Thursday, 28 June 2012

Fooling Around in The Bedroom...

It's definitely a sign of age, when fooling about in my bedroom consists of rearranging a few cushions and a table...

I was making my bed this morning, and had temporarily thrown a few cushions onto a chair, when I was suddenly struck by how pretty this 'accidental' little arrangement looked. The small table by the window (which serves little purpose other than to look nice...) looked incredibly pretty with it's jug of deep red roses from the garden. The roses looked particularly good next to the faded print on my Cabbages & Roses cushions...and I felt compelled to take a photograph...or six!

It's nice to find beauty in simple and unexpected places - especially when doing chores...

Oh if only the ironing board were as attractive - or as fun to play with...

...OR cleaning out the fridge smelled as sweet!

Some famous rose quotes...

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." - William Shakespeare

"There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted." - Henri Matisse

"Thorns and roses grow on the same tree." - Turkish Proverb

"Oh, my love is like a red, red rose, that's newly sprung in June; Oh, my love is like the melody, that's sweetly played in tune." - Robert Burns

"But he that dares not grasp the thorn. Should never crave the rose." - Anne Bronte

"The optimist sees the rose and not its thorns; the pessimist stares at the thorns, oblivious to the rose." - Kahlil Gibran

"Can anyone remember love? It's like trying to summon up the smell of roses in a cellar. You might see a rose, but never smell the perfume." - Arthur Miller

...and one to make you smile...

"I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall." - Eleonor Roosevelt

Okay...enough fooling around...back to housework!

Happy Thursday!

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Monday, 25 June 2012

English Country House Style...On An English Country Mouse Budget!

What's a girl to do when she has champagne and caviar tastes, but a lemonade and cod and chips budget? It would indeed be rather nice to pop into Sotheby's on the odd occasion to place a few bids on some original regency fripperies but alas, - budget - or my budget at least - does not allow. Besides - isn't it actually far more exciting to achieve a magnificent end result without breaking (or breaking into) the bank? Who hasn't felt a glow of pride when a friend or associate has unwittingly complimented the cheapest and most bargain-tastic item in the room without realising?

Even better than stumbling across a bargain that can be 'upcycled' to look amazing, is the other end of the scale where one finds a bargain...that turns out to be an absolute gem of a find with a pedigree to match! Now those are my favourite finds.

I have a particular love of Constance Spry Fulham Pottery vases, and I am now an avid collector and hunt them down mercilessly. It was fueled after finding a large pair of 1950's planters gathering dust in an old curiosity shop for just under twenty pounds three years ago. They now take pride of place on the mantles in my dining room and drawing room respectively and are my pride and joy. I occasionally see them listed on websites from e-bay to private galleries. The range in price is utterly ridiculous - from double figures to four figures - go figure!?

On an earlier occasion, I once bought a pair of blue and white Oriental style vases in a local auction for a few pounds, simply because they were pretty. They sat on a console table in my hall in London. A very nice young gentleman would often make deliveries for us, and he would always look at the vases. One day he plucked up the courage to ask where we got the vases from. He seemed entranced by them. We vaguely mentioned the local auction but he said no more, and shortly afterwards we moved house without dwelling on it. Naturally, my husband is now totally convinced that they are from some amazing Chinese Dynasty, and that we are sitting on an undiscovered fortune. I tell him that the chap was simply being polite. However we both secretly wonder whether they are in fact something special.

Why don't we get them professionally valued you may ask? Well...to be honest, it's much more fun this way. It's like not checking a lottery ticket. Until one checks the numbers, one can still imagine winning the whole kit and kaboodle, and can therefore plot what to do with the 'fantasy' money (please tell me that I'm not the only one who does this??). Thus while the vases are not valued, we can nurture the fantasy that we are sitting on a secret fortune - a bit like discovering Tutankhamun in the basement...

Another cheap and cheerful love of mine are painted Edwardian tables. I have far too many of them, but they are inexpensive and decorative, and because of their beautiful shapes, can look rather special when painted in a chalky Annie Sloan or Farrow & Ball matt - especially when placed in pairs. They are also 'child proof' - and by that I mean that I don't have to freak out every time a jammy sticky hand touches them, or a dangerously held crayon is brandished near...they can simply be painted over!

What if I had a few extra thousand to spend on furnishing a house? Well I'd still say that it's all in the mix - old and new, investment pieces as well as bargains. I won't scrimp on paint or fabrics, and a few antiques here and there are always a welcome addition - especially those that are handed down through generations. However, I'm certainly equally as happy ferreting out a painting, or a table at a flea market if I feel that it has the correct 'bones'.

Back to my Oriental vases. Do you remember that 1980's film 'The War of the Roses'? Where the couple met while bidding at an auction on the same antique? Now, I really don't think that the vases are anything special...and I can't begin to imagine that they're from anything as grand as the 'Ming' Dynasty...but, reminiscent of Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas swinging from the chandelier at the end of that film - they're definitely MINE if they are and Mr Sutton's if they're not!!!

