One chic coffee table, three canny style tools

A well styled coffee table can be a game changer. I recently took delivery of the Athena* coffee table from Swoon Editions which, let's face it, doesn't need much help to look its best. What with its white circular marble top and modernist black metal legs, Athena has got all its beauty bases covered. 

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But not all coffee tables are this blessed. In fact, until now I've mostly got mine from charity shops and flea markets and they have required a little more help in the looks department.  

Over the years I've learnt to employ a couple of basic styling techniques which can really up the ante of a coffee table. With these inexpensive style tools in your accessories arsenal, you'll have everything you need to take a coffee table from functional to fabulous - whether its a Swoon Editions stunner, or a junk store gem.

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1) Vintage vases

Today I noticed the flowers were on their way out. I always spare a few quid for supermarket flowers with each weekly shop, but they have to work hard for their dollar. They may start off as a lush full bunch in a nice vase (you know my faves if you follow my Instagram account; the pink bubble glass one, the fake Zambesi one)... but as the week wears on and things start to droop a little, the flowers get split up and chopped down.

Here's where having a couple of smaller vintage vases comes in useful. You can cut the stems short and let whatever is left of the blooms have one last hurrah. You get at least another couple of days out of your flowers and a fresh new look for your coffee table.

I also have a ton of cheap-as-chips stem vases in my flower vessel armoury. Many are old glass bottles with pretty decorative patterns, which I often team with a smaller vase, but can be simply lovely all on their own.

2) Book club

We know books aren't just for reading don't we? I mean, enjoy them by all means, but just promise not to let the fun end with the afterword. After they've enriched your soul, it's time for them to enrich your coffee table.

Even just a couple of books to stack on top of one another is a way cooler way of displaying flowers, an ornament, or a candle even, than just plonking that item on the table itself. Honestly, once you're into this vibe, stuff placed directly onto a table top will really start to bug you. 

You'll need all shapes and sizes of books to fulfil your different stacking and styling needs. Strip them of their paper cover if it's a bit naff and get down to the naked spine. Battered vintage books are a great look of course, but I tend to use whatever is lying around. Too many times we've lost a school library book, only for it to be found under a vase of freesias a week and a book fine later. 

Your coffee table will thank you for this small book of photographs by Martin Parr, which is just brilliant with our without the addition of flowers. 

  Martin Parr  photography book £8.95 Amazon

Martin Parr photography book £8.95 Amazon

3) Kudos Coasters

The one thing you DON'T want on your coffee table is a mug stain. But truth be told, I'm not a huge fan of coasters either. In fact I'm a bit of a coaster snob. I have vintage silver ones that come in their own little stacking holder. They're always knocking about in charity shops and flea markets and they do the practical/ pretty job really quite well.

That said, if I was getting married again and putting a gift list together... or just feeling flush, there are some pretty lush coasters around that make serious coffee table eye candy.  Amara has this game covered of course. Head straight to their website for coasters with a ton of extra style kudos. There's a few of my faves from their collection below. All www.amaraliving.com

So what's on your coffee table? A half eaten Snickers, last season's Next catalogue and a broken phone charger? Maybe it's time you got your kit together? Let me know your thoughts.

Claire x

*Sadly the circular Athena table is no longer available. Click here for the rectangular version or visit www.swooneditions.com to shop more marble top lovelies

 

 

Holy Faux-liage - why I worship at the altar of artificial plants

I don't normally advocate faking it. Preserve what you've got is my motto. But try as I might, there are some things I fail to keep looking perky and pot plants are one of them.

Faux-liage is the answer to my green-fingered prayers. Hallelujia! then for Abigail Ahern the patron saint of succulents, who has blessed us with her fabulous faux florists, at Heals on the ground floor of Yorkshire interiors heaven Redbrick.

If ever there was a more beautiful display of plastic products, I'd like to see it. 

 Abigail Ahern's faux flower shop at Heals in Redbrick, near Leeds.

Abigail Ahern's faux flower shop at Heals in Redbrick, near Leeds.

