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My Winter’s Story

December 29, 2016

I wish I could tell you a pretty winter’s story…

It should be decorated with loads of fluffy white snow: slowly landing on the ground, covering up dull colours that autumn has left behind…Imagine looking out out of your window and seeing the first snowflakes arrive – a gentle wave engulfing meadows and forests.

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If you went outside, frost would bite your nose! So I’m sure you’d be willing to hear my story while sitting by a roaring log fire. Drinking hot wine? Induging in sweet pies? It’s up to you how you decide to spend your perfect winter’s day.

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I guess some would simply enjoy the unusually white scenery – cheeks pressed to the cool and damp glass, eyes wide open, trying to guess how deep the snow can get before it gets dark.

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Others would probably worry about the wildlife. (I know I would.)

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Unfriendly temperatures and empty fields and gardens can turn one’s life upside down. (I saw a fox the other day, running past our house. It seemed at a loss, as if not knowing where to look for its warm den or something tasty to put in its grumbling stomach. Sadly I couldn’t offer a cosy bed, as all are already taken.)

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Have you noticed how right before Christmas, when it gets colder our hearts tend to go the other way – they melt? It’s easy to make us happy, anything can put a smile on our faces and we seem to be grateful we have each other. I love this phenomenon. It just would be great if we could stay like this all year round.

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This wasn’t a story, just a few random thoughts. Why? I dreamt of a perfect Christmas and I was going to weave my photographs into a lovely winter’s tale, but it’s not going to happen. Sadly it’s been an extremely wet December… Rainy days and muddy lawns damaged my festive mood a tad, so you can probably tell that I’m still waiting for that white miracle. The magic time, that smells of greenery and cinnamon, came and went, everything happened too quickly… but I can promise you that even longing for proper cold winter’s days I’m still keeping my heart warm.

(These photos were taken a month ago and I hope that there will be many more – come on, January!)

English Houses

December 8, 2016

What comes to your mind when you hear this phrase – English Houses? I think of big old buildings somewhere in the country, pretty secret gardens, cosy rooms with huge fire places and colourful spaces that resemble cabinets of curiosity. I don’t think I was far off – Ben Pentreath’s wonderful new book English Houses is full of such inspirational homes.

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Featuring interiors from city apartments to country manor houses this book illustrates the classic English style. Unique architecture, old and brand new interiors, lots of colours and textures – pure inspiration!

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From the very first pages I fell in love with the author’s rooftop flat in Bloomsbury. Ben Pentreath is an expert in architecture and interior design, no wonder his home is so rich in objects that straight away draw ones attention (like the framed map of John Rocque’s ‘Plan of the Cities of London, Westminster and Southwark’ in the photograph above). “Shifting collection of vibrant cushions” and heaps of blooms, adored by Ben’s husband Charlie, make this flat spring to life with colour and I’m certainly not a black and white person.

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If you think this is just another book about interiors, you are wrong. Ben says that “this is a book about houses, but more than that, it is a book about people”. In his opinion “perfectly decorated room without people to occupy it, love it, and live in it is meaningless”. I coudn’t agree more! (This bright kitchen in the photograph above belongs to Lulu Lytle. She owns a shop Soane Britain that sells furniture, fabric, wallpaper and lighting – all of it made in Britain. Do you like the Owl Lantern hanging above the table? I think it’s brilliant. Apparently it’s made entirely by hand by skilled Sheffield silversmiths and you can order it from Lulu’s shop.)

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Oh, that “curious alchemy of putting together rooms”… Ben says that architecture is easier as you can tell precisely for e.g. “the correct thickness of a glazing bar”, yet “good decoration is a matter of opinion”. Well, flicking through this book you’ll be able to pick what YOU like the most. (I was truly inspired by Trematon Castle or the home of garden designers Julian and Isabel Bannerman (photograph above – one of their rooms), as the author has noticed it “fizzes with energy and fireworks”.)

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I love the fact that English Houses isn’t only about indoors. In this book you’ll find quite a few lush gardens and extremely green country landscapes. You can pick some ideas for your vegetable patch and flower beds and even for a cosy conservatory!

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Well, you might not like English style, you might find it too busy and too cluttered, but I think you would still enjoy a journey to this big island that has so many hidden treasures – splendid castles and manor houses. Ben Pentreath will be your perfect guide. And as there’s nothing plain and simple here, be prepared for an extremely interesting trip!

