Attic Guest Room Reveal - The Housemaid's Tale

Once upon a time in the industrial north, there lived a young housemaid. She was grateful for lodgings in the servants quarters and kept out of sight of the household unless her presence was called upon. She kept the house clean and tidy. She made fires in grand fireplaces. She drew the heavy drapes, she lifted the expensive locally loomed carpets and swept the parquet floors. And after a hard day’s graft, having already tucked up Mi’Lady in her fancy four poster, she quietly climbed the steep steps to the dingy attic bedroom that wasn’t quite home. She dreamt of faraway places and grand houses with shit hot wallpaper…

The new attic guest room with wallpaper by  Anna Hayman Designs

The new attic guest room with wallpaper by Anna Hayman Designs

I often wonder about the people who lived in our house before we did. I’ve done a bit of research and actually, it hasn’t had all that many owners considering it is over 150 years old. People tend to stay here and bring their brood up, then move to something more manageable when they start to rattle around.

It’s a big old chunk of a house. It was built in 1875 for a local brewing family who were by no means Lords of the land, but had enough money for a maid. It’s lofty to say the least and my London friends love to tell me how much it would be worth if it were situated somewhere with a more sought after postcode. They mean well.

There are a full four floors if you include the cellar and the house renovation has involved revamping all of them. NOW do you see why it’s taken so long?

The attic, where the maid would have slept is the last floor to get the House Candy treatment. It is our guest bedroom and sadly, has always been a bit of an after thought. Like the youngest child of the family it gets the hand me downs and the junk finds. I doubt the day will ever come when we lavish new furniture on this room because there are always bigger priorities. So what do we do if we need to up the ante of a space without buying new furniture? WE DO WALLPAPER, that’s what we do… So pleased to see you haven’t forgotten the basics whilst I’ve been away.

Anna Hayman Designs  Wanderlust  wallpaper in Blush

Anna Hayman Designs Wanderlust wallpaper in Blush

Up on the top floor, I wanted to create an overall sense of tranquility. This is where we retreat if one of us can’t sleep. It also has a frequent visitor in one of my best friends, who combines her trips to see us with visits to see her mum in a nearby care home. I wanted this to be a space she could really unwind and forget about the bad stuff when she comes to stay.

I didn’t deliberate for long about the style of wallpaper. I knew I wanted to tap into that vintage vibe which suits this crooked space so well. I tried a few tile-like samples as a departure from the florals I usually go for and because I wanted to bring a sense of time travel to the space. This pattern, by my current design crush Anna Hayman Designs, feels both Victorian and a bit space age (and anyway, it’s called Wanderlust which is pretty much my favourite word in the dictionary, so that was that).

The attic room slopes into the eaves - a pretty useless cavity, but which makes it feel spacious. I chose Farrow and Ball’s Elephant’s Breath to match the background of the wallpaper and used this on the three walls and ceiling to create an enveloping effect that detracts from the awkward shape. The fireplace wall is the main event and papering the whole wall gave it a heightened sense of importance.

I went dark with the woodwork for the first time ever and I’m so pleased I took the plunge. Dark woodwork draws the eye downwards, which works when you’re dealing with different ceiling heights within the same room. Farrow and Ball’s famous Downpipe was the perfect match.

Farrow and Ball’s  Elephant’s Breath  envelopes the room which is outlined by woodwork in  Downpipe.

Farrow and Ball’s Elephant’s Breath envelopes the room which is outlined by woodwork in Downpipe.

I’m actually excited for the next time my husband goes out, get’s hammered and comes back snoring his head off. Instead of banishing him to the servant’s quarters, I’ll be delighted to leave him tucked up in the master bedroom and tip toe up into the attic to carry on with my dreams.

Do you struggle with choosing wallpaper and paint? It occurred to me that I could be some sort of personal shopper for the interior challenged. There are people I know who LOATHE wallpaper shopping and yet I’d put it up there with drinking strawberry mojitos at sunset as something I am unlikely ever to tire of. Drop me a line if you need help!

I’ll be revealing more of the stories behind the House Candy revamp over the next few weeks so please do keep checking in. Oh and if you thought this one made for a good read, I’d be so grateful if you’d share the post.

Happy Wallpaper Wednesday everyone, my new favourite day of the week.

Claire x

The spare room glam-over with no spare cash

One thing I love about my house is the enormous attic space. It was where the maids slept in the 1880s, the soldiers hid in the 1940s and the politician's *insert imagination* in the swinging sixties. In this millennium it has mostly been a dumping ground.

But not any more.

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This week I needed the spare room to look special because my friend was coming to stay.  Not that I need to impress my friend. Xena stays regularly and takes me as she finds me. On this occasion she found me stressy and a bit shrivelled, but that's another story.

No, I wanted the attic guest space to look swish, because apart from having somewhere nice to sleep and a mate to laugh with, this was otherwise going to be a shit week for Xena.