You might be fooled into thinking into thinking these stunning plants and flowers are real, but please don't be fooled into thinking AA fauxs are extortionately priced. OK, so a Hydreangea stem will set you back £12.50.

A pretty pale pink Rannuculous is £5.50

A simple burgundy cow parsley spray is £6

You're looking at around £40 for enough stems to make a statement vase, not cheap, I get that, but what you need to remember is that this is the bunch of flowers that keeps on giving. Week after week, month after month, year after year. Anniversary after anniversary... ahem, it's this week, love (winky face) 

Fauxs actually make excellent plant maths, so as one by one my disastrous attempts at home grown greenery depart this world, I am just going to replace them with perma-plants instead. I mean, I've got enough mouths to feed. I'm over it.

 Goldenball cactus from £60

Goldenball cactus from £60

 Large Yuha Cactus £145

Large Yuha Cactus £145

 Staghorn plat £70

Staghorn plat £70

 String of Pearls £50

String of Pearls £50

From lush trailing ferns, to the coolest kingsize cacti, these are the fakes to bring a room scheme to life. Ironic when you put it like that isn't it?

But hey, you can't just take my word for it. Like all the best fake jobs, you need to have a good look and see if they really do pass as the real thing first. Then go on, cop a feel. I guarantee you won't be disappointed. Don't worry, Heals won't mind you fondling their foliage one little bit.

Here's where to get your hands on these fabulous fauxs, whilst also taking in the best interior design destination in the North of England, home to over 40 top brands and innovative retailers.

  Redbrick  is situated in Batley, on the outskirts of Leeds.  Click here for directions.

Redbrick is situated in Batley, on the outskirts of Leeds. Click here for directions.

Happy Monday all. my advice to get you through the week? Go buy yourself flowers of course!

Please get in touch, I'd love to hear from you and will gladly accept any floral deliveries also (joke) Leave a comment below and stalk me on social media... stalks... flowers... get it? Sorry, I'll go now, before you tell me where to shove my Tule Cactus. 

 Faux Tule Cactus £65  Abigail Ahern

Faux Tule Cactus £65 Abigail Ahern

Claire x

 

 

 

Flamboyance rules at London Design Festival

Question) What do you call a group of flamingos?

Answer) A Flamboyance

It's hands down the coolest fact I know and one that may come in handy if my recent trip to London Design Festival is anything to go by.

See, flamboyance is big news. Huge in fact. Flamboyance - whether it be a group of flamingos hiding in the foliage...

 Flamingos a go-go at  Hoxton Grill

Flamingos a go-go at Hoxton Grill

... A bunch of cheeky monkeys busting out of banana leaves...

 New monkey print wallpaper by Clarke and Clarke at Decorex

New monkey print wallpaper by Clarke and Clarke at Decorex

... Or an over indulgent, brightly coloured, Liberty print carpet...

  Alternative Flooring Co 's Liberty print carpets at Decorex 

Alternative Flooring Co's Liberty print carpets at Decorex 

Flamboyance is where it's at.

Shrinking violets take note. This is not a look you can pull off easily. Kindly stick to geometrics and/or graffiti inspired fashion statements if you will - another equally hip (but possibly longer term) design trend which I will cover to in a later post.

Today however, I'm still going OTT about the over the top vibe currently dominating the interiors scene. My head is actually hurting with the volume of extravagant patterns that I crammed into it my small brain on my whistle stop tour of London this week. It's either that or the naughty school night out at the Hoxton Grill on Tuesday to see the Rockett St George pop up tropical paradise. You can see how it inspires a bit of excess though can't you?

 Neon pink flamingo £195  Rockett St George

Neon pink flamingo £195 Rockett St George

It's been a crazy week here as I've tried to cram in three away days on top of my normal workload and the usual stresses of family life. Amazing though, isn't it, how you think it's going to be impossible and then ta-da you get to Friday and it's done. (It's a big Fri-yay from me)

I'm looking forward to documenting all the exciting stuff I've been up to here on the blog, so please stay tuned and drop me a line if you see anything that floats your boat design wise. Remember to use the #myhousecandy on twitter or instagram if you've also got some fabulous decor wins to share. I'd love you to get in touch!

