Monday, 25 January 2016

GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER?...ABSOLUTELY NO-ONE!

I may have mentioned this before, but when I went searching for a country home for my family six years ago, apart from the more serious boxes that needed to be ticked (school, distance from station, does it have a roof etc.) - there were also the boxes that came under the banner of "my ideal fantasy life in the English countryside"!  Does everyone have a wish list like that or is it just me?    For example, we may not actually own a pony...but we certainly want a paddock to put the fantasy one in;  We may not actually know how to grow a sprout from seed...but we jolly well require a greenhouse and raised bed vegetable garden (based on an 19thC formal potager) to grow that fantasy prize marrow in - all the better to display at the 'fantasy' country show; We may not ever actually have the courage to get the chickens - but that stunningly attractive hen house painted in Farrow & Ball...you see how it goes.  

I think that we all have a fantasy image of how we would like to live our lives regardless of whether that life takes place in the city or the countryside.



One of my particular prerequisites for our 'then' new house was that it absolutely had to have a separate dining room.  You see, I was going to have a weekly dinner party, where my friends both old from the city and newly acquired from the country, would converge and enjoy splendidly stimulating conversation, food and wine whilst congratulating their hostess - me - for putting together such a beautifully presented table etc. etc. etc.   Of course, (so my then naive and optimistic self imagined)  it would be entirely possible to sustain this bight sparkle of sociability once a week for 52 weeks of the year - rather like n 18thC 'salon' at the court of Versailles.  Oh what fun.  Oh what a delight.  Oh what rubbish!



Dear reader, I did indeed get my house with a dedicated dining room, and a delight it is too.  However, do I host lively dinner parties on a weekly basis?  Well of course I don't - who on earth has the time to organise - let alone wishes to cook for a dinner party on a weekly basis when there are three children, a crazed dog, a hamster and a commuter husband to cater to.  I realised quite quickly that I do not live on the set of Downton Abbey and neither am I Marie- Antoinette!





Despite it's irregular use for it's intended purpose, my dining room does, however, remain a constant delight, that I do use - although not always for dining - on a daily basis, so all is most certainly not lost or wasted.




I try to insist that my husband and I dine a tete-a-tete at the table as often as we can - I do like to do the starched napkins and candles thing, and we do actually have friends over for 'smart' dinners every now and then.

But mainly it's simply a joy to dine with the whole family or friends in the family room adjoining the kitchen, where we can sit 10-12 quite comfortably, everyone can muck in and there is no need to stand on ceremony - oh yes - and the dog can join in.

The dining room has also thus become a temporary study for me and my budding interiors business.  And a very nice 'study' it is too.  As it's still a work in progress, it's a great room to style, photograph and generally 'play around in' with vignettes and potential product shots and colour schemes.


But mainly (while it awaits it's paintings and sparkling guests) it looks like this.  Unless of course, you would like to join me for dinner sometime?





Until next time,



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Monday, 18 January 2016

English Country Decorating With...The Vintage Blanket!

As a history lover, I cannot deny that it is an absolute joy to live in a Georgian house that was built around 200 years ago.   Living with windows that were constructed 200 years ago?  Not so much.  Of course they are quite beautiful to look at, and the ripples and imperfections that are a testament to their single glazed heritage are a complete pleasure that I wouldn't change for all of the 'Everest' windows in the world...during the Summertime.   Thankfully, I am a great fan of open fires and chunky (and clunky)Victorian cast iron radiators - both of which we have in abundance.  





However, during the season when the need to cocoon and hibernate preoccupies even the thickest skinned and hardiest of those of us living in draughty country houses, my thoughts also turn to one of the easiest and most cost effective decorative solutions for avoiding the Winter chill.  The humble blanket.





I use them anywhere and everywhere throughout the house.  You will find them on the end of beds, draped over chairs and sofas, protecting ones back from the cold wood panelling of an old bench, and even as part of the many 'princess and the pea' mattresses belonging to the four legged member of the family.


A particularly good thing about decorating with blankets, is that one can never have too many.  They are far too useful for Mr. Sutton to complain along the lines of "Do we really "need' another jug, vase, cushion, occasional chair etc."  You see - of COURSE we need another blanket, because it gets terribly COLD in the Winter dear.  Not to mention that they can be terribly pretty and colourful additions to ones decorating scheme whilst remaing practical.  Delightfully, they are tactile, comforting, enveloping, cosy and all of the other words that make you imagine that you are living in a giant pudding.

Above all, they can be incredibly reasonably priced depending on your taste.  My particular preference is for vintage wool blankets from the 1950's, 60's & 70's.  The sort of thick, hard wearing blanket that I used to have on my bed when I was a child.  The very same style of blanket that I then turned my nose up at during my teens and early twenties, and then fell back in love with as a discerning adult whose tastes had evolved from fad to trad(itional!).



