Monday, 28 May 2012

An English Country House Winner!

Now I bet that title turned your head a little didn't it - I do honestly wish that I could give away an actual English Country House as a prize - but alas - it's simply the gorgeous book 'The English Country House' by Mary Miers.

Using Mrs. Glosser's Math Goodies, Custom Random Number generator, the number 15 came up which I attributed to the 15th comment on the giveaway post.

And the lucky winner is...drum roll please.....

ANITA from CASTLES CROWNS & COTTAGES Blog.

Well done Anita - I will be contacting you shortly to get your details.

Thank you all SO much for entering, I enjoyed reading your comments tremendously! So, as a consolation prize to those of you who were kind enough to enter, but didn't win and also to those who simply enjoy looking at beautiful houses (as I obviously do!) - here are a few yummy English country houses to enjoy.

Now this image of delightfulness below, which was once home to the composer Sir John Betjeman, actually won a competition in Country Life magazine not so long ago and was voted England's finest Parsonage - I can see why!

How do you fancy this Listed Regency Country House? It is called Sturford Mead, built in 1820 and set in seven acres of gardens, lake and woodland on the edge of the historic Longleat estate in Wiltshire, England. In it's promotional blurb it's described as "one of the prettiest of the smaller country houses in the county." Not quite my idea of small...as one presumes the actress may have said to the bishop...

And one last swoon inducing lovely, how about this one below, which is intriguingly listed on Love Home Swap, so presumably one can try out a little bit of English Country Life a la 'The Holiday' - the romantic comedy with Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslett and Jude Law...and I have to say that if it comes complete with it's own 'Jude Law' then I'm most definitely willing to give it a trial run or six!

A short post today, because the sun is out in England and it's calling my name - and one never knows when it might disappear again!

Thank you all for your wonderful comments once again, and I hope that you're enjoying the sun wherever you are!

Paula x
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Thursday, 24 May 2012

DANGER - Novice At Work!

No - not Ken Tate's fabulous dining room setting that appears above, but...me! I have to admit to feeling rather lazy when it comes to showcasing projects at Hill House.

I am in constant awe of the industrious nature of my fellow bloggers, whose posts are littered with calorific culinary creations, fabulous furniture transformations and high drama house renovations on a daily basis.

I tend to be one of those people who sits back and gasps in wonder and delight at the efforts of others, egging on their hard work while casually making lists and planning my own schemes, all from the comfort of an overstuffed chair and a computer screen - a cup of tea and a biscuit always within arms reach. While this of course allows my brain to gratefully receive an abundance of glorious inspiration - the downside of living vicariously through others is that while I know what I want, and am a dab hand at putting a mood board together - the project itself is rarely attempted.

Perhaps my attachment to a permanently seated position has much to do with my previous life in an office - albeit a fairly glamorous one. Throughout most of my career, the majority of my day would be spent on my derriere - all the better to accommodate the wearing of 5 inch stilettos I suppose...

However recently, - and as wellington boots are my current foot ware of choice, - I have decided to inject a bit more oomph into my daily routine. I have endeavoured to attempt (and more importantly complete) more creative projects, and in a (feeble) trial to get the creative juices flowing - my first project - to ease me in gently you understand - has been to play around with table settings - or tablescapes as they now seem to be called.
Indeed it seems that there is a growing industry building up around the setting of a dining table - much fueled by the likes of me - I have at least five hard back books on the topic of 'setting a table' alone!
Now, I adore hosting dinner parties, and have long relished the opportunity to play around with a trinket or two when it comes to decorating a table. I have also received a few compliments in my time for my ingenious use of a rice mould - but then guests are paid (in food) to say nice things about one's table aren't they? Woe betide the guest who turns up and criticises the hostesses' use of ornamental vegetables as table decoration, regardless of how questionably shaped these vegetables may be...even a bulbous marrow can add a certain zhush to a table layout - believe me - I've seen this done in real life...!
However, attempting to display ones extremely limited styling 'skills' in the public arena is a totally different thing altogether, and I have to admit to feeling rather like a pre-schooler showing off a 4 year old's interpretation of a horse - "What a lovely chicken darling...oh? It's a horse!"
Anyway dear readers, here it is - a bit basic with crumpled linen - but remember - I'm just playing around - if you were really coming for dinner, there'd be...well...food (and I'd get you too tipsy with cocktails to notice the bare bits!). In reality this is an excuse to get out my new Susie Watson bowls, and please ignore the colours on the wall and chairs...these are all projects that are still a work in progress (you see!), although happily there are dates in the diary, so at some point in the not too distant future, there will be a proper dining room 'reveal'. Right. I'll shut up before I go too apologetic and 'Hugh Grant' on you.
...Okaaaaay - so admittedly still a work in progress! So here, for the sake of relieving your eyes of my cobbled together efforts, and adding something a tad more sophisticated in the eye candy department, here are some professional tablescapes that cause my legs to tremble and my heart to soar (including Ken Tate's first image). Forget the food - I think that I would be constantly swatting at my guests hands in an attempt to stop these marvelous vignettes from being tarnished with use. Can you imagine - "Darling, we're not actually going to EAT in here - this table is just to be ADMIRED - we're having a take-away in the kitchen!"