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English Houses by Ben Pentreath, published by Ryland Peters & Small. Photography by Jan Baldwin © Ryland Peters & Small

Looking for New Angles

December 5, 2016

Snow, snow, snow! (Can you hear my excitement?) I see the first snowflakes and run out to take a few photographs…

It must be getting boring seeing the same plants photographed in all weather conditions, but I promise I DO try to look for new angles. By the way, at the moment I’m back to loving photography, but as aways something gets in the way – this time my battery charger; it seems to have vanished of the face of the Earth. I managed to capture the strange one day winter wonderland we’ve experienced on Sunday (today there’s no sign of it and once again “drip drip drip goes the water”), but there’s not enough power to get them onto my computer. How annoying is that?

Well, it seems I’ll have to start December with just a few new angles for now…  Let me know what you think.

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And I’m going to look for that charger, it must be somewhere in the house. Somewhere…

Wreath Making Studio

November 20, 2016

Our weather has got a lot milder over the last week. After the first white blanket of snow, that we saw at the beginning of November, +9C seems to be very generous – of course this is the precious extra time that we got for making sure our gardens are tidy before the real cold arrives. One can always hope it will actually arrive… I don’t remember the last proper winter with frozen lakes and huge snowdrifts, that you have to bravely wade through to actually get out of your yard. Well, as long as there’s snow for Christmas, I’ll be happy. Time will show…

Have you started getting ready for Christmas? I have! I’ve opened a messy outdoor wreath making studio. Finaly! Finaly I’ve managed to put everything together and start making something lovely, something that you could see for e.g. in Country Living magazine (by the way, I’m seriously addicted to this magazine, my heart’s obviously “in the country”).

So here’s what happened in the studio today:

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I started with a base that is made from lean willow branches. I weaved them into a roundish shape a few weeks ago and then hung them next to the fire place to dry. They were dry and hard now and held their shape really well.

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First of all I cut branch ends that were sticking out and started looking for the best way to attach the greenery.

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Some pieces were stuck into the actual base, in between the willow branches, and some were attached with a bit of thin cotton. (I plan to reuse my willow bases next year, so this should make the removal process a bit easier.)

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By the way, I’m not sure what the plant I used for my wreath is called (hmm… it’s not fir or juniper…  just some kind of evergreen shrub), but all this green stuff was just leftovers from one pruning session.

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This is what the half finished wreathe looked like. And then…

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And then… came the best bit – the lights! I got them in Germany for I think 5 Euros. They are tiny LEDs and what I love about them is that they run on batteries, which means that my wreath can go ANYWHERE, and even more importantly – you can program what time they will come on every day (they stay lit for eight hours afterwards).

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For the last bit, i.e. colourful additions, I cut some dried hydrangeas and some barrbery branches covered in tiny red berries that will brighten things up when the lights are off.

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What do you think to it then?

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Is it good enough to encourage you to open up your own wreath making studio? I hope so! (Please don’t forget to let me know what you come up with, I’d really love to see your Christmas wreaths.)

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Fair Isle (Hats)

November 13, 2016

After another stressful week (oh, it’s been a year… one thing after the other… Can December be a calm month, please?) I was looking for new activities that could help me to at least for a while forget everything around me. Believe it or not knitting seems to be helping the most.

I found a book I bough a few years ago in Germany – 200 Fair Isle-Muster (200 Fair Isle Patterns) and got tangled in colourful yarn…

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In my opinion Fair Isle = winter cosiness and probably even hygge (yes, yes, that fashionable Danish word (pronounced hue-gah) which can be described as a feeling or mood that comes taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, every day things more meaningful, beautiful or special).

At the moment I’m knitting hats. I’ve done two so far and the second one seems to be better than the first, so by the time I’ve finished knitting a few more, that are going to be Christmas presents, I should be a pro! Hopefully then I will be able to move onto jumpers. I love Fair Isle jumpers, but I don’t think I’d have enough patience for one…

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By the way, basic two-colour Fair Isle requires no new techniques beyond the basic knit stitch. But… “Traditionally Fair Isle jumper construction involves knitting the body of the jumper completely in the round. Steeks are worked across the armhole openings allowing the body to be completed in the round without interruption. Once the main body of the jumper is complete, the armhole steeks are cut open (sometimes these are secured before cutting). Stitches are then picked up around the armhole opening and the sleeve is knitted down toward the cuff in the round.” (Wikipedia) I’m really not sure about this bit.

