshine has brought the garden back to life and suddenly shoots are bursting through the soil bringing colourful patches to the flower beds.

I wish I had the green fingers of the previous owners, whose hard work we get to enjoy for a second year but it's made me determined to put my stamp on a little area. The Peonies they planted years ago are coming up thick and fast, the Forget-me-nots around the patio have covered the flower bed like a blue carpet and a patch of Tulips have sprung up for the first time. But I can't take credit for those because the only Tulips I've bought are in an old bucket by the front door! The Anemone bulbs we planted last year are teasing me with just one lonely fuchsia pink flower sprouting in the rockery but I love it none the less! The Wisteria has bloomed so early this year and I reckon that by the time the boys head to secondary school the whole back of the house will be blanketed by purple in May. Just 5 years to wait...! The Sweet Peas have started to cling onto the bamboo frame and my cut flower patch is now looking a touch more up together than it did back in March

I've decided to keep half for vegetables and half for flowers. The boys loved picking the french beans, strawberries, carrots and raspberries last year. We even had a few potatoes and I've left the raspberry, courgette and pumpkin plants where they are and a new set of beans are in and already starting to climb. 

I've bought a few flowers which already are in bloom, which I will plant this week and my seedlings from the Cut Flower Workshop with Georgie are doing nicely. Georgie - you will be proud - I didn't let them die!

So even though the patch may not be a feast for the eyes just yet, there is so much colour in the rest of the garden. I even found a teeny tiny patch of Bluebells for the first time! Not a wood, I think there are just 12, but I was so happy! Simple pleasures right?! There's every colour of the rainbow and yesterday I snipped a posy for my desk.

For my next Rose and Grey Styling Challenge I had to dress their wire locker shelf and it was the perfect display stand for my rainbow garden indoors before it gets a permanent home on my office wall. I rummaged around for my bud vases and old bottles, used a few small bowls and I love that you don't need a big bunch of flowers to make something special. 

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The Cowslip looks at home flopping over a textured ceramic bowl, and the white Cherry Blossom looks so fresh next to the Bluebells. Sometimes only one of something can bring you as much joy as a huge bunch and the single Tulip opened in front of my eyes in the warmer space inside. 

So what have I got left to do this month? I need to plant my Dahlia bulbs in pots and cover them up until they've sprouted, I will sow some seeds that now we are past the frosty weather can go straight into the ground and I need to order some autumn flowering bulbs and get them in the patch. The thing I learnt from Georgie is it's all about doing little but doing it often. Bitesize chunks. And in another week or so I will plant my tray of seedlings. 

They may only be little but they are mighty and it honestly feels fantastic to know I have managed to grow them!  

So what would be on your wishlist? Gladioli and Delphiniums are on mine!