The Creative Studio of Visual Story Teller Alejandra Sinclair

I can’t remember how long I’ve been following Alejandra on Instagram but she was definitely one of the first people whose images captured my imagination and after many years of online chat and commenting on each others images, we finally met when Ale came over to my studio one day and captured me at work. We instantly connected over our love of travel, antiques, work, me as an interiors stylist, Alejandra as a visual fashion stylist for a large High Street retailer.

When Ale sent me the images of our day together, I couldn’t believe how perfectly she’d captured me on her camera. I really dislike, ok then hate, having my photograph taken and I never think any of the images look like me somehow. “I know” I can hear you all saying, “that’s what I think too” but to truly capture the essence of someone is a very difficult thing to do and yet she did. To this day it is still my favourite, dare I say only photograph of myself that I’m happy with. She is a rare talent indeed and part of that talent is that I didn’t really even realise she was taking my photograph, so at ease did I feel as we chatted away.

So when she told me excitedly that she had moved to a new studio in a beautiful historic windmill and she wanted me to come and see it, I didn’t need to be asked twice. I knew it would be something special and romantic. Romance and beauty are at the core of Ale’s work and everything she looks for in her inspirations. It is a wonderful building in a lovely part of Lancashire and I wanted to share it and Ale’s work with you.

Originally from Argentina, Alejandra moved to the UK in 2017 after meeting her husband Phil who was in Argentina for work. As well as falling in love with her husband, Ale also fell in love with the UK and the beautiful country side around her new home. Nature has been a constant source of inspiration to her and is the very essence of her work as a photographer.

Having been gifted her first reflex camera whilst still living in Argentina, she took a short course to learn the very basics of how to use it and immediately became obsessed with the medium of photography and how she could express her romantic nature through it’s lens. She further developed and honed her style, influenced by her move to the UK and it’s changing seasons and rural landscapes, so different from her country of birth.

“My curiosity has been a really helpful tool to discover and learn more about photography” she says.

Further inspired by her love of the Dutch masters paintings, who used flowers and nature in their work, Ale has developed a style of photography which is formed in a similar way, using pockets of light and shade and a depth of colour which is both nostalgic and romantic.

Ale’s first small studio was located at Cedar Farm in Mawdesley Lancashire, where she was encouraged to exhibit her work in their gallery space and then in late 2023 she was given the opportunity of her own studio, in an disused part of a windmill, in Parbold Lancashire, which is also home to an art gallery. Bordering the Leeds/Liverpool canal the studio is as romantic as Ale’s work and the perfect space for her to create her story evoking photography and for her to meet and chat with new clients.

“The first time I saw the windmill, I knew it was the perfect place for me without even seeing the inside” says Ale. “I fell completely in love with the history of the building, the period windows and the surrounding bucolic views. What I love most about my studio is the light, everything starts from there and the seasons I see unfolding are always at the heart of the story I’m telling with my camera. The surroundings through the window of my studio and the inspiration I get from them are endless.”

The windmill was built in 1794, 20 years after the canal was first opened and was originally part of the flour industry in the area. Built from local sandstone and 5 storey’s tall, Ale’s studio is housed on the ground floor with sweeping views of the canal, which she likes to call her little Venice, and the perfect place to watch the changing seasons which inspire her styling.

The interior has been painted white to maximise the light and the deep window recess holds all the incidental props Ale needs to hand, with mother nature providing the rest.

“The props used are antique or vintage treasures sourced from charity shops, flea markets or online dealers. I love elements that have a story behind them and I am particularly drawn to objects that have texture and irregularities created from time passing and continued use over many years” The majority of the props Ale uses are flora or fauna, seashells and feathers gathered from her walks. “I always find something wherever I go.” She says.

To add further texture and interest to Ale’s shots, simple fabric backdrops are hung from a pole across a trestle table on which her expressive creations come to life. 

Since moving to the UK Ale has become a mother to her son Benjamin and although she works part time in retail her photography work has been gathering pace and she has a portfolio of both wedding and portrait photography, is awaiting the publication of a book she has been commissioned to take the images for and has held exhibitions and sold prints of her work to private customers.

As nature and flowers are such a huge inspiration Ale has worked on creating a photography and floral styling workshop with her friend Annabel of The Contented Mole which has informed Ale’s current exhibition at Cedar Farm, a series of framed pressed flowers layered on ephemera, combining all of her greatest passions, nature, beauty and nostalgia.

Memories of life growing up on a ranch in Argentina and the people she was surrounded by there who she holds dear, together with the new landscape of her adoptive country are woven throughout Alejandra’s evocative and expressive work.

You can see more of Alejandra’s work and contact her for commissions through her website below or via dm on her instagram

All above images are by Alejandra Sinclair.


Visiting malaga & Granada – Where to visit, Eat & Sleep

Last year we spent a week in Malaga and took a 48 hour road trip to Granada. I don’t know why it’s took me so long to write a blog post about our trip, as it was fantastic in every way and I can’t recommend the city of Malaga enough for a holiday. It has everything that, I personally, could certainly want from a city. A few friends who are visiting this year have asked for my recommendations and so this pushed me to write this post for them and anybody else that might be thinking of visiting this Andalusian city.

Malaga has a beautiful old city centre full of wonderful architecture, lots of museums and galleries, great and affordable food and a beach for that all important RnR.

This blog post will mainly focus on Malaga, as we only stayed overnight in Granada. But we did have a walk around the city, albeit in 42 degree heat, we visited the Alhambra Palace and we ate in a fantastic authentic established tapas bar, so I’ll share all that here with you too. Granada is easily accessed by public transport from Malaga and takes approx 2 hours. We took the bus which skirts the Sierra Nevada area of spain and so is a lovely scenic journey. You can also get the train and of course hire a car. The bus’s and trains are a couple of times a day and booking your tickets ahead of your trip is advisible and I’ll add a link below to how we booked ours.

Alsa bus’s run from malaga to Granada.


So first things first where to stay in Malaga? I can’t recommend our hotel enough. H10 Croma Malaga was built in 2022, so everything was brand new & very stylish. Our bed in our room was the hugest bed I’ve ever slept in and so comfortable. The walk in shower and bathroom were beautifully designed and the balcony overlooking the city was a lovely place to sit after a day sight seeing, before going out for dinner. There was the added extra of a pool on the roof, which was small but adequate and just a lovely area to sit for an hour or two, have some lunch, or a drink, and relax. The only down side was that we were there in July, so the busy season, and there were only 10 sun longers for sunbathing, which we were never lucky enough to grab in time. In the evening there was often a DJ set and it was so nice to come back in after dinner in the city and relax on the roof with a drink and listen to some music. The breakfast was also fantastic. Around £20 per person but as much as you wanted to eat, all very well cooked and lots of choice.

The Tiled shaded balcony in a our room, with views over the city.


The historic city centre is stunning. Plaza de la Constitution is surrounded by large colonial type old buildings, with weathered wooden shutters opening onto a large square,flanked by palm trees. Off this square run many charming pedestrian roads full of tapas bars and shops. You can spend hours wandering these streets.

You’ll find Malaga Cathedral or Catedral de la Encarnación de Málaga as it’s correctly known,in this historic area. I can’t show you in my photographs how huge and ostentatiously decorated it is. You will have to see it for yourself but it is magnificent.

Playa La Malagueta beach is a short walk from the historic centre and although it’s not the prettiest beach I’ve been to, it is worth a visit. Hire a sun lounger and umbrella for around 10 euros a day and watch the locals, drink some sangria and have lunch or dinner in one of the many Chiringuito’s lining the beach. I’ll recommend a couple under the eating section which specialise in seafood and sardines cooked on a lartge charcoal BBQ.

Image via

On the walk from the centre of the city to the beach, you’ll approach the port of Malaga. This is a pleasant place to walk as it’s been covered with a concrete canopy which is both necessary to shade you from the sun but also lovely to look at. Along the promenade there are many places to stop and eat and as you get nearer to the beach, there is a stage erected where there’ll often be bands playing live music and a permanant market selling crafts and clothes. There are also a selection of more modern type restaurants such as a branch of The Hard Rock cafe.

If you want to see some ancient history there are some roman ruins in Malaga. The Teatro Romano de Malaga are small but worth a look and the area around it has been paved and pedestrianised and you’ll find lots of upmarket restaurants and bars around here, including El Pimpi a famous restaurant now owned by actor Antonio Banderas who was born in Malaga.


As Malaga is the birth place of Picasso, there are quite a few art galleries in the city.

As you might expect, there is a gallery dedicated entirely to the work Malaga’s most famous son.

You can also visit the birthplace of Picasso and his home which is on 3 floors and houses some of his early works and that of his fathers and ceramics, with a research library on the third floor.

As it would have been Picasso’s 100 year birthday in 2023 and there were lots of smaller exhibitions of his work in the city. We visited one at the bullring near to Malagueta beach.The photography exhibition consisted of Picasso and his friends, various wives and lovers at the bullring which opened in 1876 and which he frequented regularly. Many of his works feature bulls. Surprisingly, the bull ring is still open and active & If you are interested in the culture of bull fighting and matadors, there is a permanent exhibtion dedicated to this at La Malagueta Bullring, which was dedicated a historic artistic site in 1976. It’s definitely not something I’m interested in or condone although the photography exhibition was excellent.

The Carmen Thyssenn Museum features a permanent collection of historic art housed in a beautiful renaissance 16th Century building. There are a series of regular changing exhibitions of more modern art. Recent exhibitons at the time of writing include Man Ray photography and emerging modern art in Spain before the civil war in 1936.

If modern art is your thing, there is a small Pompidou centre down by the port of Malaga. This summer’s exhibition is Breton and surrealism.

After all that sight seeing, culture and food, you might just need to relax? Book yourself into The Hammam Al Ándalus. These hammam baths are built on the site of an ancient 16th Century Roman baths and for 1.5 hours you can emerse yourself into the waters and have a deep or relaxing massage. Booking ahead during the busy summer season is advisable.


The shops around the historic centre are a mix of traditional and modern. You’ll find shops dedicated to just hats, amazing food shops where you can choose the finest Iberico hams, or some very cool clothes & shoe shops. One of my favourite brands sold in independant shops in the UK is Paloma Nice Things but as it’s a Spanish label, there is a store in Malaga and it’s much cheaper to buy there than in the UK. We also visited Mosaico vintage shop and found a few bargains. there are several other vintage clothes shops if that’s your thing. Peninsula and Flamingo Vintage Kilo are two more and there are department stores and shopping centres further from the centre. As an antique dealer, I also try and find the local antique shops. Malaga has a couple but the best one,Antigüedades Los Remedios, was closed on my visit, even though it was supposed to be open, so I think opening hours are a bit hit and miss with the dealers here?


I can honestly say we never ate a bad meal in Malaga. I don’t think you can go wrong with the Tapas particularly as competition is so fierce, they are all excellent and so reasonably priced. But some of the best meals we ate are below. Booking is highly recommended as these are very popular with locals and visitors to the city.

El Pimpi is currently owned by actor Antonio Banderas although is a very old establishment. Serving traditional tapas with some very unusual dishes which I’ve never tried before, the restaurant is large and bustling. There is a large terrace for alfresco dining at the front and diners who haven’t pre booked can queue at the front of the restaurant and wait for a table. We had to do this as we hadn’t pre booked and we got a table quite quickly inside as there were only 2 of us.

El mason de crevantes is very unassuming from the outside but this very popular local restaurant is much bigger inside than expected and the food is amazing. defintely the best we had in the week we were there, which is a huge statement as everything we ate was good. More expensive than most other restaurants, around £100 for two, but worth it.

Casa Lola has 3 establishments very close to each other in Malaga. Always busy, very hard to get into unless pre booked but great and very reasonably priced food.

