Thursday 23 April 2015

Patriotic Dresses

I'm coming over all patriotic today and, to celebrate all things English, here's my pick of the best red and white dresses:

Anthropologie, £158
& Other Stories, £65
& Other Stories, £79
Anthropologie, £118
Boden, £55.20

Wednesday 22 April 2015

Out and About: Vintage Finds at Sarah Moore's Textile Sale

As part of our adventuring, the hubs and I decided...or, rather, I decided I'd like to find some more vintage pieces for our house. So, when I found out that Sarah Moore was holding a vintage fabrics and textiles pop-up at her home in the South Downs, I thought I'd scoot along.

I must acknowledge here that I really do have a very patient husband. He gave up a rugby match for this outing. But that same patient husband is no good with a map.

For those of you who don't know, I'm learning to drive now at the grand old age of 28 and three quarters. So, in our little Fiat, complete with L plates, we set out, with hubs as navvy. And it was all going so well until we ended up turning onto a track; 'a short cut', said the hubs.

Cautiously, I continued along this track which became increasingly uneven and stony and exposed with each minute. Up and up and up we went, and the track turned into more of a path and the steep ridges meant that I grew too scared to go on. We haven't covered off-road driving in my lessons, you see.

"James!" I groan, "We're never going to get there. All the best fabrics will be gone!"

But with hubs in the driving seat, I can sit back and admire the sweeping vistas over the Downs. Our Fiat is still chugging and spluttering along the track and we pass several groups of walkers looking rather bemused by us. And it is at that point that I see a signpost ahead of us. And do you know what it says? 'South Downs Way'. Hubs is beside himself; the car is growling; and I'm just laughing, albeit very unhelpfully.

"Shall we not just go back and go back on the main road?" I ask.
"No," hubs replies, "I did off-road training a few years ago. It'll be fine". And all I'm thinking is how embarrassing this is going to be when the AA has to tow us down from the South Downs Way.

But, true to his word, after turning the air blue around us, James got us off the track and we arrived at the vintage sale in one piece (and a few days later we paid a very nice man at the garage to remove several boulder-like stones from underneath our car, but that's another story).

The setting of Sarah's house is lovely and idyllic. Think barns, a courtyard, antique fabrics sailing in the wind and children playing cricket on the lawn, and you have a fairly accurate picture. We wandered around the peaceful barn, perusing the selection of antique fabrics, floral wall papers, well-loved homewares, and one-off creations. Every nook and cranny was filled with some old treasure.

We hummed and hawed over an old headboard (only £35!) and I tried to justify the purchase of a very bright, busy floral wallpaper, but James glared warningly at me. He knows my impulsiveness all too well.

I really recommend having a clear idea about the sort of fabrics, textures and colours you are looking for before you enter the barn, as the choice can be mind boggling and you don't want to buy the wrong thing. In the end, after a contemplative cup of tea in the courtyard, we settled on some vintage Sanderson curtains, which will go up in our back bedroom, which has essentially become my den. No boys allowed.

Sarah holds regular events - including craft courses- at her home and, if you live in the local area, I thoroughly recommend going along. Just make sure you stay on the main road.

Sarah x

Oh dear...
Top Gear eat your heart out.
Grumpy, but we're here!!
The entrance to Sarah Moore's house in Sussex
Vintage home ware
Haberdasher's heaven
That lovely headboard.
Local woodwork.
Sussex Pimps. Not what they sound like...
A cup of contemplative tea...
Clutching my curtains. It's time to go home. A different way.
I'm wearing white jeans and cashmere jumper from The White Company and my favourite pink salt water sandals from Toast.

The curtains are now up in our back bedroom.

This photograph says it all :)


Tuesday 21 April 2015

Victoria Plimsolls and Italian Ice Cream

If you buy one thing this month, make sure it's a pair of Victoria plimsolls. I first spotted these last year, but I hesitated and then the moment passed. Not so this year. On a recent trip to Lindfield, Sussex, I visited The Leaping Hare. You can read more about Lindfield here.