Meanwhile, I've got tired children, a neglected hound and two overworked grandparents to appease so I must keep this post short and tend to my flock. Which reminds me... I picked up this pinny at the Denby Pottery factory shop yesterday on my so very exciting bloggers trip to learn all about their impressive design credentials (details coming soon).

 Flamingo pinny £8.99 from  Denby Pottery Factory shop

Flamingo pinny £8.99 from Denby Pottery Factory shop

It's exactly what I need for my Macmillan Coffee Morning next Friday. If you are in the area, you must pop by, but do be prepared for a bit of flamboyance with your fondant fancies, won't you?

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Happy weekend all,

Claire x

The nest feels empty, but the fridge feels full: The joys of going Back to School

Oh I used to get upset about them going back to school, I did, I did. And of course I've still got their first little pair of shorts and the elasticated tie that they chewed at the end and accidentally dipped in their gravy.

I still take a doorstep photo of them looking all smart and shiny every first day of term. Here's this year's offering as they embark upon years 8 and 4 at Hipperholme Grammar School.

 Same doorstep, bigger boys. I wonder what this year will bring? 

Same doorstep, bigger boys. I wonder what this year will bring? 

But these days there are none of the tears. Today, for example, was a 100% happy event. They were ready, I was ready, the dog was ready. (She has NOT enjoyed this disruption to her morning walk routine one little bit).

The boys were excited to wear their new shoes, keen to see their mates and - though loathed to admit it - I know they were secretly looking forward to using their sharp new pencils in their brand new books. There didn't seem to be the usual thumped-in-the-gut feeling today for any of us and I think I know why.

Today, with the house eerliy quiet (I can even hear the clock ticking) I could, if I tried really hard, miss the shrieking, the squabbling and definitely the laughter. But then I remember how my fridge has held on to its contents all day long and will still be fully stocked by home time. I realise that I'm not stealing 5 minutes to make that phone call or send that e-mail, I can do it In My Own Time. I enjoy depositing rubbish in the kitchen bin without discovering I can't because it is already rammed full of GOD ONLY KNOWS WHAT - and then I do know what, because there it all is, all over my kitchen floor, after the flimsy bag has burst.

But most of all, I enjoy knowing that after 7 or so weeks of disruption, the jobs I start, actually have an outside chance of getting finished. Here's what's on my to-do list and getting me all excited for the new school term:

1) Hallway goals

The clean up campaign commences. Shoe bank here I come with a box load of stinking old football boots and trainers, sandy flip-flops and past-their-best Converse. For the surviving family footwear I have the following storage solution in mind:

2) Flowers

My house has been baron of flowers for 7 long weeks. I'm not exactly sure why - concern for their welfare in a house full of boys? Trolley already overloaded with snack food and fizzy drinks? Not even the time to plonk them in a vase? Who knows, but I am treating myself and my home to some New Term Flowers as a thank you for putting up with us and our clutter all summer long.

3) Filing

It's my nemesis. I am completely incompetent in the admin department and the holidays have not helped. Anyway, I found a bright pink, 2 drawer lockable filing cabinet in Staples and it just might be enough to give me a hint of the Miss Moneypenny's.

 Poink filing cabinet £59.98  www.staples.co.uk

Poink filing cabinet £59.98 www.staples.co.uk

 

4) Wardrobe workout

If holidays teach me anything it is that I really need to sort out my closet. The stuff that comes outta that suitcase is alarming. It gets packed, flown to a foreign country, unpacked, rejected and returns home unworn and just a little bit travel sick. I wear about one third of the clothes I own and have got to learn to let go.

I'm not doing that mad Marie Kondo decluttering thing however, all that folding sounds tiresome. Instead I am turning to the How to be Parisian method of wardrobe editing and banning everything on page 8. It makes perfect sense and is sure to result in me looking a lot more, well, French I suppose. Unfortunately you need to read the book for details as it would take far too much effort for me to repeat it all here, which (as you will discover) is not very Parisian at all.