If you can’t book any of these restaurants, just walk around the historic centre and choose any of the busy tapas restaurants and you will be very happy with what you get served.

Mercado Central de Atarazanas is the food market on the outskirts of the old town, very close to the hotel we were staying in. If you aim to get there around 11.00am you’ll be just in time for lunch to start being cooked by the various stall holders. Grab a seat outside and order freshly cooked seafood with a beer or sangria or the huevos rancheros which I ordered one day and was delicious. You can literally eat here for around 10-15 euros each with drinks!

chiringuitos are beach side restaurants and there are lots of them in Malaga. One of the best on Malagueta beach is El Tintero where the waiters walk around with large trays of ready cooked food and you just put up your hand if you fancy the look of the dish. The dishes you’ve had are then written on the paper table cloth and that’s your bill to pay at the end of your meal! Simple and delicious.

For other popular chiringuitos in Malaga I’ve added a link below.


Granada is a beautiful city, only 2 hours on public transport from Malaga. We got the bus from Malaga central bus depot and booked it in advance through Alsa.

We booked a hotel very close to The Alhambra palace as we were only staying for one night, with the sole purpose of our trip to visit the palace. We stayed at Hotel casa Morisca. Hotels in Granada are very cheap compared to other cities and this was around £80 for the night for two of us. It was an old thick stone walled building, keeping it naturally cool, very traditional with an inner courtyard and surrounded by shops, restaurants and bars in the old quarter. The bus stop up to The Alhambra was a short walk in the morning and they run regularly up and down the hill to the palace.

When we arrived in Granada it was July and Spain was in the grip of a heat wave. So the 42 degree temperatures really stopped us exploring the city as much as we’d have liked to. We dropped our bags at the hotel, went into the city centre to get some lunch and then took the bus up to The Alhambra Palace.

The Palace is stunning and everything I imagined it would be, but due to the intense heat we didn’t really explore the gardens as much as I would have liked to. A word of warning if you’re visiting, security is intense! You have to take your passport and we must have been asked 7 times by security if they could look at it. You are allocated a time slot for your visit when you book and pre booking is essential, and if you’re late for your slot, you are refused entry. I know this as the group in front of us in the queue to go through the final security check were refused entry and left in tears. Be warned!

You can pre book your tickets for entry here

The view of Granada from The Alhambra Palace.

Saying all of that, it is the most stunning building with views over Granada and beyond and the cratsmanship in the detailed carving of the stone, which is the full script of the Quran, has to be seen to be believed.

After our visit to The Alhambra we changed for dinner and then went to one of the oldest tapas bars in Granada,Bodegas Castaneda, recommended by a friend. Out of season,when she was there, you’re given free tapas for every drink you have, if you stand at the bar. Obviously as we were there in July we couldn’t do that as it was packed to the gills, but we managed to get a table and ordered the mixed platter of tapas and with 3 drinks each, still only paid 45 euros! Highly recommended, full of atmosphere and fantastic food.

Our plan was to spend the rest of the second day in Granada exploring the city but as it was so hot we changed our plans and got the early 10.00am bus back to Malaga where it was slightly cooler due to it being by the coast. The roof top pool was never more welcome when we returned back to our hotel.

Image via H10 Croma Malaga

If you’re staying in Granada I would recommend taking in a Flamenco show in the evening. In the old part of the city you’ll find lots of booking offices for the shows. Granada is the home of Flamenco and is a serious art there. There is even a museum dedicated to it and the lifestyle of the gypsies that created it.

I’d also recommend a visit to an amazing perfume shop we visited which was on the road leading to our hotel in the historic part of the city. This historic renaissance 16th Century palace is now home to a perfume distillery, patio de los Perfumes, where you can buy off the shelf blended scents or have your own created. You can also buy incense and oils to burn and really good facial oils. It’s a beautiful environment to shop and the scents are stunning. We are still burning the heady incense sticks and myrrh we bought there.

Image via patio de los Perfumes

So in a nutshell Malaga is a city I’ll definitely be revisiting. there is much to offer, it’s a short flight from the UK, prices are still very reasonable compared to many other European cities and there is a beach for an added mix of relaxation in with sight seeing.

Cloakroom Design – Why The Smallest Room In The Home Can Still Be Full of Personality

When we bought our house 25 years ago, it was two rental flats and in a sorry state. We had, what we thought at the time, a healthy budget, but that was soon swallowed up by the basics of putting two flats back into a family home.

We prioritised the rooms that we would use the most, such as the childrens bedrooms, the lounge and the kitchen and slowly over the years, the rest of the house was given our attention as funds became available. The seperate toilet upstairs, next to the bathroom was always just an after thought though. It was decorated and given a newly tiled floor, but it was just for hygiene and functionality. With two small children there seemed little point, doing much else to it. To add personality we covered the painted walls with framed prints and posters and at one time we added a glittery toilet seat!! I know don’t judge, it was the early noughties and we were young!

Anyway jumping a few decades ahead, the children were grown and one had fled the nest and suddenly this sad little room didn’t seem to match the rest of our home, which we’d gradually been filling with all the things we’d always wanted but couldn’t previously afford, and it was time to give it some love. Also my instagram feed had been showing me so many lovely decorated cloakrooms, that I was inspired. I also spend a lot of my time designing bathrooms and cloakrooms for a high end tap brand and yet our own toilet at home was letting our whole house down so it was time I put my design skills to use in our own home.

Some of my designs for the client 

The first thing I knew I wanted was a chequerboard tiled floor. However, as I was seeing so many of them on instagram, I was concerned that this was the pattern du jour & would suddenly look dated and the last thing that anybody wants to do when they’ve tiled a floor, with a toilet plumbed in, sitting on top of said tiled floor, is change those tiles any time soon. I ruminated and pondered but kept coming back to this design and then in the summer my friend sent me a photograph of a beautiful classic hotel she was staying at in Remy in France and they had the exact same floor in the colours I wanted, in their hallway. Decision made. This was a classic design and my instincts were to go with it.

The hotel image my friend sent me in Remy

Once my mind was made up I started sourcing tiles in the colours of my choice, which were a rusty brick colour and an off white. There are many tile companies that offer this colour combination in encaustic tiles with their lovely soft chalky finish, but what I came to realise was that the standard size for these tiles is 20cm square and with a smallish room, this isn’t ideal as the chequerboard pattern becomes lost, as you obviously can’t fit that many tiles across the small width of the room. I needed around 10cm square for my floor and although some of my sourced tile companies offered a bespoke service for smaller tiles, this came at a huge cost and I’m talking £2,000 for one quote or a very long lead time of 3-4 months.

In the end I used quarry tiles, which are both suitable for floors, are anti slip as they aren’t glazed and came in the colours of my choice. They are as a side note, extremely cheap and the whole floor which was around 2.5 metres square cost £135.

I’ve since discovered a company called The Baked Tile Company, which I found whilst sourcing tiles for a client project. They have a lovely selection of matt unglazed tiles, suitable for walls or floors in 15cm square sizes, which would have been another option.

The other consideration whilst designing a cloakroom or seperate toilet area, is practicality and hygiene. It has to be easy to clean and maintain. So with this in mind I opted for MDF panelling in a wide Georgian style to replicate the architectural details of our Victorian house. The English Panelling Company make their panelling in a range of widths and also in green MDF, which is water resistant and suitable for rooms such as bathrooms, toilets and kitchens. The panels are routed to form the tongue and groove appearance and easily slot together and glue to the wall. They also provide a dado rail within their products, which is a suitable size for any of their panels. They were so easy to fit and went up in very little time.

I knew I wanted to use wallpaper and because we only needed half the amount to go above the panelling, it meant we could afford to use a more expensive design than if we were papering a whole room. I also knew I wanted to hang some of our artwork on the walls, so chose a small print design to enable us to showcase the art without the wallpaper fighting with it. The Cypress wallpaper design in Cocoa from Howe at 36 Bourne Street was the perfect colour to go with the tiles and the delicate paisley print wallpaper, printed in Leicestershire in the UK, was small enough for what I wanted, whilst still creating interest within the small room.

When it came to choosing a toilet, I knew I wanted a traditional design but with a close coupled cistern as the toilet is under the window, so this was the only design that would work. I don’t know if you’ve ever spent hours googling close coupled toilets but there is a staggering amount, almost all of them in fact, which have this awful (well to me awful) wide plastic slide that connects the cistern to the toilet. I can’t tell you how happy I was when I found the Victrion close coupled WC by BC Designs. It’s a small detail I know and I do realise as I’m typing this that I sound like a toilet snob and it’s probably not important to a lot of people, but to me it made all the difference. The toilet fits seamlessly close with the cistern, making it more visually attractive and easier to keep clean, it’s also pleasingly traditional in design with a choice of black or white seat and a choice of metal lever fittings. It doesn’t take much to make me happy, but the smallest details like this make me very happy. As we know the devil is in the detail.

So finally to finish off this smallest room in the house, I made a roman blind with a small gingham black and white fabric, to harmonise with the black toilet seat and we kept our existing wicker pendant light, to add some texture to an otherwise untextural room. At some point an antique basket will be added to house the toilet rolls on the floor. I’ve got my eye on a Japanese antique basket next time I go sourcing for antiques for my online store.

The smallest thing which I think added the biggest design detail was using a scallop trim around the window frame. This was from Camilla Hampton who makes various MDF trim designs, in different widths. It’s a small detail but just makes the existing window frame, was was added in the 1970’s when the house was turned into flats, less austere and just quite pretty. A relatively cheap additon that made all the difference.

Existing art work was hung on the walls and some new prints from Ali Heath and Musee Home in frames from Glassette.

It’s exactly what I wanted and what I visualised. It feels warm and cosy, but clean and easy to maintain. The genius part of the whole reno which I claim was intentional but was actually just a happy accident, was moving the radiator from it’s original position by the door to the alcove next to the toilet. The toilet roll holder just above the radiator provides heated toilet paper, which is just the biggest luxury you can imagine. Forget leather heated seats in fancy expensive cars! This is the future of design! 🙂

If you want any of the details of the materials and products used in our toilet reno, I’ve attached my original mood board below with links to all the products.

8 Things to Do, See & Visit on a trip to Paris

I’d visited Paris a couple of times before last year but they have always been quite fleeting visits for a few days. However in 2022, my daughter secured an internship in Paris as part of her University studies. She was staying for 3 weeks assisting a very good fashion photographer and of course, it was only right as my duty as her mother, to go and settle her in to her apartment, this being her first trip to the city 🙂

We found her apartment through Air BNB, in a lovely suburb of Paris called Saint Mande, which made the 3 week booking slightly more economical than staying in the centre and it was well linked to the city, by the metro, to the studio where she would be working.

I’ve been asked a few times since my visit, for recommendations for places to eat, shop & stay in Paris and as I was there last year, for 9 days, I covered a lot of ground on my own, whilst Amber was busy working. So here are my 8 things that I think you might enjoy doing whilst in Paris. Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list and it’s only what I enjoyed doing whilst I was there, but I guessed some of them might be useful?  I was there last March 2022 so if any of the places I recommend are no longer there I apologise, but I’m sure many of them will be.

Amber going to work in her typically Parisian studio


As I’ve said, I booked an Air bnb for Amber in a less central location due to the cost of staying for 3 weeks. Paris is, as you all know, expensive, but staying slightly out of the centre reduced the costs slightly. Saint Mande, the area where Amber stayed is a middle class residential suburb of Paris. There are plenty of restaurants & bars, a weekly brocante market and a metro station with around a 20 minute commute into Republique in the centre where Amber’s studio was located. Another similar area, and the next stop from Saint Mande, from the centre of Paris, is Vincennes which is another lovely small old town, safe & clean & perfect for a longer stay in Paris. Both these options are worth looking at on air bnb and there are plenty of choices.

In previous years I’ve also used a company called One Fine Stay who offer more luxury self catering accomodation.

Our apartment in Le Marais that we booked through One Fine Stay a few years ago

If you are looking to stay in a hotel, there are of course hundreds, if not thousands, to choose from. Some of my favourites are:

The Hoxton

I’ve not stayed at the Hoxton in Paris, but I have eaten there and I have stayed at their hotels in London & Amsterdam, so I know the standard they provide and it’s exceptionally good, whilst also being very cool. The food at the Hoxton is very traditional French bistro fayre, such as Croque Monsiour and esgarcots but there is also the usual Hoxton offerings of burger and steak. The building itself is grand & imposing when you enter and it’s in the 2nd Arrondisoment which is very central.

The Hoxton Paris

Hotel Caron De Beaumarchais

For those of you that want to feel as though you have been transported back to the 18th Century and stay in the oldest part of Paris, Le Marias, then this is the hotel for you. It has the ambiance of a private house and and the rooms are decorated in the classical French style of the period with beautiful crystal chandeliers and antique furniture.

Photo credit Hotel Caron De Beaumarchais

La Pigalle

For something completely different, modern, quirky and a little decadent, then locate yourself in South Pigalle or SoPi as the area has been renamed by the hipsters. A 5 minute walk from the Moulins Rouge and the red light area, this arrondissement of the city has been gentrified over the last few years and is now the place for great bars, food and live entertainment. The hotel has a restaurant open for breakfast until the early hours and a DJ set every Thursday, Friday & Saturday night from 10.00pm, as well as regular pop up events. Check their website for details. The area of SoPi is also home to a popular cocktail bar called Dirty Dick, it used to be a hostess bar and they kept the name. This gives you more of a description of the area as it was than any words I can say 🙂

Photo credit Hotel La Pigalle

2. Walk


My advice to anyone who only has a very short stay in Paris, maybe only one day, but wants to get a flavour for the city in a very traditional Parisian way, is go to Montmartre. Yes it’s touristy and yes it’s a bit of a pastiche of how Paris was, but to me it still feels authentically Parisian. Start at the bottom of the steps of the Sacre Couer, avoiding the tat tourist shops before you ascend the steps. Once you get to the top, there is a little park to the left where you can sit and gaze at the spectacular view of the city roof tops, without getting embroiled in the hoardes of tourists in front of the Sacre Coeur. As you walk around the back of the Sacre Couer you’ll eventually find yourself in the heart of Montmartre, the area made famous by the artists that flocked to the city. The main square is surrounded by typical French restaurants, but they are all mainly very good and some unchanged since the 35 years ago that I first visited. You can easily spend the best part of a day wandering up and down the steps, in and around the myriad of streets that surround the area, shopping for antiques, stopping for a galette or a coffee. It is still, to me, quite a magical place and there are surprisingly some very good antique shops there, that aren’t ridiculously expensive.

One of the typically Parisian restaurants in Montmartre

Le Marais

Le Marais is one of the oldest areas in Paris but fell into disrepair after the French Revolution. The area is now extremely fashionable and known for it’s designer shops, art galleries, such as The Picasso Museum and great restaurants and bars. It was once the cities Jewish Quarter and although Rue Des Rosiers is no longer lined with Jewish bakeries and Kosher butchers, you can still find some great Jewish food such as Miznon who serve delicious kebabs, chicken salads and dips from the Middle East. I ate there with my daughter for Just 35 euros for the two of us. Walking around Le Marias and the Place des Vosges, where the author Victor Hugo lived, who famously penned Les Miserables, you’ll get a real sense of history and the events that led to the French Revolution. If you’re lucky enough to be in Place des Vosges on a Sunday, you can wander the farmers and antique market stalls that surround the square and if the weather is good enough, buy some cheese and bread from one of the market stalls and sit on the grass and people watch, as the Parisians themselves do.

A boutique in Le Marais

One of the well known bars in Le Marais

Place Des Vosges on a Sunday photo Credit

Canal Saint Martin

This area is Paris off the beaten track. The canal links to the Seine & is lovely to walk along with it’s series of bridges. It’s an area that’s attracted a lot of young Parisians to live there as the rents are cheaper, which has made it an emerging area for some cool shops, bars & restaurants and it feels much less touristy than other areas of the city. It’s another good area to stay as it’s safe and less expensive than the city centre.


Paris is full of green space and there are many beautiful gardens to explore or just sit and take in your surroundings. One of my favourites is Jardin Du Luxembourg which is known for it’s spectacular lawns and tree lined promenades. there is also a lake and glass house and it’s just a beautiful park, to take a macaron and coffee and watch the world go by. It’s also a short walk to Saint Germain Des Press where you can explore the many specialist antiquarian book shops and purchase that afore mentioned macaron, as it’s also, in this area where there is a branch of Laduree the famous French macarons.

Although Paris has some beautiful parks to explore, there is also a version of the New York Skyline which you can walk along. The Promenade Plantee is raised just 10 metres above street level & gives a lovely panoramic view of the city as you walk from Bastille where it starts, to Bois De Vincennes. There are various viewing points and seating areas, amongst the lush planting. It opened in 1993, so is well established and a perfect stroll through parts of the city on a different level.

As obvious and touristy as it sounds, I would definitely say if you haven’t seen the Eiffel Tower then go and see it. It’s quite imposing as you approach it and see it towering above the other buildings in the distance. If you view it after nightfall, so much the better, as it’s lit up and twinkles like a huge diamond. Some of the best areas to see it from are Rue de L’Universitie a residential Street that ends at Champs de Mars. Also you can visit the Museum of Architecture & Patrimoine and get a great view of the tower from inside the building. It’s open some evenings after sunset for that all important twinkling view and they have a restaurant with a viewing platform, which you can book called Giraffe, although it is 4 star and expensive. Also the view from Place Du Trocadero is good as it’s directly across the river from the tower.

4. Visit

Musee D’Orsay

There are many wonderful art galleries & Museums in Paris & I will mention some of my favourites here, but if you love impressionist style paintings by the great French masters such as Monet, Renoir, Pissaro & Cezanne, there is only one gallery you need to visit & it’s Musee D’orsay. The grand entrance confirms that this was once a train station built in the Beaux arts period between 1898-1900 and the displays of French art are vast. You’ll find yourself here for a few hours at least, so if you have time, try and dedicate a morning or afternoon to it. 

The main gallery Musee D’Orsay

A Degas hung in Musee D’Orsay

Shakespeare & Company Book shop

One of the oldest English book shops in Paris, opened in 1951 and quickly becoming a centre for ex pat life in the city. Some literary greats such as Ginsberg and Anais Nin were frequent visitors to the shop and in recent years a cafe has been added serving their own blend of coffee and anglo inspired vegan and vegetarian food. Located just opposite Notre dame and on the edge of the Latin Quarter, it’s a perfect place to start or end your walk around this lovely quarter of Paris.

Shakespeare & Company


Musee Yves Saint Laurent

If you are a lover of fashion, then I would highly recommend a visit to the Musee Yves Saint Laurent. Housed in the former designers Atelier, the museum exhibits include original toiles of the designs from over the decades, sketches and polaroids of the models, a selection of the finished garments and accessories & finally Monsieur Laurents studio in which you can see his desk and work space where he created all the magic. 

Yves Saint Laurent Museum

Picasso Museum

This large & beautiful historic building, located in Le Marais pays homage to the great artist and his many years spent living in Paris. At the time of my visit, there was also an exhibition dedicated to the collection by designer Yves Saint Laurent which was inspired by Picasso’s work. The views of the city from this beautiful museum are also pretty special. Also worth noting, if you are in Paris on the first Sunday of the month, all museums, such as The Picasso, Musee D’Orsay and The Louvre are free to enter.

Picasso Museum Paris

5. Shop


One of the most well known European concept stores for a reason. This beautiful store with it’s collections of,hard to find, and often exclusive brands, is one of the most impressively visually merchandised srtores I’ve visited anywhere. As well as clothes, homewares, books and cosmetics, there is also a lovely cafe for lunch or just a drink, which has been designed like a library in which you’re free to read any of the books on the shelves during your stay. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you spot the iconic red Fiat 500 parked in the courtyard outside.

The cafe in Merci


Puces De Paris Saint Ouen Flea Market

There are many flea & brocante markets dotted all over Paris but the biggest & the best, probably in the whole of Europe, is at Saint Ouen. It’s a permanent fixture with many expensive shops as well as smaller, cheaper stalls and is open Saturday, Sunday & Monday.You will literally find anything & everything here and there are plenty of bars, cafes & restaurants within the antiques village for regular pit stops & people watching. A word of warning, the area isn’t the best in Paris so when you walk from the metro to the market, be vigilant and don’t take too much cash, valuables, such as expensive cameras or your passport. Look confident and you’ll be ok, just be aware.

Image of Saint Ouen Flea Market

Kilo Vintage Clothes Store

There are some fantastic vintage clothes stores In Paris, many in Le Marais where you have to ring a door bell and wait to enter. One of the best that we shopped at was As it says on the tin, your clothes are paid for by weight and are also often priced according to quality and condition, but they are still very cheap and this store had an area at the back of the shop, which had been curated in the seasons colours and trending styles, to make your selection even easier.



Paris, like any major European city, has many department stores. From Galerie Lafayette, Printemps to Le Bon Marche, I’ve visited them all but, by far the best, for me, is the newly restored Samaritaine. It’s got all the more unusual, harder to find, never heard of before, brands of clothes, make up & perfume. It’s reasonably compact compared to the others and is therefore less over whelming if you’re short on time.



There are so many great places to eat in Paris and of course often the best way to find somewhere cool is just by walking past and stumbling across it, but post Covid, it’s always often worth booking somewhere you particularly want to eat, as walk in’s are sometimes more problematic than pre Covid times? My last visit to Paris was also over a year ago & places that were then the place du jour change all the time in cities so there may be better options. I always look at Time Out guide before a trip to check where they are suggesting. At the time of my visit these are places I ate or would suggest.

Les Enfants Du Marche

This food market is located in Le Marais & as I’ve said one of the most historic areas in Paris. I’ve eaten here twice before and it’s always great. It’s a typical food market, with a selection of different cultural cuisines, but many are North African,as this area is where many of the early immigrants to Paris settled. There are many other fantastic North African restaurants in Le Marais. A lot of the food vendors don’t provide seating, so you will see people standing to eat or drink, but there are communal tables around the perimeter of the market. It’s open every day, except Monday and most days until 10.30pm.

Les Enfants Du Marche Image credit Wikipedia

Pink mamma 

It’s just pizza and there are lots of restaurants by the Big Mamma group in Paris, but this is the one that is the most instagram worthy and therefore the one that unless you book ahead, you probably won’t get into. Guess what I didn’t book ahead and we couldn’t get a reservation on the evening we were in South Pigalle, but in all honesty, there are some fantastic restaurants in the area since it’s been gentrified and we had one of our best there, 3 courses, for 2 of us, €80.

Image Credit Pink Mamma


If you want an experience like no other ,then I would recommend Derriere, in Le Marais. The food is pretty good, but it’s the decor, ambience & atmosphere that draws people here. I ate here in 2014, when I went to celebrate my 50th birthday & if you want to know more about what makes this venue so different, you can read my blog from that time here. The restaurant is located in a run down small chateau style house with a courtyard garden and was created by the guys behind London’s Sketch restaurant and Momo. Even if your meal doesn’t blow you away, the atmosphere and sense of decadence & bohemia will.

 Derriere Image credit Office du Tourisme

Any Bakers in Paris

Part of the thrill of self catering in Paris, is queing for your freshly baked bread, baguette or croissants in the morning. However even if you’re staying in a hotel, a trip to any bakers in Paris, for a slice of quiche or a cake is a must.  From macaron, to chocolat eclairs, everything is delicious and a feast for the eyes as much as the stomach. 


When you arrive in Paris, you might be tempted to take a taxi to your apartment or hotel, but I wouldn’t. They are both slow & expensive and many of the roads in Paris have the same names but in different arrondissements, as we found out to our surprise after being dropped off at the wrong apartment. We then had to walk another 25 minutes in the dark, through a red light area, truly a terrible experience, without going into too much detail, before we found our actual apartment.

Instead buy a ticket for the metro from the airport, for the amount of days you will be staying in the city and you’ll find the public transport, clean, fast & efficient. When you arrive at CDG airport the RER B train will take you into Paris Gare Du Nord station where you can then trasfer to the metro to your destination.

Taking a river cruise along the seine in the evening, is the best way to see the cities landmarks such as The eiffel tower lit up. It’s quite a magical experience. There are many options for cruises, some including dinner and they get busy at weekends, so booking in advance of your trip is recommended.

8. Watch

For a small traditional cabaret club, try Lapin Agile in Montmartre. This historic venue is largely unchanged since the 1800’s when it was frequented by the Demi-monde of Parisian society. Later struggling artists such as Picasso were the clientele, where they gathered to discuss art. Book in advance to hear classic French songs sung by the chanteuse of the day.

Lapin Agile Photo Credit Montmartre Addict

Madame Arthur

There are many cabaret and burlesque clubs in Paris, most famous, The Moulin Rouge and Crazy Horse. However they are expensive. For something just as traditional to Paris but much cheaper, there is Madame Arthurs. First opened in 1946, it is the oldest transformist cabaret in Paris.It closed in 2010 but reopened it’s doors in 2015 and has become popular with the LBGTQ+ community. Expect a fun and fabulous show and a DJ set. Open from Thursday – Sunday. The show finishes at 11.00pm but the dancing continues until 6.00am.

Madame Arthur Image credit Tiqets

People Watching 

The universal pastime of many of us and no where better to do it. Watching the super stylish Parisians is one of my favourite things to do and it’s totally free!

I could tell you so much more but the real excitement of being in a city is finding your own thing, getting lost, being open to anything.The Joie de vivre of it 🙂





Second Hand September and I how I breath new life into reloved items in my home

So here we are again. It’s September and as well as the month that it’s back to school and the transition into Autumn, it’s also now known as second hand September amongst those of us that cherish second hand objects. That’ll be you and me right?

For most of us September isn’t the only month dedicated to second hand shopping, it’s a lifetime love affair, but’s it’s a great idea to dedicate a month to encourage others who have maybe shied away from charity shops, boot sales and antique fairs in the past, to give it a go.

I’ve been married for 33 years now and a home owner for 34 years and I’ve always bought second hand. It was partly a budget thing, I was 25 when I bought my first property, but it’s also always been a love thing. I’ve always been drawn to antiques and vintage and an item with a history. I find it romantic that an item I’ve acquired, found under a table at a car boot sale or spent maybe more money on at a brocante fair, has been in other homes, loved, painted or made by someone else from another era. What stories that item could tell?

As an interior designer and stylist, I’ve often been told by people that they love antique items but as their home isn’t a period property they wouldn’t know how to add something preloved into their space. They’re often not sure how an old item would work with their new products and I understand that apprehension, but by adding just a few small preloved items into the mix, that don’t necessarily grab attention in the way a larger item, such as an armchair or cupboard would, you can gradually start to build up that mix of old and new.

I’ve added a few images, taken in and around my home, of items that are old but have been been pimped up to make them blend in with other newer items we have and give them a new lease of life. I also believe artwork from any era, always looks great, adding colour, texture and interest to a blank wall in any space.

I always have a selection of original antique and vintage artwork for sale on my website & other dealers who have beautiful collections of art include:

  1. Collins & Green
  2. Medium Room
  3. Kate Price Interiors

If you don’t want a large statement piece of art, then vintage prints from art books or bought from gallery exhibitions and framed look lovely hung in a vertical row. I often sell vintage prints on my website or another source of beautiful art prints is The Musee Home.

So have a look at a few of my vintage finds and how I’ve used them and let me know by dm on my instagram which you can find here, if you too mix old and new to create an eclectic interior or if second hand September may have encouraged you to give it a go next time you’re at a boot sale or antique fair.

An old metal factory window has been repurposed into a mirror by adding some off cuts of mirror glass.

A large picture frame found at an antique fair has also been glazed to make an over mantle mirror.

A shelving unit found at kempton racecourse antique market is useful storage for magazines and objects and the original white paintwork would work in any room in the house.

If the original paintwork is past it’s best or doesn’t suit your interior decor, a few coats of paint will remedy that. This small Georgian table was quite battered when we found it but after a repaint with Summer Pudding by Atelier Ellis it’s got a new lease of life.

If you’re more of a minimalist and don’t want colourful artwork in your home, vintage large format photography works really well in a neutral scheme.

The small Victorian bobbin lamp was rewired and topped with a new shade from Pooky, another way to mix old and new.

Happy hunting xx

My bucket list of the top six places I’d like to visit

This year I turned 59 and so with my next big birthday milestone within sight I started to realise, without sounding morbid, just realistic, that time is not finite and that there were a lot of places that I wanted to see and so I’d better start making a plan.

I’ve never had a bucket list and that maybe is where lies the problem. I’ve always been quite flexible when making holiday plans, partly maybe because for the last 21 years, since having my youngest child, I’ve either been unemployed, although working really frickin hard as a full time mum, or freelance, since changing careers and becoming a stylist. So making plans a year or so in advance, as many people I know do, has never been a luxury we have afforded.

It’s always been let’s see how much money we’ve jointly earned and how much my tax bill is in April before booking anything and so plans have always been a bit more fly by the seat of our pants, kind of plans.

Well now that big birthday is looming, I’ve decided to get my act together and be more thoughtful about where I actually want to travel to and why. My why has been boiled down to architecture I want to see. Buildings that I’ve always longed to walk around and within and so this year I’ve made plans to tick two of these much revered buildings, in my mind, off my list.

1.Building number one is Eileen Grays E1027 modernist villa in Roquebrune- Cap-Martin, built in 1929. Agreed she’s not a household name, known mainly perhaps for her furniture designs, but Eileen Gray was the first designer I wrote an essay about in my first semester at uni and I learned that she had not only designed this building with her partner, as their holiday retreat, but had also designed every piece of furniture and textile within it and she had also mightily pissed Les Corbusier off in the process. His cabana was situated opposite and when she split from her partner and left the property for good, Les Corbusier famously went into it and defaced it with his own paintings on the white walls, whilst getting a companion to photograph him in the process, in the nude, doing so. The ultimate two fingered salute? Jealousy? (Le Corbusier was obsessed with the building)  perhaps a distaste for women architects and designers that might just have rivalled his talents? They were different times then as we know.  In more recent years the house has been completely renovated by French Government agency Conservatoire du Littoral, along with Le Corbusier’s cabana and I can’t wait to see what this Irish woman, so ahead of her time, created.

Eileen Gray E1027 House-Dezeen

2.Building number two, that I’m also visiting later this year, is more familiar to everyone and although I’ve often been staying near enough to visit, I’ve never quite made it there. It’s the formidable Moorish palace the Alhambra in Granada. The first time I wanted to visit was when we were staying in Nerja on the Costa del Sol. I tried all week to drag our son, who was then 5, out of the pool at the villa, that we were staying in, but he’d made so many friends, that I was wasting my time and over the years we’ve never been quite so close to that area again. So this year we’ve booked a week in Malaga and we’re going to get the train to Granada, visit the Alhambra and then stay over night to explore the winding streets of the old city.

The Alhambra Palace – BBC image

3.building number three on my new bucket list is Mies Van De Rohe pavilion in Barcelona. Again I’ve been to Barcelona 3 times but never made it this pavilion, as I’ve always visited Barcelona for other reasons, such as exhibitions, birthdays etc. The glass pavilion is a 1986 reconstruction of the original designed in 1929, for the Barcelona International Exhibition to showcase the talents of German design and architecture. Again this building was first introduced to me whilst I was studying at Uni and we were asked for one of our modules to design our own exhibition pavilion and build a model of it. Don’t be fooled into thinking an interior design degree is all about colour and decoration. As an interior designer it’s vital that students understand space and form and this is a masterclass in just that.

Mies van de Rohe Pavilion Barcelona-Iconic Interiors

4. Building number four is Frieda Khalos Blue House. Since I watched my first documentary about this incredible artist in which the viewer was taken on a tour of her home which she shared with her husband artist, Diego Rivera, I’ve been obsessed with visiting her beloved Mexico City and her home, which also houses a collection of clothes, shoes and head pieces from her wardrobe. I’ve heard conflicting reports about the danger of visiting Mexico City though and so that is slightly putting the brakes on me booking a visit there. If any of you have been and had a great experience or have any tips for travelling there safely, I’d love to hear from you. There is also the amazing Casa Barragan to visit if I make it to Mexico City. The house and studio of architect Luis Barragan built in 1948, which is a tour de force in the use of colour with light.

The Casa Azul-Getty Images
Inside frieda Khalos blue

5. Closer to home now and a house co designed and lived in by one of our most revered designers, William Morris. Red House in Bexley London, is the family home of Morris and the place where his friends, such as pre raphaelite artists Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti often visited. It’s also the house in which Morris lived when he launched his design company, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co, decorating the building with his various wallpaper and furniture designs. It’s now owned by The National Trust and has undergone a project of maintenance and preservation so that you really get a sense of how it looked when Morris lived there.

Red House the home of William Morris-RIBA

6. Finally in my top six is Hill House, just outside Glasgow, designed by architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh, for his client, publisher Walter Blackie. The house, the furniture and even the every day objects such as the cutlery, were all designed by Mackintosh in his now inimitable style. However, Mackintosh’s designs became a bit of a cliche in the 1990’s when they became so popular and over used, on everything to stationary and note cards, that the house fell out of fashion and into disrepair. But in 2017 The National Trust of Scotland ran an architects competition to build a visitor centre for Hill House and the new addition and the updated facilities has been so successful that visitor numbers are now much increased. I listen to the Podcast The Modern House and Matt Gibberd, the presenter and director of The Modern House estate agents, said it’s a must visit building for any architect or designer. Right enough said Matt, I’m booking my tickets! 

Hill House-Wall Street Journal

Ok that’s my top six, what are yours? Where is the most incredible building that you’ve visited or where you want to visit? Or if not buildings or places, then what’s on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments or via dm on my instagram here. I’d love to know.

6 of The Best Places I’ve stayed in The Uk

I’ve always loved exploring our little island and have had a vintage VW camper van for 20 years, but since our children starting getting older, we replaced those camping trips with all inclusive hotels abroad, to satisfy their needs over ours. As the saying goes, if your kids are happy, then you’re happy and it’s very true.

However over the last few years, during the pandemic, when we were allowed to travel around the UK, we did. Getting those holidays in when ever we could before our wings were clipped again. The amount of paper work and latterly flight delays and cancellations, meant to have a staycation was much less stressful and it gave us the opportunity to explore and revisit places we haven’t been to for years.

Obviously travel overseas, has now returned, more or less, to what it was pre pandemic, but if like us you are eager to explore the UK more, then these are the 6 best places that we’ve visited recently. Some of them have appeared in previous blog posts here, but I thought this would be a handy post to keep all my recommendations and experiences together to share with you.


The first trip we took back in June 2020, when lock down measures were being slightly reduced, was to stay at my friend Sally Dennings cottage in Southwold. Sally is a very well known stylist and author of 2 interior books “Relaxed Coastal Style” and “Calm” and so we knew before arriving just how beautiful and thoughtfully designed this cottage would be and we weren’t wrong. Sally has since sold the cottage but it can still be rented through Durrants under the name Millies Cottage. It’s perfectly situated in Southwold, just behind the High Street and within a 5 minute walk of all the restaurants, opubs and the beach.


Later that year in September, we had a week in Deal Kent, which we absolutely loved. It’s a genteel seaside town but with a great selection of shops, bars & restaurants and a lovely coastal walk to Walmer where you can stop for a beachside coffee at Hut55. From Deal you can easily explore the Kent coast. We visited Margate, Folkestone and Dungeness during our weeks stay. If you want to read more about what we did, you can here. We stayed in an Air BNB owned by Emma who runs a lovely shop in the town called Barkened. The cottage was siutuated in the conservation area and a stones throw from the beach. Another fantastic place to stay, if you prefer a hotel, is the recently renovated The Rose which also has a fantastic restaurant and bar which we ate at. Delicious and stylish.


We were lucky enough to visit Norfolk twice in 2022. The first visit was in January when we stayed at Spinks Nest Cottage near Holt. I wrote a blog post for 91 Magazine about our stay which you can read here. The second trip was for my birthday weekend in May and we stayed at Settle Norfolk in a converted railway carriage. It was absolutely stunning and so beautifully restored and styled by the owners Jo and John. The site houses 3 carriages and a luxury cabin and a recent addition this year includes a group space for workshops and retreats. The idyllic space includes 3 lakes for outdoor swimming and an honesty shop for all your weekend essentials, plus a beautiful shop stocking all the interior objects that Jo has used to style the cabins, which you can buy and take home for your own space.

4.North Wales

Last year we decided to take our camper van out of her early retirement and spend some money on getting her back to her former glory. We’ve owned her for 20 years and are only the second owners from new, so the interior is immaculate but the body work needed some attention, as we all do in our later years! So back from the garage we decided we needed to book a few trips away in her, nothing too adventurous, just to North Wales which is literally an hour away from Manchester. I still don’t know how I found The Hawarden estate but I’m so glad we did. It’s probably the most magical campsite we’ve ever stayed on and we’ve stayed on many throughout the UK and France. It’s owned by the Gladstone family, Charlie being the great great grandson to the prime minister William Gladstone and general all round amazing entrepenuer. Founder of Pedlars Vintage, anyone remember that? The Good Life Society and The Hawarden estate Farm shop. As of last year, the estate now has it’s own campsite. There are a few pitches for camper vans, but no electric hook up, this site is aimed at getting back to basics but in a really stylish way. You can pitch your own tent in the meadow area or hire a canvas bell tent with a bbq and fire pit on a decking area. There is an outdoor lake which is available several times a week for guided swims with a life guard and once a week you can take a tour of the castle ruins which stand on the estate, walking past the grand pile where the Gladstones reside. This year there is also a bee keepers hut for rent and a cottage. All your amenities are catered for in the farm shop, which has it’s own bakery and butcher and is open until 10.00pm as a licensed restaurant. The estate also own The Glynne Arms gastro pub which is a short walk away in the village of Hawarden. I would tell you more but I’m afraid I’ve already given too much away and it will become too popular. Oh they also have live bands playing for free on a Friday night, whilst you sit around camp fires and let the little ones toast marshmallow, also available at the farm shop. See I told you they’ve thought of everything!

5.St Leonards

St Leonards near Hastings Sussex, was a place that I visited years ago and remembered nothing much about. However, after following Nicola @Oldtownhaus for years on instagram and seeing a beautiful flat she was renovating which would be available short stays, my curiosity and the beautiful design of her flat, got the better of me and we booked to stay for 4 nights in September last year. To say it’s now become one our our favourite places for a short break and that we are hoping to go again this autumn, says it all and if you want to know why then you can read more about our stay here. The flat is at the top of a grand mansion on Warrior Square, directly opposite the sea front, with commanding views from the huge curved window in the lounge. The interior design has been beautifully executed and styled, with every amenity and luxury you could want for a staycation. I’ll let the photos below do the talking for me. Available to book through Old Town Haus.


It’s around 30 years since I last visited Bath and when my friend, who was celebrating her 50th birthday in October last year, asked me to book a place for 4 of us to stay, somewhere within a few hours drive away, as she’s cabin crew and didn’t want to do any more unnecessary travel, it seemed like the perfect time to revisit. I haven’t written a blog post about our stay as it was four women who just spent 2 days and nights, shopping, eating drinking and laughing our way through the weekend. We did go to the costume museum and we did hop on the open top bus tour but that was the total sum of the culture partaken during the weekend. Nothing more to say about our trip really, but I was absolutely blown away by the architecture, which feels just like walking through a film set and there were so many wonderful places to eat and drink and shop and visit, that I know it won’t be another 30 years until I return. We stayed at a lovely Air BNB which I can highly recommend. Lots of amenities if you want to stay in and cook but close to everything if you want to eat out every night you’re there. Again beautifully styled and furnished and really comfortable for 4 adults or a family of 4. Since staying there I’ve also discovered a lovely small boutique hotel in bath, on Pulteney Bridge, Guest House No.15 which is a wonderful area of the city, should that be your preference, and if I go back with Mr B, i’ll most defintely stay here.

I hope these places have given you some ideas about where you might like stay for your next short break in the UK and I’d love to hear back from you with your recommendations.

A Day Trip to Rye East Sussex

So following on from my last blog post, which you can read here, we took a day trip to the Cinque port town of Rye, whilst staying in St Leonards.

It’s only about a 1/2 an hour drive and is a well established town, with a rich history and amazing historical architecture and is bordered by the beautiful beach of Camber Sands. There are lots of lovely shops and places to eat, including a great pub, with rooms to stay, above. The George, has a beautifully designed interior, with a bustling bar and great food.

Photos of The George

As you enter Rye, you’ll be directed to one of the car parks near the train station, which is a good place to start your exploration of the town, as it’s situated next to one of the loveliest shops we visited. Soap & Salvation, is housed in a former chapel and stocks an abundant range of vintage and antiques, many sourced from Europe, including bread boards, stools, textiles and some really interesting mid century furniture, studio pottery and a vintage book section, situated on a mezzanine overlooking the ground floor shop. The lovely white interior is offset by the gothic arched chapel windows and it’s all just a wonderful, visual delight.

Pretty much next door to Soap & Salvation, is Merchant & Mills, a must for any sewer or anybody interested in making their own garments. This drapers store stocks a range of natural fabrics from linen to wool and checked and striped cotton textiles, as well as a range of Japanese Shibori fabric and a selection of their own garment patterns. A one stop shop for modern contemporary patterns and textiles.

Another favourite shop that we visited, was Sailors of Rye, which was tucked away at the time of visiting, but has now has a larger presence on the High Street. The stock all has a nod to the outdoors and includes work wear garments, knitted items, simple contemporary homewares and candles and skin care. They guys that run the shop are super friendly too.

This town again, like St Leonards and Hasting up the coast, offers many opportunities for antique shopping. One of the best shops, that I covet every time they post new stock online, is Puckhaber. It’s gallery like space, is sparse but everything they display is stunning and is the shop I would definitely buy from to furnish my home, should my lottery numbers ever come up.

Photo Puckhaber

McCully & Crane, run by two former Londoners, Marcus & Gareth, is an interesting and diverse shop for purchasing a mix of old and new art and objects d’art. The space is very cleverly and stylishly curated.

Rae lifestyle store offers an eclectic collection of vintage and antique homewares, mixed with textiles made from Rae’s own independant makers, together with a range of better known, branded, modern Scandi homewares. This is a shop I regularly buy from when sourcing props for shoots as there is always something just that little bit different.

Photo Rae

If you like to rummage to find your antique treasure, then you’ll enjoy a walk along The Strand to the quay side, where there are a myriad of antique and vintage shops, selling all kinds of household items and clothes. We bought a set of Judge Ware enamel pans from this area around 30 years ago, when we were in our first home and we’re still using them!

A walk along Mermaid Street is almost a requirement when visiting Rye. It’s one of the prettiest streets in any town I’ve visited. The gently sloping cobble stoned hill, is flanked by tudor buildings and period properties and in the summer months, each property is enveloped in flowers. As you turn from Mermaid Street onto west Street, you’ll come across Lamb House, former home of many literary greats, including US novelist Henry James. It’s now a National Trust property which you can pay to visit. As well as the house, which includes the library of Henry James, there is a beautiful well stocked walled garden and kitchen garden. A lovely place to sit with a book for a while if you can resist the pull of the retail experiences Rye has to offer 🙂

Photo National Trust

A Short Stay in St Leonards & Hastings Old Town

Many many years ago, when I was in my 20’s, my best friend relocated to Richmond in Surrey. She had met a boy on holiday in Greece and followed him there. Stick with me on this as this is heading somewhere & is connected to my stay in St Leonards.

Pauls dad (that was the boy) had a carvan in St Leonards and one sunny summer weekend, he loaned it to us. We spent that weekend exploring the area, visiting the De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill (once an architect geek, always an architect geek!) We visited the pretty town of Rye, more on that in a later post and we drove to Hastings for the afternoon, but surprisingly we didn’t bother much at all with St Leonards. Too old and genteel, too much faded grandeur, for us bright young things!

Well recently I had been hearing that St Leonards was far from that slow and faded town now and was the new Brighton or Margate in the making, full of smart, cool London migrants, opening bars and restaurants and making St Leonards their home. So last September as the summer was slowly turning to autumn, we decided to spend a few days there to discover it for oursleves.

The perfect apartment for our stay was found on Instagram @oldtownhaus. I’d followed Nicola for ages and loved her style and just as fate would have it, she and her partner, had recently renovated a mansion flat, with sea views and we booked it for 4 nights.

It was the perfect staycation. Large and airy, with lots of period features, very contemporary furnishings and fixtures, a very well equipped kitchen and comfortable beds. With that magnificent sea view, there was understandably no TV, so we could immediately unwind. We cooked, we read, we listened to music and we watched the changing tides and weather from the large bay window in the lounge.

St Leonards, as we had read, is quite the culinary destination for foodies. Home to many great restaurants and old victorian pubs, that have been gentrified, such as The Royal which appears in The Michelin Guide and is run by James Hickson, latterly of Moro London.

A favourite place for us to have a drink and a snack during our stay was The Goat ledge which was right opposite our apartment on Warrior Square. A brightly coloured shack of a building, sitting on the shingle beach, which serves locally caught fish snacks and is a great place to have a sundowner. Open from breakfast until around 9.00pm, this is the place where many of the locals gather to listen to the live music acts which often appear and have a pint whilst watching the sun sink into the ocean, which is exactly what we did.

St Clements has earned itself a Michelin star and although we didn’t eat there, prefering to have a casual relaxing holiday with no plans in place, this restaurant is definitely on the culinary map.


Farmyard is a completely sustainable restaurant, serving only seasonal and local produce, natural wine and no bottled water. A beautiful fresh and constantly changing menu makes it a favourite of locals and visitors.

Image from

If you’re looking for something more casual and drop in as we were, then Heist Market is fantastic. A Street food bar and cafe with several restaurants under one roof, craft beer and natural wine and a great atmosphere. This was definitely a favourite during our stay.

We always like to ask locals where they eat when we visit anywhere, and several people recommended Three Faces of del Parc to us, which by day is a deli, by night a pop up tapas bar. The food is off menu so you are served what the chefs have made that day. If you’re a fussy eater, maybe this isn’t for you. I’m not, but I am unfortunately coelaic, however, a Facebook dm to the guys that run it, sorted that out for me and it was all fantastic and delicious. It’s not open every evening but if you check their facebook page, the days that they are open will be on there.