Let's start simple...pretty and simple - and yet SO effective...

I like this one below also because of it's simplicity...although perhaps I'd offer my own guests a spoon!
Okay, we're upping the ante slightly with this one - but still quite casual dining - and I TOLD you there'd be vegetables!
A bit more going on here...I'd love to be brave enough to use trees on my table!
How beautiful is this...sigh!
Okay, so going in a slightly more formal direction now...
One day my dining chairs will be re-covered and look similar to this...(project number 1,952!)
...And the 'piece de resistance'...who would want to eat when you could gaze at a (hopefully fake) peacock all night!
Right then - I'm off to stretch my legs and place a gourd on the table - Bon Appetite!

p.s. For those of you who haven't already, don't forget to enter my giveaway from my last post. The winner will be revealed on Monday - best of Luck and have a Glorious weekend!

Paula x
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Monday, 21 May 2012

An English Country House Giveaway!

I awoke this morning to find that I had reached that grand number of 200 on my followers bar! I am astounded and very humbled that 200 people are willing to listen to my ramblings and chit chat about all things comfy, countrified and old fashioned, and so with thanks to followers old and new - and with extra special thanks to those who have included my blog in their sidebar!! -I am delighted to announce my first ever giveaway! In keeping with my obsession with old English houses, the giveaway is a book entitled - you guessed it 'The English Country House' by Mary Miers (see first image above).
Now this book has been compiled from the archived images of the English property staple, 'Country Life' magazine, and to quote from Country Life itself, this generous tome covers "the architecture and interiors of 62 spectacular houses in a range of styles spanning seven centuries, from medieval Stokesay Castle to the newly built, Lutyesn-inspired Corfe Farm". Basically, they are all gobsmackers! And by that I mean that they're the type of house that one can imagine ending up in if one were a Jane Austen heroine - or for those who don't share my Mr Darcy based bodice ripping fantasies, and who took a shine to the more recent version of antiquated English country life - the houses are more Downton Abbey than downtown LA.
Country Life magazine is as English as Wellington boots, strawberries and cream at Wimbledon and Sunday roasts. It is also the magazine that almost certainly influenced my love of fine English architecture from the 17th, 18th & 19th Centuries. It fueled my desire to become an architect in my early years - although admittedly I didn't get the required grades and ended up with a degree in Town & Country Planning and (watered down) Architecture instead - the fact that I went on to become a model agent and then a Fashion Bookings Editor for a glossy magazine is (despite much eyebrow raising from my parents)another story altogether...
As usual, I digress, but my Mother would buy Country Life when I was a child, and I remember eagerly pouring over the picture perfect and immaculately designed country houses and imagining my life in each room and every garden. Interestingly enough, I was always drawn to the Georgian period of architecture, and have never really strayed from that intense love of symmetry, order and purity of design that one finds in a nice old Georgian house.
But back to the giveaway... All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning is to be a follower and to leave me a comment letting me know that you are a follower (with your full name) - simple as that. I'll announce the winner on Monday 28th May - so GOOD LUCK! In the mean time, I'll leave you with a yummy image that for me, perfectly encapsulates the ideal ingredients of an English country house drawing room. It's Nancy Lancaster's 'Yellow Room' at Colefax & Fowler's Brooke Street Showroom - and yes, Nancy was American (she bought the company from Lady Colefax) and again yes - Brooke Street is in slap bang in the middle of central London and not in the English countryside - but hopefully you get the gist! So close your eyes, settle down, plump up that chintzy cushion, butter that scone, take a sip of Earl Grey and throw another log on the fire...and where were we? Oh yes - Mr Darcy had just walked out of the lake and was walking slowly - shirt dripping with water - towards us........Paula x
Images courtesy of; 1) The English Country House by Mary Miers. (Also sold by AMAZON.co.uk); 2,3,4,5) Country Life magazine www.countrylife.co.uk; 6) Nancy Lancaster's 'Yellow Room' at the Colefax & Fowler Showroom in Brooke Street London. www colefax.com
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Monday, 14 May 2012