 

So what's on your back to school to-do list? Are you feeling motivated or just counting down the minutes until you can get those little cherubs back home? Either way I've been there and bought the commemorative class t-shirt, so I can promise you've got a friend in me.

Happy New Term all,

Love Claire

xx

The crazy lady with the nice jugs

The really cool thing about buying vintage* House Candy is that each piece comes with its own unique story.  More often than not, this is House Candy that finds you, rather than you finding it, like this pretty yellow jug I bought on one of those idyllic Sunday afternoon family canal walks.

My closest friends know all about "the walk". It's the one my kids really didn't want to go on, it being the middle of the Euros and all. The one, despite the uneven ground and recent heavy rains, they insisted on bringing scooters on. The one that involved me threatening to leave home if I had to ease the boys' boredom by playing one more game of Guess Which Footballer I'm Thinking Of... That walk.

But whilst out on "The Walk", at round about the time my dog produced a sloppy poo and just before my husband threatened to throw the Godforsaken scooters in the canal, we came across a crazy canal boat dweller who had decided to have a clear out.

She had set up a stall outside the canal boat a bit like the ones my sister and I created outside our house in the school summer holidays. It was a table laden with unwashed tat from the houseboat. 

Among the crazy lady's treasures were a broken sound system, some scenic coasters and a dirty, ink stained jug previously used to hold biros. Everything was 50p because she "needed to make some space before the boat was advertised on Airbnb".. True fact.

Now it was either a canny sales tactic or a tragic sob story, but upon showing an interest in her wares (and therefore avoiding another round of guess the frikkin' footballer) Crazy Lady told me how loathed she was to part with any of these precious artefacts; particularly the lovely yellow, slightly chipped, very ink stained, old jug-come-pen-pot that I was now holding in my hand.

The sight of a shiny 50p did nothing to ease the pain - quite the opposite in fact. Instead my keenness to pay appeared to evoke more happy memories of blissful pen storage and happy letter writing on the lovely old (but overcrowded) house boat. It wasn't until my husband suggested she keep the change from a one pound coin and I promised to give the the jug a loving family home, that the crazy house boat lady agreed to a sale and the yellow jug finally got new owners.

I wasn't lying to the crazy house boat lady. I do, actually, love this jug almost as much as she did. I love it because it is the most fabulous shade of vintage yellow that is difficult to replicate on new ceramics.

I love it because a handful of cheap supermarket flowers and garden picked blooms look amazing just plonked straight in it without all that faff of fancy arranging.

And most of all I love it because it reminds me of The Walk that started badly and ended beautifully.  Ending - since I know you are so desperate to hear the moral of this story - with us all:

a) Realising that there are actual human beings out there who haven't even heard of the Euros and know nothing of the pressures of rushing through quality family time in order to get back in front of the telly before kick off.

b) Feeling blessed that we don't live all alone, going slightly crazy on the Leeds to Liverpool canal. But have each other for family walks (however painful they may be) and endless games of Guess the Footballer.

c) Understanding that House Candy doesn't have to be about full height Crittal windows or reclaimed Moroccan tiles. Sometimes it can be about a 30 year old chipped yellow milk jug, which during its time has proven to be equally good at holding pens and peonies.

Happy weekend all, hope you get to enjoy some family time and perhaps a little bit of House Candy.

Claire xx

*vintage meaning stuff off of someone else

 

Chuck in the ChinTz

The Candy Files: What's hot, what's not and what's what at my place. This week:

House Candy = Chintzy dresses

 Grazia does granny chic.... and I think I'm in love.

Grazia does granny chic.... and I think I'm in love.

I'm a year older than last we met and am struck by a sudden and overwhelming desire to dress like a woman. Ideally the above just-tending-my-veggie-plot-whilst-wearing-full-length-toile-du-jouy vibe is the style I'm channelling, as introduced by my fashion bible Grazia (6 June issue).