If you love vintage and antique shopping, then you’ll love the selection of shops in St Leonards. There are too many to mention individually and most of them don’t have websites to link to anyway, but one of the best vintage clothes shops that I’ve ever been in is here. Sunless Antiques is a fantastic shop run by a lovely couple who moved from London 8 years ago. They make regular monthly trips to France to source beautiful clothes for women and loads of fantastic French work wear for men, as well as the odd antique.

Image from Sunless Antiques

Shop on the corner of Norman Road is a beautiful store with a great mix of vintage and new homewares and clothes, some reloved.

Image @shop

The other great thing about staying in St Leonards is that you are only a 15 minute walk, along the sea front, to Hastings Old Town.

I can’t recommend anywhere to eat in Hastings, as we only went for the day. We walked there and as the weather was wet and windy, we just nipped into a cafe for a quick lunch, some warm lentil soup and some shelter from the rain, but there are some fantastic shops here, many of which I’ve been wanting to visit for some time, after fixating on their beautiful instagram feeds.

One of them is A G Hendy & Co which is literally like stepping back in time. Alistair Hendy the highly creative proprietor, has created a beautiful hardware store, from a time gone by. Situated on two floors, although the upper floor was closed, at the time of our visit, the store is a plethora of new and antique kitchen ware and the type of hardware items you didn’t know you needed until you stepped inside and then can’t possibly leave without. There are no amount of decriptive words I can use here to conjure up the atmosphere, you simply have to go for yourself.

Another must go to destination for antique lovers and general nic nacs and interesting gifts, is Butlers Emporium. The shop, which retains it’s orginal antique frontage, was originally a hardware shop and the shop fittings remain, instantly creating a wonderful visual atmosphere.

Another one of the loveliest shops we have visited, was Warp & Weft. On first entering, it looks like just another lovely small independant clothes boutique, but it’s much more than is at first revealed. As you climb the stairs you enter the atelier, where each garment on display has been hand made and can be recreated for you, made to measure, in a range of fabrics of your choice. It is a wonderful shop, with beautiful linen and wool garments and accessories made from the finest leather. A real treat.

There are also some very good antique and vintage shops in Hastings, again many without websites, so as you walk around you’ll find them, but one of my favourites, with a beautiful curation of garments, was Hawk & Dove. Feminine, gothic and other wordly would best describe the selection.

I loved this part of the country so much. there is much to see and do. St Leonards is still evolving, it’s not completely gentrified, which I’m really glad to say. It’s a little rough around the edges still, but in an interesting way which gives it an edge and character, like all the best places, I think. For my next post, I’ll cover the day we spent in Rye, which is a lovely cinque port town, completely the opposite and very smart, but full of history and lovely for it.

Oh and just in case you were wondering if my friend stayed with the boy, yes she did. They married and have two beautiful girls, one of them my god daughter, and have relocated back to Manchester. She loves Paul but not as much as she loves Manchester 🙂

A Stay in Deal on The Kent Coast

A trip to deal has been on my mind for many years and if anyone watched Liar, the TV drama which was filmed there and seen the sweeping coastline, lined with candy coloured period buildings, then they’ll know why.

The last time I visited deal was when our first child was a year old. we had gone away for a week to stay in a cottage and we weren’t sleeping that well, as anyone who has had a one year old will understand, and so one morning, I left my husband in bed to catch up on his sleep and myself and George drove to the coastal town in search of some breakfast.

We found the perfect cafe, at the end of the pier, frequented solely by fishermen, other than the two of us, who were tucked heartily into a full cooked English breakfast as rain misted up the windows inside and the waves crashed around us. As the skies cleared, with George into his pushchair, we went off exploring the streets. I remember being utterly charmed by the beautiful Georgian architecture and winding streets, as well as the High Street, which was very traditional, lined with hardware shops and grocers, selling fresh and seasonal produce, and I made a mental note to return and spend more time there one day.

That one day took 25 years but, when we finally arrived back in Deal last September, little had changed, other than the Deal Pier Kitchen is now a rather smart restaurant serving, breakfast & lunch and dinner two nights a week and the High Street has now been gentrified and has some lovely and interesting independent stores lining it. It was otherwise just as I remembered it with the Georgian architecture beautifully preserved thanks to the area around Middle Street, off the main road lining the beach, becoming a conservation area in the mid 1960’s. Pretty Georgian houses stretch seawards towards the coastline and are interspersed with little pubs and a fantastic fish and chip shop where queues form on a regular basis to taste the freshly caught and battered catch of the day.

We had chosen to stay at an Air BNB which was in one of the houses in the conservation area. It was perfect for it’s location and amenities and leant itself ideally for early morning swims every day of our stay, so close to the beach. The owner of this delightful Georgian house also has a really lovely independent store on The High Street, Barkened, selling homewares, gifts and a great selection of clothes. One evening we sat with a bottle of wine and some delicious nibbles from one of the towns many delicatessens, and we were still close enough to run back home for an extra layer as the the sun dropped below the pier.

If you prefer to stay in a hotel and have your food prepared for you, I can highly recommend The Rose on The High Street. There has been much press written about the restoration and renovation of this old pub into what is now a beautiful boutique hotel, and the press coverage doesn’t disappoint. Although we didn’t get to view the rooms above, we did eat at their restaurant, which was fantastic, and with just the right buzzy informal atmosphere that you want while on holiday by the coast, but smart enough to feel as though you could be dining in London.

Dining options in Deal are still pretty informal and limited a little to mainly pub food but other than The Rose, there was another fantastic restaurant opposite, Frog & Scot and a very atmospheric wine bar, La Pinardier with a wide selection of excellent wines and options of either a cheese selection or charcuterie board to go with your drinks. There is also often live music. Check the calendar of events before booking.

If you’re preference is for craft beer, then there are also some great options in Deal. The Just reproach bar has a wide selection of beers and gins. These aren’t smart gentrified bars but they are full of atmosphere & people with character. One of them, Smugglers Records, doubles as a vinyl shop, so if you don’t mind sitting with your pint whilst people browse the selection of vinyl, then you might find yourself having some very interesting conversations. We loved them and went along a few times during our stay.

If your idea of shopping heaven is for homewares and bric a brac then you’ll love the range of independent shops in Deal. Most of them are along High Street in the main part of town.

One of my favourites was Will & Yates which is part interior and lifestyle shop and part gallery. Owned by Jane Will an interiors stylist and Caroline Yates an artist, the shop stocks lots of rustic antiques and hand made interior items, natural skincare by Margaret Haeckles with works of art hung around the walls. It’s all beautifully displayed in a double fronted store.

A few doors away is Dunlin & Diver which is stocked with homewares, gifts and accessories and lovely hand made soaps.

Mileage Vintage is an emporium of retro and vintage furniture, lighting and prints and has a tearoom in the back for contemplating potential purchases.

Hoxton Store was once located in London until the owner moved to Deal and moved her business with her. The stock includes bright and colourful patterned homewares and clothes and accessories.

On Saturday mornings there’s a weekly market, which unfortunately we didn’t get to as we didn’t arrive until late afternoon but apparently it’s the place to go for bric a brac, Swedish bakes by Bygga Bo and epicurean cheeses etc.

If you walk out of town towards Walmer, you’ll find yourself at Deal Castle and opposite you’ll find the loveliest shop housed in the old captains stable building, in the grounds of Deal castle gardens. The Green and Found is a magical mix of antiques and vintage, hand made homewares, skin products made in Barcelona especially for the shop which smell divine, candles and plants. It’s all so beautifully curated and the displays are endlessly changing with the seasons and around the style of stock that’s been sourced. It really is a must visit destination if you’re in the area.

If you are feeling peckish after all this shopping walk along the coastal path parallel to the beach, just opposite Deal castle and you’ll find Hut55 which serves fresh coffee and home made cakes which you can eat whilst lounging on one of their red and white striped deckchairs or bean bags on the beach and if the sun is out and you fancy a cycle, they offer a bike hire service too.

Continue along the coastal path to Walmer and you’ll find 60 _Strand, an antique shop run by dealer Lou, which is an Aladdins cave of beautiful decorative antiques, art and furniture.

Further along this coastal path, which is a lovely walk, with the far stretching shingle beach, scattered with Fishermans wooden huts and flanked by stunning Victorian villas, you’ll come to Kingsdown, where you’ll find The Zetland Arms. This lovely pub, is approached down an unmade road lined with pretty cottages and is nestled directly amongst the shingles and pebbles on the beach. The menu serves up the fresh catch catch of the day amongst other fine food or you can find a seat on one of the wooden benches outside and sip a sundowner, whilst looking at the boats sailing across the bay. A beautiful spot to end your day in Deal.

If you prefer to be off the beaten track, then this part of the Kent coast is a perfect spot to stay and there’s a lovely holiday let right on the beach here at Kingsdown. The Victory can be booked through Air bnb & is ideal for getting away from the madding crowd, for beach walks, swimming in the open sea and with a great pub next door. What more could you ask for?

{All words & photography by Karen Barlow except the last 3 images which are from the Victory’s own images on Air BnB & the images of The Rose which are from their own Website}

Why I won’t be Chucking out My Chintz Anytime Soon – Grandmillennial Style and How To Get The Look

They always say if you’ve lived through a trend once, you shouldn’t revisit it and I’ve got to agree with that when it comes to fashion. I won’t be wearing flared jeans and band t-shirts again in this lifetime or a leather mini skirt, but interiors trends are a little more forgiving and nobody is judging as harshly???

If any readers remember the Ikea campaign in 1996 “Chuck out your Chintz” it might be a little hard to believe that the decor du jour is everything 80’s and chintzy. Grandmillennial style, as the trend has been named, has been embraced by many a designer, too young to remember the pattern on pattern interior style of the popular interior designers from the 80’s such as Nina Campbell and Nicky Haslam and are using chintzy wallpaper designs and fabrics, layering pattern on pattern, colour on colour, within their schemes, in their own way.

An interior designed by Sister Parish, the brand which was founded by Mrs Henry Parish, considered to be one of America’a greatest interior designers.
The home of Rita Konig interior designer daughter of Nina Campbell.

House of Hackney were one of the first brands to embrace this new maximalist style of using layers of the same pattern together in one room, but the trend for all things 80’s has evolved even more recently.

House of Hackney Dalston Rose Design fabric and wallpaper.

If you don’t want to use the same pattern on all your walls and upholstery, then another classic style of decorating, is to use the same colour palette but in various patterns, demonstrated in this shot by Colefax & Fowler.

Using a myriad of patterns such as florals, checks, gingham check is huge again btw, stripes and trellis, but all in the same colour is also a tried and tested method of creating maximalist country house style.

Fuchsia fabric and wallpaper Colefax & Fowler

As a former employee of Laura Ashley, it’s a style that I’m really familiar with and actually quite fond of. I prefer to think of it as classic country house style and in my opinion there’s not many cushions that aren’t enhanced by a trim and a room finished off with a large, extravagant display of cottage garden flowers.

One of the simple ways you can bring some 80’s style into your own interior, is by adding a frilled skirt to a piece of furniture, such as a chair or kidney shaped dressing table or around a Belfast sink in the kitchen. A decorative headboard upholstered in a suitably chintzy fabric will also do the trick.

Designer Matilda Goads kitchen
A beautifully upholstered headboard by Charlotte Gaisford

But chintz style fabrics and wallpapers are not the only items resurrected from the 80’s. Over the last few years we’ve seen the return of coloured bathroom suites. Burlington Bathrooms produce a full suite in several colours, including confetti pink and Alaska blue and there are now salvage warehouses that specialise in reclaimed suites in colours such as mint green and primrose yellow. Try nationwide discontinued bathrooms for a large range of discontinued coloured bathroom ranges.

Burlington bathroom’s confetti pink suite

Another material which has seen a renaissance in recent years, with many designs reminiscent of the 80’s, is wicker. Seen in the form of mirrors and light shades, as well as bedroom furniture and dining furniture, this textural accessory is the more subtle way to inject some grandmillennial style into your home without going for the full look.