I Went To The Market...

Do you remember when you were at nursery school, and the teacher would play the game "I went to the market"? All the children would sit around in a circle and one by one say something that they had 'bought' at the market, and then everyone would have to add an extra thing to the list and remember the last items? Fancy a 'grown up' version of that game? Well sit down quietly children and I'll begin - because on Sunday I Went to the Market...and I bought...a Lamp...
...I went to the market and I also bought...a painted Table!
So let's see...that makes a Lamp (for my son's desk) and a painted Table (I have 3 others similar to this!)...and...
...I went to the market and I ALSO bought a...retro style Radio!
Right then - where are we - are you keeping up? I went to the market and I bought, a Lamp (for my son's room), a painted Table (of which I have 3 others!), a retro style Radio (for my husbands retro style study!) and a...Vase!
Actually, not just a vase - but a Fulham Pottery, Constance Spry vase to add to my rather large Fulham Pottery collection - RESULT!
Let's recap, I went to the market and I bought, A Lamp (for my son's room), A painted Table (of which I have 3 others!), A retro style Radio (for my husbands retro study) A Vase...(to add to my growing Constance Spry for Fulham Pottery Collection)...AND I bought..another Table!
This time an occasional table for my drawing room, which I shall paint in some sort of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint loveliness - probably her 'French Linen' or 'Old Ochre' - haven't quite decided yet.
So basically, I went to the Market and I came back VERY happy indeed. And above is my final "I Went To The Market" loot shoot! I hope that you all had a good weekend - any bargain hunting of your own?
P.S. Thank you all SO much for your wonderful and kind comments to earlier posts - They really, REALLY do make my day!!! image courtesy of: First and last photographs by Tim Walker; all other images taken by me!
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Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Too "Chicken" for Chickens?