There's a way to go until I can do effortless, everyday granny chic obvs, but just look how I've come on in a week. I mean, here's me chintzing it up at my sister in law's wedding, only last Wednesday.  

 My eldest son George looking rather dapper and oh yes, that woman in the flowery frock and the fascinator? That'll be me!

My eldest son George looking rather dapper and oh yes, that woman in the flowery frock and the fascinator? That'll be me!

Not only do I now enjoy the therapeutic swish of a maxi dress (Alice+Olivia parrot print no less) but in my advancing years, I also appear to have warmed to that classic ladylike wedding guest sin - the fascinator.

I kid you not, a fortnight ago this could never have happened. Something inside me has changed. Take today for instance, there I was, minding my own business in a macho squat-thrust at the gym, when suddenly I knew. 

I knew that post-shower, I wouldn't be tucking myself into skinny jeans and throwing on a breton top this fine summer's day. No chance. I knew that instead, I would be reaching for a flowery frock and (sharp intake of breath) applying lippy to go to the supermarket.

WHAT HAS HAPPENED? Will I ever be the same again? Is 41 the end of the world as I know it? Is the next stage watching Gardener's World with a French stick and a half tub of Brie? Or can it all be explained away by the high pollen count and the RHS flower show? Any help/ advice would be much appreciated.

Fine and Candy = Chintzy glass

 A recent kitsch glass bud vase. And  that  stool again (see previous post)

A recent kitsch glass bud vase. And that stool again (see previous post)

Cut glass bud vases, retro jars, cake stands... the granny glass obsession was already out of control before I brought home this minty green trifle bowl from my seaside trip at the weekend.

 My seaside souvenir - Just an impossibly pretty £1.50

My seaside souvenir - Just an impossibly pretty £1.50

 Also good as a bedside trinket holder for chucking off the chintz come night time.

Also good as a bedside trinket holder for chucking off the chintz come night time.

I can see that I'm going to have to find me a bigger painted display cabinet to manage this situation. Damn.

 Painted orange display cabinet. Image from Pinterest.

Painted orange display cabinet. Image from Pinterest.

Candy Pandy = Chins

I like my face best with just the one of them thank you. And since this birthday marks two decades since I last told the truth about being 21,  facial yoga begins today.

 Facial yoga fish face

Facial yoga fish face

 Want to do it with me? Well okay but only if you're wearing a frock. Altogether now.... www.youtube.com/facialyoga

Enjoy the sunshine all (SPF 50 for me) What's going up and down in your world this week?

Claire xx

 

Spring Garden Shelfie: How to not waste time on planting

I didn't start the day all that bright and cheerful but two things happened that changed my mood.

1) My favourite girl popped in for a cuppa.

2) I put some pretty coloured Daisy's outside my kitchen window. 

Boom. Happy bomb landed, right there.

This old plate rack (the top of a dresser actually) was sat doing nothing in my garage when I went in looking for garden tools. At the weekend I will get round to painting them in Farrow and Ball's new Vardo no 288 for a bit of that mood enhancing gypsy vibe it does so well. A sample pot or two will be enough for this job.

 Farrow and Ball's gypsy caravan inspired Vardo paint 

Farrow and Ball's gypsy caravan inspired Vardo paint 

Exterior paint will also make wooden shelves stand up to the elements whereas left outside, untreated like this will just result in warping. If you do want an au naturel look, seal them with a waterproof coating such as yacht wax.

Try the local fruit and veg market for bedding plants like these Bellis Daisy's that can be picked up in trays for under £10. I got 15 for £7.50 - That's cheaper than a nice bunch of flowers!

The idea wasn't to stand them all on the shelves at all. There was a plan involving top soil and digging, but you know what, I didn't have time. So I stood them on the shelves, plonked the shelves outside my kitchen window, did the washing up and inhaled a great big breath of happy.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments section, I'd love to hear from you.

Enjoy the sunshine all.

Claire