George at Asda wish list

Like I said earlier in the week, as we near the end of renovating the kitchen our thoughts are starting to turn to the living room – but I’m running a little short on inspiration.

I guess it’s normal, when you’re renovating room after room, to become more stumped for ideas or get a bit tired of interior design.

But the living room is going to be one of the most used and seen rooms in the house, so it’s important to me that I like it. It might be one of those places that we develop then add to as we go along. Another restricting factor is that we can’t really afford or justify replacing our two three seater sofas, so the décor has to fit in with their brown leather.

So a textured, neutral base is likely to be the way forward for us, perhaps with added splashes of colour later on.

Recently George at Asda asked me to pick out a few favourites from their current collection. As I was making my choices, it struck me that autumn is a great time to be focusing on the lounge. It’s just the best place in the house to get wrapped up as the nights draw in and temperature drops, and maybe even (*whisper it*) start to feel a little festive. So I went for cosy greys and browns, and lighting that gives off a warm glow.

Kitchens don’t come cheap, so if we can save a bit of cash kitting out the living room, all the better. And my George wish list starts at just £4! Not much more than a couple of bags of apples.

Asda George autumn winter 2014 home living room wish list

// beige knitted throw, £25 / glass star pendant light, £25 / stag cushion, £7  / 4 bottle table lamp, £30 / charcoal knitted pouffe, £39 / grey zig zag cushion, £4 / glass bell jar, £9 / rope and glass hurricane vase, £12 / 9 gold ‘A’ table lamp, £30 / 10 nest of two tall tables, £149 // 

What do you think to my choices? Anything here you’ve picked up with your groceries recently?

Do you change up your décor as you move into a new season?

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Thoughts: living room storage

Guys, the kitchen is so nearly done. The end of a project always seems to take forever but the room is looking great, I just want it to be perfect before showing it off.

It’s still only semi-usable – we have a functioning fridge, washing machine, sink, dishwasher (ahhhh!) and oven and hob and for the first time in a long time these are all in the same room. But we still need tiles on the walls, a few shelves putting up (that’ll probably have to wait a while) and a few more finishing touches. We can’t really eat in it yet, unless standing up, because the dining area still needs decorating, but after starting in May we are so near completion and that feels so gooood.

So proud are we of the transformation we’re giving our tired little semi that we’re doing Christmas Day dinner for 10 this year. I wonder how many times I will regret that decision before the 25th?

The kitchen has been pretty all-consuming for several weeks but now the end is in sight we’re beginning to turn our attention to the living room. For a while, I’ve had quite a clear vision of how I want the kitchen to look, but with the living room I’ve been struggling a bit for inspiration.

One thing I do want to make sure we have is a place to put things. One of the hardest things about renovating is that a lot of the time at least half your stuff is inaccessible. Just before we started renovating the downstairs we boarded out the loft so we could store all the unnecessaries up there for a while. The trouble is, you never know exactly what you’re going to need over the next months and even if you don’t need things, you miss them. (Just a few of the things that’ve had me rummaging in the loft recently: vases, DVDs, books, ink cartridges, wrapping paper, winter coats).

Although we’ll probably leave some things up there, because it’s not a huge house, I’m looking forward to gradually getting things down and having somewhere for them to go again.

So, living room storage. Here are some of the images I’ve seen around and kept as inspiration. As you can see, I’m in total denial about not having high ceilings and a real fire sitting in a chimney breast between two alcoves perfectly suited to built-in cupboards and shelving.

Living room storage built in shelves in alcove Living room storage Scandi long sideboard LIving room storage built in cupboards and shelving in alcove Living room storage bar in built in cupboard

 // sources 1 House to Home / 2 Residence Magazinewww.urbanwardrobes.co.uk / 47 Park Avenue //

With reality in mind, a fairly long sideboard is the best-fitting option. I’ve been scouring eBay for months, hunting a Scandi or mid-century design that would suit the house (70s build, sadly), fit through the door and match my budget. Alas, I’ve not seen anything so far. I don’t really want to spend a lot more than a couple of hundred quid because I don’t want to invest in a long-term piece of furniture that perfectly fits a house we expect to move out of in two or three years.

I’ve considered that we could DIY one: this floating sideboard made with Ikea cabinets is pretty awesome, for example. But then, we’ve got enough to do. This sideboard may be the current front-runner – not the most beautiful thing ever seen but it’s cheap and has a simple, flexible style that will do the job for the next few years.

Have you seen anything around the web that could be what I’m looking for?

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Hotel Chocolat Roast + Conch

From the moment it arrived on Leeds’ streets, Hotel Chocolat’s Roast + Conch restaurant and bar always held intrigue for me.

Through the window, you can see its deep brown banquette seating and a warm orange glow of light and you know that inside they are cooking up food and drink in honour of the beloved cocoa bean. My first visit and taste – a nightcap of salted caramel hot chocolate – gave me goosebumps and lived up to all expectations.

So imagine how quickly I said ‘yes’ when invited to a blogger evening to try out the new menu.

Roast + Conch serves up Anglo-West Indian food, inspired by the 1745 ‘Rabot’ cacao estate in the Caribbean, which Hotel Chocolat bought 10 years ago. Their menu, first seen in the open-air cocoa estate kitchen of Hotel Chocolat’s Boucan restaurant in St Lucia, brings back the cocoa bean as a subtle savoury spice and garnish.

Not only that, cacao enhances their cocktails, and if you just want a bar of the good stuff you can see chocolate being freshly made from beans roasted and conched by chocolatiers right in the restaurant, and buy it at the Hotel Chocolat shop at the front of the house.

Hotel Chocolat Roast + Conch Leeds Hotel Chocolat Roast + Conch Leeds Hotel Chocolat Roast + Conch Leeds Hotel Chocolat Roast + Conch Leeds Hotel Chocolat Roast + Conch Leeds

I got there late (thanks, Leeds post-work traffic) so some of the best-looking food had been swept up – their mac ‘n’ cheese with leek and mushroom encased in a cacao-nib infused pastry, a case in point – but I still had chance to taste a couple of dishes while I caught up with some of the other bloggers over a glass of cool, fresh prosecco.

We all know how chocolate tastes, but how would it be in its raw form – cacao – and how would this add to the mix of flavours in savoury food? Is the menu just a gimmick for chocolate lovers, or does the cacao really add something to the food?

I had ‘fish run down’ – cod in a light spice sauce – and rare tuna with lime juice, guacamole and cacao-nib flatbread. They were both pretty divine. The cacao gave neither a sweet taste, just adding to the complement of herbs, spices and garnish to give a deep, satisfying flavour.

Dessert was an incredible cube of chocolate, made with 78% cocoa from St Lucia, dense yet light and and filled with a macaron which oozed sweet sauce as you reached the centre.

Apart from the cacao, Roast + Conch uses locally-sourced ingredients and has an open kitchen so you can talk to the chefs. If you get chance, do. They’re really knowledgeable and passionate about what they’re cooking – with good reason!

Hotel Chocolat Roast + Conch Leeds Hotel Chocolat Roast + Conch Leeds Hotel Chocolat Roast + Conch Leeds

Next, it was downstairs to the bar where we could watch chocolate being made, although I missed it – too busy yakking (I know) – and sample their specialist cocktails. I tasted the Hotel Chocolat gin and tonic – cacao gin, tonic and orange twist – and Rabot rum sour – golden rum, lime, nutmeg and cacao bitters. As with the food, there was a special kick, something more to their drinks than you’d find in your typical cocktail bar. It makes the flavours more interesting, without knocking them out of balance.

Hotel Chocolat Roast + Conch Leeds Hotel Chocolat Roast + Conch Leeds Hotel Chocolat Roast + Conch Leeds Hotel Chocolat Roast + Conch Leeds

It was such a pleasant evening. I left with a happy palette, bag full of Hotel Chocolat treats and a promise to myself to be back soon.

Need to know: Roast + Conch is at 55 Boar Lane, Leeds, LS1 5EL. Their ‘school of chocolate‘ opened on 1 October, experiences from £50.

Blogger walk around Bingley

I’ll be honest, I have a tendency to regard Bradford and its surrounds as a rather inconvenient obstacle to my getting from my side of West Yorkshire to the Yorkshire Dales.

So Bingley is not the first location that springs to mind when I think of going walking. But this town just outside Bradford, famous for its five locks, was the meeting place for a really enjoyable early autumn day spent walking through woods and parkland with a gang of fellow bloggers.

Not your usual blog event, I grant you – although it did end with a delicious and photogenic lunch – but who wants to do the same thing all of the time?

The walk took us around the St Ives estate, taking in Myrtle Park, the old pack horse bridge, Coppice Pond and Lady Blantyre’s rock. We went on a short detour to feel on top of the world (or at least the valley) at Druid’s Altar before descending for a delicious lunch at the Brown Cow pub. For the route in more detail take a look at Walk In Yorkshire, a blog written by Cedric, our ‘guide’ for the day.

Walk around Bingley West Yorkshire Read More →

When life gets stressful

My life’s suddenly got quite stressful and I’m not sure I like it.

I remember feeling distinctly carefree, blessed and happy pretty much all the time only a few years ago. In fact, I defined myself as laid back – frankly, horizontal at times – and not one for feeling any pressure unnecessarily.

I maintained this through getting a degree, doing a Masters while working full-time, past house renovations, a big relationship breakdown and planning a wedding.

I still have some (blissful) moments of feeling like that, but more and more I’ve got this constant, nagging, tingling tension at the top of my head. As much as I try to relax in the hope the feeling will evaporate – not least because I swear I can physically detect the grey hairs pushing through my scalp – it’s hard to make it let go.