Just recently, my mind has been once again drawn to the thought of keeping chickens. I don't know why, but the idea of keeping my own hens and having farm fresh eggs has always appealed. It was one of the "To Do's" on my list of life changes that would occur once we had moved to the countryside and were living our bucolic dream.
There are several predictable things that most 'ex-Townies' assume are bound by law when they embark on a new life in the countryside. First off, you 'must get a dog' - well we did that - and he's absolutely gorgeous - a Jack Russell Terrier called Byron. We couldn't imaging life without him, and to be honest, I can hardly imagine my life before he arrived. That part of our life has been renamed "B.C." (i.e. Before Chaos!)
Another 'law' is to master the art of baking. Well....let's just say that I do bake...a lot! But the words 'Master', 'Art' and 'baking' do not sit comfortably in the same sentence when applied to my creations. Suffice to say that my cakes usually taste as they are meant to - I think - but winning a 'Best in Show' rosette at the village fete is something that will probably never happen. (Alas bribing the Vicar doesn't work - his pantry is already literally heaving with 'generous gifts' of Women's Institute homemade rhubarb and potato wine - I checked...he uses it to run his mower...)
Growing fruit and vegetables is another 'Must Do' for country living. We have apples, plums and blueberries, and I have attempted pumpkins and broad beans with varying degrees of success. However, this is the year that I turn 'serious' with my vegetable growing. This, my friends, is the year that I install my raised bed, formal potager! (But more of that in another post...)
But it must be said that the greatest prize of them all, the "piece de resistance" of country life and a true testament that one has evolved into a true country dweller - is to keep chickens! I arrived at Hill House with all guns blazing amidst plans for intricate chicken houses, runs and feeding stations. Two years down the line and not a cluck. The children are becoming increasingly agitated that their dreams of pre-breakfast egg collecting will never materialise. We've even decided on names for our 'fantasy chickens' in advance - Mrs. Cluckington, Dame Eggna and Penelope Pluck...
So what's stopping me? I've bought and read numerous books on the subject. I've studied the internet for the most attractive (and yes practical, hygenic AND secure) hen houses and runs, and I've scoured the 'Land of Blog' to find out other peoples perspectives on keeping chickens and the pros and cons, the successes and disasters etc...
I think that ultimately, I know that once I commit - there's no going back. I know that beyond the initial throws of excitement in the first few weeks, my early morning helpers are unlikely to hold fast to their offers of poop clearing assistance. I'm thinking - "will I want to be looking after chickens in the depths of Winter" (my chicken thoughts always start in Spring!)
And what about the chickens themselves - will they destroy my beautiful lawn, will the dog think that Christmas has come early and enjoy the delights of Mrs. Cluckington for lunch. Will they encourage rats. Will they be noisy, smelly, diseased - or Heaven forbid - will they die!?
Or perhaps I'm just not a natural 'chicken keeper' and should stick to Waitrose... Any thoughts?
Images courtesy of; 1) Madonna by Tim Walker for Vogue; 2)Chicken coop William Sonoma; 3)Elizabeth Hurley by Jonathan Bookalill; 4)Kate Spade Home; 5)Marina Hanbury for Tatler; 6)Duchess of Devonshire by Bruce Webber; 7)Julien Clary's garden for The Telegraph; 8)Cecilia Dean for Harpers Bazaar; 9)Madonna for D&G; 10)The Guardian - Alamy
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Wednesday, 2 May 2012

More Tea Vicar?...(Cosy English Country Style with Susie Watson Designs).

When I fall in love, I fall fast and hard, and for a while it's all consuming...but do I remain faithful? No siree, I'm about as faithful as Jane Austen's Mr Willoughby to poor Marianne in Sense and Sensibility. I'm speaking about interiors of course, and having shown you one of my favourite style crushes (Kate Forman) earlier this week, I'm now going to let you in on another English designer from my 'not so secret' lust list. Those of you who are not 'into' colour - turn away now - for this next reveal veers into pure English Mad Hatter territory!
Susie Watson Designs epitomise all that is quaint and mildly eccentric about English country design. Think strawberries and cream, 'high tea' with crumpets and scones and jam, the Women's Institute and phrases such as "More tea vicar?"! Well chances are that the cups that were handed to the 'Bishop by the Actress' (wink wink) were probably not too dissimilar to the ones now made by Susie Watson. Her designs are pure English fantasy. A combination of Alice in Wonderland meets Miss Marple. No Scandinavian paired down subtlety here, - this is pure Mary Poppins psychedelia - it's spots, tassels and pom poms all the way - with a few stripes thrown in - often all at the same time!
Her designs appeal to my Enid Blyton influenced childhood views of the English countryside. It's all about picnics, midnight feasts scones and cream and lashings of ginger beer - followed by a jolly good romp with the dog through the woods (perhaps we'll discover smugglers and find ourselves in the middle of a 'toppo' adventure!)
It's high tea followed by cricket on the lawn.
Real lemonade after a rough and tumble game of lacrosse (I played 3rd Home at my all girls school - did any ones else ever play?) I could go on (and I frequently do...) but suffice to say that she's one of my 'go to' designers for informal crockery and soft furnishings that involve the family room and the girls bedroom.
I have a lot of her pink and white spotted pottery which I use for breakfasts, picnics and informal tea parties. I also have her jauntily striped red and white linen table cloths and napkins - such fun! Now you take another look while I butter some crumpets and then afterwards - ANYONE FOR TENNIS???
All images courtesy of Susie Watson Designs. www.susiewatsondesigns.com
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