Happy Monday!

Images courtesy of: 1-5) Hill House; 6&7) The War of the Roses Film, Directed by Danny De Vito.

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Monday, 18 June 2012

I WANT... To Sit Up & Beg!

I think that by now, most of you realise that I am partial to a bit of romanticism when it comes to living in the English countryside and am inclined to skip over the realities and hardships (at least on my blog!) that it can often entail, in favour of the pure beauty and delight that can be found in everyday country living. Some days I'd much rather focus on the delights of activities and pastimes that have hardly changed over the past century. Call me a dreamer if you must, but in a world full of frequent conflict and increasingly harsh politics (and rain...) sometimes it's nice to fantasise and focus on things that are...well,...just darned pretty...

...and today my focus is on the grand pastime of good old fashioned 'cycling'.

Now, when I think of vegetable gardens, I think of perfect potagers with clipped box hedging. When I think of chickens, my mind turns to charmingly hued Buff Orpingtons, or characterful little bantams with fluffy knickerbockered feet - and when I think of bicycles, I think of the traditional and amusingly named 'sit up and beg' variety (named due to their perfect posture inducing seating position), with their large wicker front baskets and rear blanket straps, in delicious pastel ice-cream shades.

I imagine taking wonderful trips through Summer fields and winding country lanes, with jam packed picnics and flasks of 'real' lemonade strapped to my basket...

I imagine a floaty Summer dress folded carefully into my lap and a weathered straw hat threatening to fly off my head as I soar along...

Does anyone actually cycle like this...?

I do in my dreams...

In my dreams, ALL bicycles are pink, mint green or powder blue. ALL bicycles have baskets full of Hydrangeas, Summer flowers and freshly baked bread. ALL picnics feature home made Victoria sponge cake, real lemonade and cucumber sandwiches. ALL apples are large, deep red, shiny and organic...

...and of course ALL men ride a Pashley 'Guv'nor'...

I know, I know...in reality, real life with it's ups and downs, bad weather and metaphorical bumps and pot holes, is never quite as perfect...

Happy Monday!

Images courtesy of;1-8)BEG Bicycles www.Begbicycles.com; 9) Pashley Guv'nor www.pashley.co.uk; 10) Lucille Ball

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Thursday, 14 June 2012

A Tent in The Garden!

The time is fast coming 'round for me to start planning the annual 'Hill House August Summer Party'.

There was a time when one could safely assume that August meant hot sun, blue skies, fat bumble bees and even fatter strawberries. Alas, there are no such certainties in life any more...or perhaps it was just (to slightly miss-quote Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest)Such stuff that dreams were made of?

But surely not just a dream - who else is 'young enough' to remember the Summer of 1976? The newspapers were full of stories of children frying eggs on the melting pavements; the traditional British hose pipe ban was in full force - with good reason, and I burnt the soles of my feet walking across the stones on Brighton beach - oh glory days!

Now, I'm not afraid of rain - what true Brit could claim to be - we're made of stern stuff over here. But what is a girl to do with such inclement weather when she has a Summer party to organise - wellies and Summer dresses simply do not mix in my book - unless I looked like Sienna Miller - and I most certainly don't - even if you squint your eyes...

But of course, back to the question in hand - what to do when it threatens to rain on ones parade? Get a marquee - that's what!

I prefer the traditional sort, plain canvas with pointed tips and open sides.

This allows the children to run free and the dogs to roam wild...but that does also mean letting in the wind and rain...

The problem is that I can't stand the plastic 'windows' in non-traditional marquees...

Give me a good open sided 'tent' any rainy day. Well...any rainy day after a jug or two of Pimms...

As I said...we're made of stern stuff over here...

Images courtesy of; 1)Sheldonmanor.co.uk; 2)www.weddingreceptionideas.co.uk; 3)www.wildweddings.co.uk;4,5,6) unknown 7&8)www.cabbagesandroses.co.uk; 9)www.vintagemarquees.co.uk; 10)www.rodeoleisure.co.uk; 11)Myself & Mr. Sutton at our June wedding reception 13 years ago - and yes - it rained all day!!!

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Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The English Drawing Room/Sitting Room...What Do You Call Yours?

We have a game in our house called "What shall we call the 'front reception room' today?" There are days when we unselfconsciously call it the 'Drawing Room' and others days when that sounds too 'posh' and it becomes the 'sitting room' or 'the sitting room at the front of the house' or at a push 'the formal sitting room' (which sound terrible naff)...but basically, what we really mean is the nice sitting room, with the good seats where the children aren't allowed to make a mess and the dog isn't allowed to scratch and de-fluff on the antique velvet Chesterfield!

Wikipedia describes the 'drawing room' as "a room in a house where visitors may be entertained." and apparently the name is derived from the sixteenth-century terms withdrawing room and withdrawing chamber.

In a large sixteenth- to early eighteenth-century English house, a withdrawing room was a room to which the owner of the house, his wife, or a distinguished guest who was occupying one of the main apartments in the house could "withdraw" for more privacy.