Xena's mum, the one that used to let us have parties in the cellar, the one who'd let us scribble the names of boys we fancied on the bedroom walls, the one who always had long, blonde hippy hair when the other mums had short tight perms.... Xena's mum has Alzheimers. This week we've had the heartbreaking task of finding her a specialist care home at only 66.  

In the grand scheme of things, interior design doesn't matter. But when life sucks, I like to think it can at least be a tonic. I figured that if making my attic guest room all pretty and glamorous could, in some small way, lift the pain for Xena this week then it was totally worth a try.

Now I have lots of plans for this room, involving beautiful new wallpaper by Common Room and a stack of new bedding by The White Company. But I had neither the time, nor the funds to employ a full on makeover in time for my guest's arrival. Instead I needed to get creative with a vintage glam update that is pretty and cosy enough to detract from any crumby decorating choices that I'm stuck with for now.

If you've got a spare room to get guest ready, but no spare cash for a modern makeover, piling on the vintage glamour is a great way to get that boutique hotel feel on a budget.

I raided the rest of the house of accessories to glam-up the attic bedroom for the week and employed some simple vintage styling tricks:  

1) Layering

Layering is the key to cool vintage styling. I decided on a blush pink and gold theme and threw together all the rugs, throws and cushions I had around the house that fell within this colour palette. if you like this look try and mix different textures for maximum impact. Silk and faux fur are a match made in vintage style heaven.

The shaggy pink rug was a second hand market find for about £8 but the Rug Seller has a similar one here.

As I live in a lofty Victorian house we have a lot of throws about the place to snuggle up in on the sofa. I borrowed a few of them for this room including two from TK Maxx - One of the best places (apart from second hand shops) to pick up low cost luxe accessories. This grey bobble knit throw for example has £70 off the RRP.

Grey bobble Paoletti throw £39.99  TK Maxx

Grey bobble Paoletti throw £39.99 TK Maxx

Whilst this cheap and cheerful yellow throw can't fail to brighten up a boring spare room:

Yellow and white throw £16.99  TK Maxx

Yellow and white throw £16.99 TK Maxx

2) Frames

I have a ridiculous collection of redundant gilt edge picture frames lying about the house but I can't tell you how many times they've come in handy. Propped up on a bare wall they are great for "framing" focal points, such as the pink anglepoise lamp from Marks and Spencer.

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I've also used one to hang a sparkly vintage cape on, just because it's got all that shizz going on and these magnolia walls needed all the help they could get. 

3) Fairy lights

So the rest of your house is painted all edgy and dark and the guest bedroom is a nondescript neutral with patches of match pot samples in the corner behind the door. Same. Too late to do anything about it now, the Christmas guests are on their way, so my advice is dim the lights.  

Fairy lights set a magical tone

Fairy lights set a magical tone

I suggest borrowing lamps from other rooms if it's just for a short stay/ short term fix, but if you need extras just use Christmas tree lights around a large house plant or display them in a big vase, glass bowl or bird cage. I also wrapped a set of Christmas ivy lights round the bed and the touch of green really lifted things, don't you think?

4) Storage

When it's not hosting house guests, this room is hosting boxes. I'm a loving collector more than a ruthless de-clutterer, which (roughly translated) means I keep too much shit. This shit can be beautifully disguised in gorgeous vintage trunks. Buy 'em, fill 'em stack 'em. In my opinion they are the cheapest, chicest storage solution out there.

Vintage trunks make great guest room storage

Vintage trunks make great guest room storage

5) Mirrors

I've said it before, but it's worth repeating... I love using mirrors to dress a room. Not because I like looking at myself. Quite the opposite in fact. I love they way they bounce light about and the instant glam that comes from that shiny mirrored surface. Mix old and new mirrors for full effect. I'll be looking out for more vintage dome mirrors at second hand fairs, great for a cool porthole effect above a bed.

This star mirror from Cox and Cox is a stylists dream. It's been rocking up my lounge wall above the sofa but I moved it up into the attic for my friend's visit just to give the room a little touch of luxury. You can literally put it anywhere and it looks super cool.

Brass star mirror £80 by  Cox and Cox

Brass star mirror £80 by Cox and Cox

Also, you know how I'm into subliminal messages right? Well my mate can't deal with kindness at the best of times and at this point it might just break her. This little star was my way of telling her how I felt about the way she is dealing with this situation.

So what do you think of my vintage glam attic guest room? I'd love to know your thoughts, please get in touch in the comments section, or find me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Xena has returned home now and I'm supposed to be putting a lot of this stuff back in the rooms they came from but you know what... I might just have a night up her on my own first. Here's the bath that I had installed in my attic 10 years ago when I first converted it and I have never so much as dipped a toe in! A quiet soak in here is literally all I want for Christmas.

My totally impractical, secret attic bathroom

My totally impractical, secret attic bathroom

Finally, I'm sorry this post has been late in coming. I've kind of been a bit pre-occupied this week... and just so you know, next week is not looking good either. Hope you are all way more organised than me and enjoying getting into the Christmas spirit. I'm going for the winging it all the way approach. Prossecco time yet?

Claire xx