Matilda Goad Wicker pendant light
Vintage dealer Folie Chambre have a constantly changing selection of wicker and bamboo pieces

If you thought things couldn’t get any more twee, then brace yourself. Needlepoint is the new hobby of many a twenty to thirty year old and framed needle point works and cushions are the accessory any home shouldn’t be without. American brand Lycette Designs are one of the fore runners in this revival with their witty, 21st century examples.

Lycette Designs Needle point cushions

No grandmillennial style interior is complete without the addition of scallops which can be seen everywhere from the edge of rugs, lampshades to table line. Talking of table linen I’m sure it’s not gone unnoticed that table scapeing or setting a formal table as we used to know it, is a huge micro trend in itself, with realms of instagram feeds dedicated to the art of it. One of my favourites is @Fionaleahydesign who is a professional event planner and table scape extraordinaire.

One of the tables capes by Fiona Leahy

If you aren’t ready to chuck out your chintz and want to bring some 80’s style into your home, then I’ve put together a mood board of some of my favourite products with a shopping list below.

  1. Wall Light Shades – Matilda Goad
  2. Lamp by Alice Palmer – Edit58
  3. Fuchsia fabric – Colefax & Fowler
  4. wicker mirror – Dunelm
  5. Scalloped edge coir rug – Tate & Darby
  6. Scalloped edge wool rug – Lesser Spotted
  7. Willow pattern ginger Jar – Cavendish House
  8. Frilled edge Leonora cushion – Host Home
  9. Staffordshire Wally dogs – Trouva
  10. Scalloped edge napkins – Sophie Conran
  11. Gingham upholstered button back chair – Zeba Homes

It’s fun, it’s colourful, it’s sustainable, as there are so many vintage originals you can reuse from the era in your home, and it’s the injection of fun we perhaps need to see again in our interior design schemes.

A visit to Southwold & the Suffolk Coast

As the song goes “If you’re fond of sand dunes and salty air, quaint little villages here and there” then you will love Southwold and the Suffolk coast. It’s a little slice of The Hamptons in the UK, it’s coastline dotted with wooden clad houses and fishing huts and is so untouched by the excesses of modern life that it feels a little like going back in a time machine, to when life was simpler and calmer.

It’s been many years, since I last visited Southwold but my memory of it was strong enough to know that when foreign travel was off the agenda again this year, due to Covid restrictions, that I wanted to revisit. Another stylist friend has a lovely holiday cottage in the town, where we stayed for the week, and which I would highly recommend @blackshorestay. Sally the owner, has that sort of effortless style that mixes modern amenities with antiques and foraged finds beautifully and her work is seen in publications such as Country Living magazine and Modern Country, as well as having her own published book, “Relaxed Coastal Style” so it was exactly as I expected. Both stylish and comfortable, with just about everything you could want for a week by the coast.

So If you too are looking for a UK destination to spend your staycation and want to know what Southwold has to offer, then this is what we got up to during our week there and what I can recommend. I would also say that as practically, everybody is holidaying in the UK this summer, book ahead for any meals or events, to avoid disappointment. It’s a small town and capacity is limited.

  1. Hire a bike from Southwold Cycle hire. Southwold and the Suffolk coast has over 155 miles of coastal paths and there are many places close by that are only a short ride away. It’s much less stressful than driving and you’ll see more of the surrounding area as you cycle along. Jason from Southwold cycle hire will deliver your bikes to your holiday address and collect them when you have finished with them. It’s a great service and as we were there during a reasonably quiet week, outside of children’s holidays, he let us change our original booking to suit the days when the weather was better, for no extra charge.

2. Walk or cycle along the Ferry road which is lined with boats and Fishermans huts and buy some fresh fish or sea food to cook at home, or book a table at Sole Bay Fish Company to sample the best of the days catch with a glass of wine or a cold beer. They open Friday & Saturday evening or most days for lunch.

3. Walk or cycle over the bridge from the Ferry road to Walberswick which has a lovely beach, backed by sand dunes and lined with black painted beach huts. The village is so pretty with a small selection of shops, also in wooden shed type buildings and a couple of good pubs, The Anchor and The Bell Inn, perfect for a sundowner after a day collecting shells.


4. Spend a day on the beach in Southwold which is one of the prettiest I’ve seen, lined with sugar almond, pastel coloured Beach huts and a lovely Victorian Pier at the far end. Walk along the beach to the Pier which is lined with shops, cafes, amusements & a restaurant and is the only 21st Century pier in the UK, rebuilt in 1999, after the original Victorian pier was swept away in a storm in 1934. The entrance to the pier has a graffiti painted tribute to George Orwell who lived in Southwold for a few years and revisited often.

5. Visit the lighthouse which is prominent from the beach and right in the middle of the town. Walk around the pretty streets of cottages which were built for the fishing community, some of which still have Maritime architectural features above their doors.

6. Take a tour of Adnams brewery and sample the many beers that are made on site. Adnams also own all the pubs and hotels in Southwold and they have a shop in the town where you can stock up on gifts to take home, as well as a cafe which serves a great breakfast. Many of the pubs have rooms above and The Swan is definitely the jewel in the crown, with beautiful large suites, decorated in a contemporary bright style.


7. Take a trip to Henham Park, home of Latitude festival on a Wednesday evening for some fantastic pizza.  Phoenix Pizza take over one of the barns in the park once a week to cook their amazing pizza on a wood fired oven and the views of the rural setting, on a summers evening are beautiful. I’m coeliac and I can say that their gluten free pizza, was one of the best I’ve had in almost 20 years of being coeliac. Simply order online, through their link on the Henham Park site, or through their instagram account, then turn up and enjoy!

8. From May 2021 Southwold common has been the venue for an outdoor cinema. With films donated by local resident Richard Curtis, expect favourites such as Bridget Jones’s Diary and Emma and what better way to spend a summer evening than with a view of the sea in front of you and an Adnams pub next to you.

9. Visit the handsome town of Woodbridge for some great independent shopping. 

Around the area of Church Street are some of the best on offer including:

Vanil is a lovely store selling contemporary home wares and interior items, such as origami fabric lighting by @foldedsideproject and colourful braided eco rugs.

Uniform research is a great one stop shop for contemporary clothing brands with a selection of gender neutral clothing from brands such as Rains and Folk and a small selection of contemporary homewares and terrariums by Manchester based Northern Lights.

Charlotte crofts & Co Interior design shop stocks some amazing wallpapers and interior accessories, with a real emphasis on colour and form. Charlotte has an incredible eye and has some beautiful and really interesting pieces in her shop. The front is painted with a trompe l’oeil effect in bright turquoise giving a glimpse of what to expect inside.

The Merchants Table is the most beautiful gallery style shop which focus’s on hand made products by British artists and makers, that can be used on or around a table. It is absolutely stunning and sells items such as these hand painted oyster shells and mounts for frames.

New Street Market and canteen is a lifestyle shop and cafe, selling beautiful table ware and pottery by Pascale, clothes from Homespun who create their collection using ethical cashmere, plants and flowers all housed in a huge, former antiques warehouse.

10. For a change of coastal scenery, visit Aldeburgh, home of composer Benjamin Britten and walk along the beach towards Thorpness to view the giant bronze scallop shell sculpture by artist Maggie Hambling, created in honour of him. Aldeburgh is a lovely town with a wide High street which is parallel to the beach and home to quite a few antique book shops, Two Magpies bakery, who also have a branch in Southwold and the best fish and chips in Suffolk, The Golden Galleon, an honour bestowed by Delia Smith many years ago which means the queues are long but the wait is worth it. Take them down to the shingle beach and eat al fresco with a pint from one of the local beach side pubs. The beach is lined with black wooden shacks, a regular feature of this part of the coastline, from which you can buy seafood, fresh fish or smoked fish. One or two of the huts, have their own smokery, so this is as fresh and authentic as it gets. A drive 5 minutes down the coast road will bring you to Thorpness, a quirky village built purposely for holidays at the beginning of the 20th Century, with a village green and Duck Pond and some of the loveliest coastal houses I’ve ever seen. See them and weep. One of the most famous follies in the area is The House in The Clouds which which can now be hired for a holiday and typifies this eccentric village perfectly.

Finally when the sun comes out and you want to get away from the crowds, head to Cove Hithe beach which is on the road to Beccles and is a national nature reserve. Park up on the street near the Church and a hand painted sign “To the Beach” will take you on foot through farmers fields of planted crops. After a 10 minute walk you’ll arrive at an oasis. A beautiful lagoon surrounded by sand dunes and petrified trees which have fallen onto the beach, as the coastline has eroded, leaves way for miles of white sand, with not an ice cream van, a cafe or facilities in site. Come prepared with food and drink if you’re staying for a few hours and then just sit back and enjoy the peace and relax!





Decorating our bedroom with bauwerk limewash paint

It’s been a long time since we redecorated our bedroom, mainly because I really liked the scheme which was kind of timeless with soft grey wallpaper, Mimosa by Cole & Son and walls painted in Pink Ground by Farrow & Ball, but it was looking tired and since using Bauwerk lime paint on a photography set that I designed a few years back and writing a blog post about all the different types of natural paint, which you can read here, I really wanted to use it in our own home.

The soft chalky texture and natural pigments were perfect for the type of bedroom scheme I wanted to create, which was a mix of warm earthy colours and using as many natural, sustainable, materials as possible, to create a grounded and calm atmosphere, so important for me in a bedroom and also for my husband, who struggles to get to sleep easily.

I chose a shade called Witch Hazel, which is a warm, milky latte colour. I wanted a neutral and light background, but something with a warm tone and this shade is absolutely perfect.

I’d also had an image I’d saved a long time ago from the instagram account of @emilslotte of a lovely warm toned painted cupboard. We have fitted cupboards in our bedroom alcoves, which we made from reclaimed doors. I’d ordered so many paint tester pots to find just the right shade of an antique tea rose, with not too much pink and when I opened Rouge II by Paint & Paper Library, I knew I’d found it. I love this colour so much, we’ve since painted our front door in it too.

Although I absolutely loved Emily’s cupboard, I wanted to bring elements of small scale patterns into the room but without covering the walls with wallpaper, so after creating a Pinterest board with ideas inspired by Matisse, Jean Cocteau, The Bloomsbury group and Swedish Antique hand painted furniture, I developed an idea for a pattern, which was a bit of a hybrid of some of these influences and asked my very clever and artistic husband to hand paint the pattern over the top of the cupboards. I love the result and if you do too but are worried about going free hand, then you could always cut a stencil first or buy something similar from Etsy or Annie Sloan.

Working with the colours of the walls and the hand painted cupboards and wanting all the materials I used to be as natural as possible, I chose 100% linen bedding in tea rose and natural linen colours from H&M Home and a further set of 100% linen pillowcases in a cumin colour from the Secret Linen Store to layer all the colours up. I also loved the pretty sprig flower pillowcases from Garbo & friends, which is predominantly a children’s store but they also have a range of adult sized bedding. As I couldn’t find the right shade with them, I ordered some Tana Lawn fabric from Liberty, in a warm olive colour with a tiny cream sprig leaf, which I will make a set of pillowcases from, for further layering.

I love fabrics so much and although I usually always go for plain linen curtains in my home, I knew I wanted to introduce another pattern and colour into the scheme. I’d already bought the Emilie grey fabric shaded wall lights from Soho Home, so I chose a grey linen mix fabric with a leaf and palm print from a local fabric shop that sells, discontinued and end of rolls of beautiful designer fabrics. I can’t even tell you who the fabric is by, as I bought the entire roll for our curtains, and as there wasn’t quite enough for the length and width that I wanted, I asked the maker to add a tonal band of plain grey linen to the drops. This is a clever way of reducing the price of expensive hand made curtains if you want to use a designer fabric that’s expensive. By adding a deep band of plain, cheaper fabric to the bottom or top of the curtains, you can reduce the overall price and if you love this look, adding a border or band of velvet looks super smart and luxe.