What’s causing this? Well, work has suddenly become a worry (not a welcome development, thank you very much, life Gods), I’m still dealing with a big personal thing, the house renovation has left us without a kitchen – let alone a living room – for the last five months and keeping this blog brings its own additional pressures – the constant need to keep on top of emails and social media, not to mention making time to create and write posts.

So it’s not a surprise, really, that I’m finding life a little tougher and I’m not giving myself a hard time about it. I just want to make sure I know where the stress is coming from, that I’m not making more than there is and that I’m dealing with it as best I can. Read More →

Double Merrick giveaway

It’s no secret that I dream of living in France one day. Today’s post is not helping my impatience to be living that phase of my life now, rather than in a couple of decades.

This is the home and work of Merrick Angle, a designer originally from East Yorkshire but now living in Limousin, France who runs the online shop Double Merrick. They specialise in prints and homewares and supply the likes of Liberty, Selfridges, Pedlars and Culturelabel.

Merrick has kindly offered my readers the chance to win a screenprint of your choice – worth €60 – inspired by the ephemera he sees in his remote corner of France.

I’ll pick out some of my favourite prints later but first, let’s take a tour of their 215-year-old home.

Featured on Design*Sponge a couple of years ago, it was built in 1799 and when Merrick and Alice bought it was covered in vines and hadn’t been lived in for 40 years. They took on the challenge and worked through the project slowly, Merrick doing most of the work himself and Alice sourcing a lot of the furniture at France’s famous brocantes.

Merrick says: “Our tastes in interiors can be different, but our home is a collaboration, and I am always amazed by the ideas she comes up with and the things she finds.”

Merrick Angle of Double Merrick's 215-year-old home in Limousin, France Read More →

Handmade Huddersfield home

How many of us have been in this situation: you’re home from travelling, you’re working low paid jobs, you’re back living with mum and dad and you can’t afford to rent your own place let alone buy.

Well I’m about to tell you about one Yorkshire woman’s ingenious solution.

Stephanie Bertenshaw took three garages next to her parents’ house and with £12,000, help from family and friends and a whole lot of imagination and creativity, transformed them into a villa-style home now valued at £150,000.

Felt Mountain Studios handmade home in Marsden Huddersfield Yorkshire Read More →

Top 10 DIYs and a blog award

You might have noticed a little addition to my sidebar recently.

That’s right, a couple of weeks ago I was hit with the brilliant news that I’ve been nominated for the Amara Interior Blog Awards.

Nominee Badge

I’m in the ‘best DIY blog‘ category and you will notice that I have some mega competition, so I only have an outside chance of walking away with the title, but nonetheless it feels brilliant to be a nominee along with some of my favourite and most inspiring bloggers.

The good news is that you can help me get onto the shortlist by voting for me here. All you have to do is put in your name and email address and I’m assured you won’t get spammed. Thanks so much! Voting closes on October 3.

In honour of my nomination and to prove my credentials for you clicking through and voting I thought I’d take a look back at some of the best home DIY projects I’ve shared on the blog so far. Read More →

Virtual Bathrooms competition

It may be only a few months since we completely renovated our bathroom, but that doesn’t mean I never think about things we might have done, or what we might do in a bathroom of the future.

Bathroom supplier Virtual Bathrooms are currently running a competition for people to use their bathroom designer tool to create their perfect washing and bathing space.

Our current bathroom is small – not ideal, especially as my husband and I often find ourselves in there at the same time, which leads to much dancing round each other. So the starting point when I began thinking about my dream bathroom was that it would have be bigger, but I’m a realist so I resisted making it palace-sized.

I then chose a large walk-in shower, curved bath and double basins (no more elbowing each other out of the way) and a neat wall-hung toilet. Décor-wise I added a feature sunburst mirror and bold patterned floor tiles but went for pure white walls and – a little like we’ve done in our own bathroom – some classic wood and leafy plants to warm up the space.

I found the bathroom designer tool really easy and quite fun to use and was impressed by how realistic the 3D pictures were. If you were planning a real space, you can adjust the room to make it actual size and add doors and windows where they really are. If you’re just starting out with some ideas it really helps bring them to life so you can see if they work then add things or take them away.

What do you think to my design?

Virtual Bathrooms bathroom design competition Read More →

Notting Hill Carnival

As I was in London on the August bank holiday weekend, I decided to go to Notting Hill Carnival.

My friend and I were going to a party out of town on the Monday, when heavy rain was forecast anyway, so we decided we’d go to carnival on the Sunday, billed as ‘family day’.

I’m glad I went, but it wasn’t quite the all-singing-all-dancing extravaganza I was expecting and although you could tell a lot of effort had gone into some costumes what I saw didn’t really match the images you see splashed across the media.

Sunday is the children’s parade and I hear the costumes are far grander and more extravagant on the Monday, which is the day of the main carnival parade and grand finale. But this is one student’s vivid depiction of the downsides, and based on the taster I had the day before I can imagine much of what she says is true.

First, let’s talk about the good.

Notting Hill Carnival family day August 2014

Read More →

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