Anyway, I’d better get back to knitting these hats, as practise makes perfect, and you should try to find out more about hygge, as something that can be described as “the absence of anything annoying or emotionally overwhelming; taking pleasure from the presence of gentle, soothing things” (more can be found here) is definitely worth investigating, don’t you think?

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Did you know that…?

  • Fair Isle is a traditional knitting technique used to create patterns with multiple colours. It is named after Fair Isle, a tiny island in the north of Scotland, that forms part of the Shetland islands.
  • Fair Isle knitting gained a considerable popularity when the Prince of Wales (later to become Edward VIII) wore Fair Isle tank tops in public in 1921.
  • Traditional Fair Isle patterns have a limited palette of five or so colours, use only two colours per row, are worked in the round, and limit the length of a run of any particular colour.

 
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Hello, November…

November 1, 2016

Not sure what’s happening this year, but time seems to be flying faster than ever and… it’s November once again! We still have two more months, but I think I’ve already decided that this is a “minus” year – too many plans will be gently pushed to the next one… Yet nature (as always) is following its own common path – everything what’s been planned will happen (and is alredy happening).

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Somebody somewhere must have pressed a secret button and just as we turned one more leaf of the calendar, it started snowing! Not unheard of (it’s November, isn’t it?) and always a bit exciting (even more so when that fluffy white stuff falls on still bright autumnal colours).

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P.S. We had just a few hours to enjoy these pretty wintery scenes that made me think of Christmas… Everything has melted and I think it’s raining once again.

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Life Unstyled – Book Blog Tour

October 12, 2016

We are traveling again… traveling round the woderful world of books (and blogs) and this time I want to show you probably the most relaxed interior design book I have ever seen. Welcome to Emily Henson’s life or… Life Unstyled.

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Messy? Cluttered? No! Simply UNSTYLED, yet real and lived in. I’d also add comfortable, cozy, colourful and eye catching, interesting and inviting to explore. I must admit I love busy homes – homes with heaps of books and lovely things, bright homes where walls are covered in photographs and paintings and sofas in warm textiles. Oh, and I know I’m not the only one!

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Emily Henson is an interior stylist who is able to create perfectly styled images for her clients in order to sell their products, but she also knows that “these pictures don’t represent real life”. Her work is to create fantasy – flawless interiors that are “intended to inspire but also set impossibly high standards of perfection” so it’s really refreshing to know that for her this is only work.

Emily’s blog – Life Unstyled, just like her newest book, was created with the aim to “rebel against those spotless, clutterfree interiors and talk instead about real homes, the kind so many of us live in”. Her mission is “to show homes that are not only inspiring and stylish, but also lived in and constantly evolving”. Sounds good, don’t you think?

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Imperfection can be beautiful too. Let me repeat this once again – imperfection can be beautiful too.

I think many of us get jealous looking at glossy interior magazines and remembering that our homes look nothing like the ones pictured there. Well, I do, so it was really easy to fall in love with Emily’s optimistic opinion that we simply HAVE to love our “own home, with all its lumps, bumps and unfinished jobs, just a tiny bit more”.

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If you wonder how to do this, here are just a few ideas: first we need to train ourselves to see the opportunities rather than the problems (I’d say we should apply this statement in every sphere of our lives), second remember that a few minor changes can work wonders; for e.g. don’t have everything out on display at once (avoid clutter by grouping your favourite things by by theme, colour or material) also use colours (paint and achieve a huge impact in very little time).

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I am sure you will get many more ideas looking at beautiful REAL interiors that have been photographed by Debi Treloar.

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So… if you think your home’s a mess, if you love colours and vast collections of beautiful things, if you’re scared of sterile and minimalist interiors this book’s for you. Simply soak up Emily’s advice, learn to embrace imperfection and create a home you love.

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Life Unstyled by Emily Henson, published by Ryland Peters & Small. Photography by Debi Treloar © Ryland Peters & Small

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Please don’t forget to visit other lovely blogs that are taking part in this wonderful book blog tour: Lobster & Swan, Makelight, Heart Home Magazine and My Warehouse Home.