Although I not averse to a newly woven example among my collection, I usually tend to look for old fashioned, vintage labels, where I know that the quality will be superior and hardwearing.  Some of them are incredibly dense and heavy - all the better for achieving that straight jacket effect when battening down the hatches, and hunkering down in front of a Sunday evenings viewing session of a bodice ripping BBC period drama...(clearly i'm obsessed.)




I hate to sound as though I am the same vintage as my house, but they really don't make them (for the price) like they used to.  We still have the tartan blanket that my husband took away to boarding school at the tender age of 7 - complete with sewn on name tape.  Now, whilst one may wish to question the idea of boarding school at 7...one cannot possibly question the durability of this particular blanket.  It is as pristine, unfrayed, and impeccable as the day he left home, chubby kneed and gripping on to it forty years ago, and it is still brought out from the blanket box year after year as the nights draw in.  The chubby knees have most certainly left us, but I can safely say that the resilience of a comfort inducing vintage blanket goes on, and on, and on...



Until next time!




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Monday, 11 January 2016

Finding The Romance in A Foggy Day...





Isn't it funny how the first thing that many people say to you when returning from a holiday in the sun is "How awful - you must be finding it dreadful to be back home!" or perhaps you get something along the lines of "Gosh - it must be so hard adjusting back to this depressing weather"?

Well, allow me let you into a little secret - apart from being a complete and utter homebody, where no matter how fabulous the holiday may have been, I am always delighted to arrive back home to be surrounded by my own things.   I also (now some of you may find this unusual) find something endlessly romantic about the English countryside in Winter time - especially when I am surrounded by a mysterious, deep fog - the thicker and more opaque, the better!

Now, don't get me wrong - I'm not a complete Pollyanna when it comes to all of the weather conditions that Winter can throw at us.  I hate a torrential downpour whislt wading though claggy mud as much as the next person, but is it just me, or is there something rather romantic about walking through the countryside in a dense, foggy, mist?

I mentioned on instagram a few days ago, that having been born and brought up in London,  it had taken me quite a while to get used to walking about through deserted fields and wooded areas with simply a dog for company, when I first moved to Norfolk.

Those first few years of solitary dog walking were filled with goulish thoughts of caped abductors hiding behind trees, and scenes of  phantom raspberry blowers (The Two Ronnies anyone?) that could happily have graced the pages of a Victorian gothic novella.   However, as time has passed, the utter romance of walking in such beautifully atmospheric conditions has totally gripped and charmed me.  Just as with clear bright sunshine, a cloak of undulating, writhing mist will often enhance and beautify even the most mundane of vistas or buildings.   The adventure level of my usual walk takes on a new thrill when a previously familiar, but now visually distorted tree adopts an air of fairytale enchantment, or when the eerie silence that often comes with low, heavy cloud is suddenly broken by the frantic dash of a muntjack deer or a startled rabbit bounding out of the hedgerows.

Of course, my love of a foggy field has absolutely nothing to do with the thought of a ruggedly handsome and bare chested Mr. Darcy exploding into my line of vision through the mist wearing only riding breeches and tall boots. Nothing at all...

Actor Matthew Macfadyen as Mr Darcy with his shirt firmly on!
Image from Pride & Prejudice (2005 film) Working Title Films in Association with StudioCanal.

Until next time,



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Friday, 8 January 2016

The Returned...




Why return to blogging after an absence of three years you may ask?  It's a good question, and the simple answer is that it just feels right.  I've always been a bit of a social animal, and so blogging always held an appeal for me as it combined several of my favourite things - writing, photography, styling and chattering on about the world of interior design and country living, but quite frankly, the move to rural isolation and suddenly not having work colleagues to 'bounce' ideas off on a daily basis meant that I eventually lost my 'voice' for a while.  My children had settled into their new surroundings with perfect ease, my husband was busy commuting to London, and my friends and family only required the occasional chat and visit once the initial novelty of our 'Big Move' had worn off.  Suddenly, I needed to swap sitting at a computer and 'chatting' into the ether, for actually 'getting out there', meeting people and actually doing stuff that stopped me becoming a hermit!



And so, in the past three years, I have started an interior design course at KLC School of Design; I've rented a unit at a local 'Shabby chic to Antique' emporium where I sell painted furniture along with vintage and decorative items; I've plotted and planned various ideas for an on-line business (more of which soon) and I've discovered Instagram - which I absolutely ADORE - and where I have 'met' some of the most wonderfully supportive and like minded people who have given me the confidence - and the 'voice' - to start blogging again.   So here I am - full circle  - and I am incredibly excited to get nattering on again - be warned!  

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