This is a small business which houses high quality clothing items and accessories. It's the sort of shop where both you and your mum can find something lovely to add to your wardrobes.

I spied the Victoria plimsolls in the shop window and was overjoyed! If the thought of plimsolls makes you come out in a cold sweat at the remembrance of school PE lessons in vests and leotards, then fear not. These are plimsolls for grown ups.

Trying to settle on a colour from the vast array (you can see the full collection here) is like trying to choose just one flavour of ice cream in an Italian ice cream parlour. You know what I mean. But in the end I opted for the pink -or, the 'framboise'. And so did my mam! So I look forward to the day we both turn up wearing them at the same time...

My favourite design is the Dora because it has all the benefits of wearing your favourite pair of Converse trainers, without looking really clunky. These are slender and the shorter toe means more of your foot is on show, which in turn means your legs look longer. Win, win.

Are they going to revolutionise the shoe world? Unlikely. But they will be your faithful go-to this summer, going perfectly with hazy summer dresses, pastel jeans, chino shorts...and everything else. As a tip, go up a size as they are quite snug.

I've already taken mine out for a spin to Wakehurst Place. These are adventuring shoes and, at £35, they are a snip. Buy them now!

Sarah x

And some touristy shots of Wakehurst Place, Sussex...

Royal for a Day - Hobbs Collection No. 4

Today is the queen's 89th birthday. I can't fathom so many years just yet, so I very much applaud her on this remarkable landmark. This got me thinking about HM's style, which is perhaps slightly off-piste given the generational divide between us. Surely I should be writing only about the Duchess of Cambridge? Not so. All you - or should I say, 'one'  need to do is Google Elizabeth II to see that she has worn some fabulous outfits over the years (my gran is always on the lookout to see what sort of hat the queen is sporting) - as did her mother before her. In fact, royalty paving the sartorial way is nothing new.

While I was looking at these images, I discovered the new Collection No. 4 at Hobbs. These designs are inspired by 18th century royalty: Queen Charlotte's Cottage at Kew Gardens, King George III, and fashionable courtly footwear. The palette is regal, too: verdigris and white gold. It epitomises the elegance and romance we all associate with that period.

The prices are at the mid-high end of the Hobbs scale, so these are investment, special occasion pieces. It's the hub's post-graduation next week and I'm feverishly trying to justify the's a one-off occasion, right?!

So, as Lorde put it so eruditely - while 'we'll never be royals', we can definitely dress like them. Even if it's just for a day...

Sarah x

89 today! 

Beautiful in blues and golds.

Courtier shoe in white gold, £139, Hobbs.

Courtier Dress, £189, Hobbs.

Princess Amelia Dress, £249, Hobbs

As above.

My choice: Princess Elizabeth dress, £249, Hobbs.

As above.

As above.

Princess Elizabeth maxi dress, £329, Hobbs.

As above.

Augusta dress, £199, with Princess Elizabeth belt, £49. Both Hobbs. 

Princess Elizabeth pumps, £149, Hobbs.

Courtier pumps in verdigris, as above.

Sunday 12 April 2015

The Perks of being an Up-Cycler: how to find and transform second hand furniture

My friends well know my love of charity shops, markets, car boot sales and eBay. I'm a bit of a second hand fiend.

I actually like them for two reasons: they're for a good cause - the charity shops for obvious reasons, and recycling is much better for the environment; and secondly, you can find brilliant items - that no one else will have - at very reasonable prices. 

Having been asked specifically about this topic, this is the first of a few posts on my thrifty spending, and I hope you will be inspired to consider this mode of shopping in the future, because while inflation is finally at 0% (woohoo!) it's always nice to snap up a bargain.

First up: bargain furniture

A few weeks ago the hub and I were driving back from Devon and we stopped off at a place called Ringwood. It's a classic bypass town, but there are notable signs of regeneration and modernisation (the massive AGA sign is a dead giveaway). 