For similar types of fabric to the one I used I would check out Rapture & wright, Botanica Trading & Penny Morrison Ltd all available at The fabric Collective and I always look at Haines Collection for discounted small batches of designer fabrics.

To add lots of texture to the room to compliment the shades and shadows of the lime paint, I added a raffia three tiered chandelier hand made in Morocco from a local concept store So Marrakesh in Altrincham Cheshire. They are now once again taking pre orders online for these lights. I also replaced the existing seagrass in our room, with a new fitted version from Crucial Trading. I’ve used seagrass in most our our rooms, in both houses we’ve owned, for the last 30 years and it’s so practical, durable and tactile, I wouldn’t use anything else, unless I wanted a completely different finish, in wood or tiles.

So Marrakesh in Altrincham Cheshire

When I’m designing a room, I always like to bring some black accents into the scheme to weight it down. Whether that be just some black frames for art work or in this case, 2 matching bedside cabinets from La Redoute. I was apprehensive about using these at first, as they weren’t wood, but the brief from my husband, was that he wanted something with a drawer by his bed, to put his books and headphones in and trying to get anything narrow enough to go by our bed, with a drawer that wasn’t either contemporary, too mid century looking or shabby chic, within our budget, was almost impossible, until I saw these. I did look at some lovely cane bed cabs which fitted the brief and the budget but I’m always conscious of using anything too trend led, as it can just as quickly fall out of fashion. These arrived and have a lovely elegant shape, brass accents that match our vintage framed artwork, 2 drawers, (bonus) and they actually look perfect.

I would also just add here, I was a bit nervous about using lime paint as I thought there was such a technique to applying it, but there isn’t at all really. Just use a wide brush and cross hatch overlapping strokes and keep layering up coats, waiting for each to dry throughly first, until you achieve the look you want. It does mark quite easily, as it’s very porous, so I probably wouldn’t recommend using it in a high traffic area such as a kitchen if you cook a lot, or a Childs room, but if you keep some paint back, you can always repaint over any marks.

I’ve added a mood board here with links to any of the brands we used, should you be interested in any of the items.

  1. Bauwerk Colour paint Witch Hazel
  2. Raffia Riad light So Marrakesh
  3. Emilie Wall Light Soho Home, available from Eporta
  4. Rouge II Paint & paper Library
  5. Novani Black bedside Cabinet La Redoute
  6. 100% natural bed line H&M Home
  7. Tea rose washed line bedding La Redoute
  8. Curtain fabric from a range of suggested suppliers above
  9. Original vintage artwork – similar from King & McGaw
  10. Glenjade Tana Lawn cotton fabric Liberty
  11. basket weave seagrass flooring Crucial Trading


The New Interior Trends for 2021


Usually at the beginning of a new year magazine editors, journalists, interior designers, stylists, brands and influencers are all looking at what the new trends are that are needed to be interpreted, written about, photographed or posted on social media.

Image Dulux

These trends are forecast 2 years in advance and then gradually trickled down to the High Street and into our homes. But 2 years ago not one of us could have predicted what sort of insular world we would now be living in and how catastrophically our lives would have changed.

Suddenly trends seem to be as outdated as the Dodo. All any of us want is familiarity, comfort, security and nostalgia for the world we left behind pre March 2020 and so it’s inevitable that the biggest trends of 2021, apart from the home office, no surprise there, are heritage, classic design, vintage, antiques, shabby chic, versions of cottage core, one slightly more luxe if rocking chairs and liberty fabrics aren’t quite your bag. Any others that might have previously been predicted have pivoted.

So in a quick round up of what we can expect homes on Pinterest and Instagram to look like for 2021, here is my edit and take on the “trends” that the media are talking about and if your home already looks like a version of this, then you are bang on trend as the biggest trend of all is sustainability, buying well and buying the best of it’s kind and then, close your ears influencers, keeping it for more than 6 months! No serial decorating, throwing out your furniture with the bath water, retiling the whole of the kitchen or bathroom every time a new design has a moment. Yes the only trend worth following this year, is having a home that is your sanctuary and your refuge from this crazy world we are all part of.


Reclaimed, repurposed, vintage, antiques, all are having a huge influence on interiors as we look to create familiar surroundings, with a mindfulness and consciousness to the environment. The heritage nature of this look, which includes using lots of wooden pieces, provides a feeling of nostalgia and familiarity which is something we’re all craving.

image Berdoulat_interior_design

Classic Traditionalism

Symmetry, timeless design, art on walls, beautiful textiles and a return to patterned textiles on curtains, walls and flooring, although not necessarily all together, create a sense of harmony & comfort. This style is perfectly demonstrated  by the type of interiors created by the design team at Soho House hotels and who better to learn from? If you’re looking for inspiration for this look, I’d recommend their book “Morning, Noon, Night” which I received as a gift for Christmas. It’s full of beautiful comfortable room ideas.

image Soho House Barcelona
Image Ben Pentreath

Shabby Chic

I can’t quite believe I’m typing this word. This is the trend that just keeps giving and this year it’s back strong, with a real return to hand painted and distressed furniture, made popular by Annie Sloan and Rachel Ashwell. If you can’t find original chippy painted pieces from Europe, and it’s not easy during a pandemic with all the antique fairs and shops closed, although there’s still lots of great antique furniture dealers online, that can organise a courier, why not have a go yourself with some chalk paint, clear wax and lots of elbow grease? The home of Pearl Lowe and her book Faded Glamour is also great for looking for inspiration for this romantic look.

The home of designer Pearl Lowe is full of shabby chic items. Image House & Garden

Eco & sustainability

As I’ve said before, this isn’t really a trend, it’s fast becoming a lifestyle choice for many which is really the same category where all these other trends fall under. This focuses on using small batch goods and hand made items though rather than recycling and has a definite connection with the hand crafted. Introduce textiles that have been hand blocked such as the designs made by Molly Mahon. Use materials such as linen, organic cotton and wool in warm tones such as ochre, moss green and stone. This is a look that relies on investing in pieces with longevity, durability and quality. Our desire for mass produced, cheap throwaway products with a huge carbon footprint, that change as quickly as the weather, is coming to an end and if the figures seen recently on global warming are to be taken seriously, they need to!

image of Molly Mahons home from Sophie Robinson blog

Distant shores

As our last poolside or coastal holiday becomes a faded memory with no firm plans for travel in the foreseeable future, it’s no surprise that we crave the colours of the exotic and the ocean. Using patterns featuring tropical flowers, leaves and fruit against a backdrop of bright colours, on wallpapers and fabrics helps to bring the outdoors in. For a more subdued version of this look use tropical flowers and patterned fabrics against a more muted background of dark inky colours.

image Homes & Gardens

Rustic Vogue

This is a more sophisticated look on last years Cottage core which you can read more about in my blog post here. Whilst cottage core was perfect for a period property with oodles of original features, this look is all about creating it yourself. If you haven’t got original period features in your home, try adding them with faux panelling, reclaimed flooring or natural fibre flooring such as sisal or seagrass and patterned textiles in a natural colour palette, layered up.

Image Homes & Gardens

cosy corners and nooks

whilst many of us have had to create some form of home office for working, the other key trend that’s emerged from lockdown is the need for a space of ones own, a place to escape the rest of the clan that we’ve been forced to spend more time with than usual. The result of this dilemma is the emergence of the reading corner or the cosy nook created in a part of the house where we can escape to knit, listen to a podcast or scroll on our phones in peace. All that’s needed is a quiet corner, an armchair, side table for drink, book etc and some cushions and a throw for those colder days of winter, bookcase optional but a bonus 🙂

Image source Pinterest

I love this clever use of space by @osborninteriors which would make the perfect cosy nook for curling up with a favourite book.

Bookcase envy @realrobbentley
My own reading corner next to the natural light and bookcase.



Cottagecore Trend – What is it, why is it trending and how to create it

The aesthetic for cottagecore trend has been around for some time but since lockdown, in March, the look has been growing steadily with over 700,000 hashtags relating to it currently on instagram.

In a nutshell cottagecore is what it says on the tin. It’s a hark back to country life style, ditsy prints, antiques, farmhouse style kitchens, crafting, baking and making. After the first few months of lockdown from March this year, when the world literally stopped, we all embraced the slower pace of life. I don’t think there was any celebrity worth their salt on instagram that wasn’t talking about their sour dough starter and as the sun shone and spring sprung, we all started baking, gardening, walking instead of driving and nesting in our homes which was the only place we could spend any time.

Image Skye McAlpine

It’s an aesthetic I’ve personally always held dear to my heart. A few years ago when I was a little younger, I embraced anything that looked vaguely as though Laura Ingalls, in Little House on The Prairie, would have worn it. In fact one stylist I regularly worked with, used to call it my Victorian orphan Workhouse look, a compliment I was delighted to receive 🙂

Give me an enamel plate, rough linen bedding, a jug of foraged cow parsley picked from a country lane and a nonchalantly placed market basket on a kitchen stool, any day of the week, and in short there you have it, cottagecore.

Our kitchen with foraged finds

Sustainabilty and ethical living has been a lifestyle showcased by many influencers over recent years but now propelled through lockdown, this way of living, or certainly this look, has reached the main stream and the High Street.

Homewares by H&M Home

Below are some reference shots of how to create the look at home. Consider Liberty style small prints on fabrics, lots of antiques, cluttered styling particularly in the kitchen, layered bread boards, open shelves groaning with mismatched crockery and pottery, a reading nook, filled with books and preferably a vintage arm chair, neutral colours on walls or lime plaster paint & natural flooring.

If you want to dress like your home, anything long and floral will do the job with a hand knitted cardigan and prairie style lace up boots, oh and of course a large oversized lace collar, very du jour! For some amazing vintage prairie style dresses, feast your eyes on The Pansy Garden

The Pansy Garden

Heidi style plaits on top of your head an option, possibly based on your age, but hey I’m not judging 🙂




The Modern Bohemians and Creating an Aesthetic Movement Style Interior

The aesthetic movement was a reaction against the mass production of the industrial revolution at the turn of the last century and it’s no coincidence that many of the design ideas that were made popular then, by artists and designers such as William Morris and Dante Rossetti, have re-emerged as trends over the last few years in our own homes.

The look was embraced by the middle classes of the time, who filled their homes with art work, hand made textiles, exotic woven rugs and hand carved and embellished furniture, influenced by the onset of overseas travel by the upper classes. Many of these designs, imported from countries such as Japan and India, could be bought from high class stores such as Liberty in London and this style was quickly embraced by creative thinkers and bohemians.

The arts & crafts building of Liberty London
The interior of the wonderful grade II listed Malplaquet House in London’s East End restored & decorated in an Aesthetic style

William Morris is famously remembered for his quote

“Have noting in your house(s) that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”

William Morris original wallpaper Designs have enjoyed a revival in modern homes recently.

It’s no surprise that this look has become embraced again in our homes by modern Bohemians such as TV presenter Laura Jackson. There is a definite reaction again to the consumerism of the past decade where homewares have been mass produced in the 100s of thousands in factories far across the globe. There’s a real appreciation again of hand crafted and hand made, small batch good, mixed together with salvaged antiques and vintage treasures which Laura’s house beautifully demonstrates.


The home of Laura Jackson

Melbourne Interior designer Tigger Hall’s eclectic home is another beautiful example of this style.
Exotic details and heavy use of pattern and textiles in Tigger Hall’s home

I’ve put together a mood board below on how to get this look with a mixture of vintage and, where possible, ethical and consciously made pieces. I hope Mr Morris would be happy.