Now, translate this into my home and it means 'hiding away' with a bottle of red, some Kettle Chips and the Sunday Times on a Sunday afternoon and gaining a little privacy away from the X-Box, or the Wii Just Dance, or the afore mentioned dog de-fluffing (although admittedly, Byron does have his posh bed in the 'drawing room', where he behaves impeccably and one imagines dreams of chasing pheasant and well bred grouse rather than the usual rabbits and pigeons that frequent the garden. Speaking of Byron, he thought that all of his Christmas's had come at once last week, when a deer found it's way into the garden. Of course we had to remind him that he is in fact the size of a small boot and no match for a shoulder height wild animal with antlers - despite the Disney-esque connotations of deer - and yes - Byron has indeed watched Bambi!)

Anyway - back to the drawing room...now, until the mid-twentieth century, after a dinner the ladies of a dinner party withdrew to the drawing room, leaving the gentlemen at table, where the cloth was removed. After an interval of conversation, the gentlemen rejoined the ladies in the drawing room. This is the definition that I remember from my childhood - the withdrawing of the 'gentler sex' to the 'Withdrawing room' to remove themselves from cigar smoke and smutty talk. The reality of course being that there is no talk smuttier than when a group of women get together after a glass (or five) of fine wine...or is that just me??!

The term 'drawing room' is not used as widely as it once was, and tends to be used in Britain only by those who also have other reception rooms, such as a morning room - a nineteenth-century designation for a sitting-room, often with east-facing exposure, suited for daytime calls - or the 'lounge', a late nineteenth-century designation for a room in which to relax; hence the drawing room is the smartest room in the house, usually used by the adults of the family when entertaining.

Which leads us once again back to Hill House. We have a what we call a 'family room' which encompasses a television/sitting room, computer area, breakfast table - where we eat most meals, and which leads on to the kitchen. Hence it's very handy to be able to have a more 'formal' room without a television in it, so that in the event of an adult dinner party - and by that I really do mean one that entails clothes and fine food - one can sit somewhere afterwards with coffee and mints to discuss the leading political and social issues of the day (yeah right...) rather than be forced into a late night showing of a Euro 2012 football (soccer) match - or, as is more likely in my house, a rerun of the latest Grand Prix, Formula 1 race - which, regardless of how many 'highlights' one has already been subjected to, apparently needs to be dissected in more and increasing detail every time it's shown on television...yawn.(Darling Husband did you hear that?).

Mine is still awaiting an exciting 'refurb' mainly 'lightening up' with new paint colours, a bit of re-upholstery and perhaps a painting or two - (the dining room is currently getting all of the decorating 'action') but it's still cosy and ultimately a quiet, thoughtful room - which I think is what a drawing room is all about isn't it?

So now you've 'seen' mine - do you have a special 'Grown up' room in your house, and if so - what do you call yours?

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Friday, 8 June 2012

Beautifully British...Max Rollitt!

Now firstly, I must apologise for my lack of blog posts since Diamond Jubilee 'fever' took hold of the UK for the past week or so. My life has been filled to bursting with bunting, baking and babysitting - we currently have a house full of eight children all under the age of 12 - and suffice to say that I have baked enough red, white and blue cup cakes over the past week to feed the Queens Household Cavalry several times over!

But it has been an absolutely wonderful and jubilantly patriotic week, which has been thoroughly enjoyed by man and child alike...despite the dreadful weather. Like any extended country house weekend, there has been an abundance of that typically British country weekend fayre of red wine, wet dogs and laughter.

And now I'm slowly creeping back to normal life, reclaiming my computer screen and quietly nosing my way through the websites and designers that keep my home and interiors loving fire burning in a similar way to how oil fuels the Aga...

So here's a very British designer for you - Max Rollitt - whose "classically refined yet informal style" has become his trademark. Now admittedly, I'm delving into the realms of pure fantasy here. Fantasy because the following sofa's are WAY out of my price bracket, however, it is a guilty pleasure of mine to imagine one of Max Rollitt's deliciously upholstered sofa's with their sumptuous damasks and silk velvets supporting my very unworthy derriere.

Max Rollitt whose company covers three distinct areas - antiques, interiors and bespoke design, has an amazing ability to design contemporary furniture based on classical design and to create spaces that look as though they have been handed down through generations and stood for centuries. His use of colour is wildly genius...just look at the turquoise legs on these chairs - LOVE them!

His interior style can be a little bit spare...ADORE these bare, unvarnished floorboards which tone down that incredible chandelier so perfectly!

A little bit bonkers...turquoise AND purple AND pattern - yet all still in keeping with the period setting - gorgeous!

Just the sort of country house interior that I love...such eccentric use of colours and classical shapes!

But what they all share is an informal, time worn yet elegant sense of comfort...

Made for...well...red wine, wet dogs and laughter!

Hope that you enjoy.

Images courtesy of: www.maxrollitt.com

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