And so it was that on our way back from lunch, after which we stopped by in a sweet little cookshop (I go in them a lot!), we discovered a charity shop selling predominantly furniture. They can sometimes be rather sad places and I am often given over to imagining to whom pieces belonged in their former lives, but if you can get beyond this you might just spy a gem. 

Looking beyond the melamine pieces (who knows, in twenty years' time it will probably be all the rage again) there is often a wealth of vintage Ercol and other solid oak and pine furniture. The pine is particularly good for painting. As the daughter of a timber merchant I still squirm when people tell me they have painted oak furniture. Having said that, that is precisely what I have done on this occasion (but only because it was already painted!). 

It was here that I discovered a lovely, if a little battered, oak chair for £10:

I loved the pretty star motif - it reminds me of a bentwood design that my parents own. As you can see from the pictures, the white was a little sad looking. I chose 'Dijon' from the chalk range because it is such a happy colour. And, contrary to what you might think, the colour goes well with lots of others. It is now used as a piano seat in a room painted in 'Warm Seas' by Susie Watson.

Next up: this mirror was purchased for £3 at a silent auction in the village hall. It is a solid wood frame and measures 60x40cm. Mirrors are not cheap, but those with wooden frames are easy to rejuvenate, so I'm always on the lookout for them in charity shops. 

I liked the cream colour, so I chose to reprint in 'Calico'. To save yourself time, put masking tape around the edges of the glass so your paint doesn't go on the glass. I had run out of masking tape, but a scraper will take it off once it's dry.

Lastly, we bought this collection of original local artwork. The frame was very severe in black, so I re-painted it in 'Linen' and it is now in a room painted in 'Savage Ground' by Farrow&Ball.

Penny cat is also heavily involved in the painting process. 

A quick how to:

Sand down the surface, be it painted or not. 
Wash of the dust with sugar soap.
Paint the first coat. I used the Grand Illusions Vintage Paint. You want to get the colour on at this stage, so it doesn't matter if your brush strokes aren't all going in the same direction. Don't over coat your brush though as this will result in drips and runs which will take longer to sand down.
Leave to dry.
Lightly sand down and dust off. This might not be necessary if your finish is already smooth.
Paint the second coat, this time taking care that you are accurate and precise with your brush strokes.
Leave to dry.
Waxing or varnishing is optional, but preferable for items which will be handled regularly or endure heavier use. The exposed paint can have that wincing effect of fingernails on a chalkboard. 
To wax, apply some to a clean soft cloth and wipe it onto the item. Buff to a shine with another clean soft cloth (I used torn up bed sheets). Don't be unnerved if your paintwork looks like it's changing colour, the wax takes about 24 hours to dry.

And there you have it. How to turn your bargains into unique and stylish pieces of furniture for your home. I would love to see some of your own projects, so get in touch on Facebook or via email. 

Happy painting!

Sarah x 

Saturday 11 April 2015

Andy Murray Kim Sears Wedding

Wedding bells will be ringing in Dunblane later when Andy Murray marries Kim Sears and I just love the effort the town has put in to make this as regal an affair as possible! Although it has left me wondering where the heart shaped burgers were at our wedding in October...

Of course while Andy will be deliberating between a suit and a kilt, (he's said he won't be wearing underwear if it's the latter...gosh!) most of our eyes will be in his fiancĂ©e. There's talk of a Sarah Burton for McQueen dress, or a Jenny Packham. I would love to see another Sarah Burton masterpiece, but I think that while Sears has also opted for trees to ge brought into the cathedral (very royal wedding) I think Jenny Peckham - another Duchess of Cambridge favourite - is a more likely option. 

But I imagine she will stay true to her usual classic style: cap or 3/4 sleeves and a fitted, shaped torso to highlight her very toned shape.

And whatever she wears, she will look beautiful!

Here are some of her best looks:

And if you want more of Kim Sears' style, click here: