I am so excited to be revisiting Barcelona this summer, after a 20 year hiatus. I’m sure there will be some change to the city after the massive success of the Olympics which was held shortly before our first visit. I know some of the areas that were redeveloped for the Olympics are now chic and trendy? Our visit is very short, only two nights, mainly to revisit the David Bowie Is exhibition which we saw at the V&A a few years ago. It’s due to leave Europe after Barcelona, so it seemed a fitting birthday gift for Mr B, who is a huge Bowie fan and like so many of us, has been left with a void after his passing and a renewed interest in everything David Bowie was. So this exhibition and Barcelona should be a great few days away without the kids. I always say kids, one of them is 22 now but the youngest who is 15 is staying with a friend for the duration of our trip, so we can indulge our Bowie passion uninterupted. She came with us to the V&A and moaned the whole way round so this time will be a treat.

So even though we are only away for two nights, I always like to stay somewhere well designed, instagram worthy, shall we say, but without blowing the budget out of the water. My friends tell me this is a great strength of mine and I’m always given the task of finding our accommodation when we go on our girls mini breaks, they tell me I never disappoint and always come up with the goods, because their nice like that? My weapon of choice is booking.com and I use their review filter to sift the wheat from the chafe. Reviews of less than 8/10 are filtered out and then I go for lowest price first and location is always a considered option. If you’re only some where for a few nights you need location to be key? You need to hit the ground running and then be in the best area for the coolest bars and restaurants to avoid public transport journeys or expensive taxis in the evening, cutting into your precious time.

So if you to are considering a short break in Barcelona, these options are worth a closer look? One is our hotel of choice, another two of them would be equally perfect. I booked our hotel mainly for the location. El Born seemed more bohemian than Exiample, where the other two budget hotels were located, although Exiample is a better choice if you want a larger room and a better nights sleep, as the area is less condensed than El Born. The final two hotels are on my wish list for when money isn’t a consideration. A girl can dream? If money isn’t your consideration, these two are pretty damn fine hotels in my opinion.

 

Chic & Basic – Born

This is our hotel of choice based on location and budget. As I’ve said the rooms are small, as are many of the rooms in Barcelona and especially in the El Born district, but it is right in the heart of the old part of Barcelona where many locals live and the night life is authentic and lively.Chic and Basic have other similar hotels and a selection of apartments, in various locations throughout Barcelona. The hotel have bikes that you can hire, which we intend to take out for a cycle along the water front. There is a communal area in the hotel for drinks and breakfast, although this does not come included in the price, as is quite often the case now with most city hotels.

Casa Bonay

This beautiful 19th Century neoclassical building, a former family home of the Bonay family, has been sensitively renovated, with lots of original features and tiled floors preserved. This centrally located boutique hotel, in the exiample area close to lots of the main attractions of Barcelona, has been brought up to date with modern furniture & textiles and invites guests to make the most of their stay at Casa Bonay with a cocktail bar, restaurant and cafe. Some rooms have outdoor seating areas and showers on the balcony, which is a perfect way of finishing a busy day in the city?

praktik Bakery

A strange choice I know for somebody with coeliac disease to consider a hotel within a bakery, but the rooms are so well designed and the location in the exiample district such a good choice, that it would seem churlish to deny Mr B fresh pastries in the morning? To be honest, I couldn’t imagine anything nicer in the morning, than being woken up by the smell of fresh bread wafting through the hotel? This small chain of Praktik hotels have another 3 locations throughout Barcelona, all with a cool modern interior.

Soho House

The Soho House members group have recently opened this hotel in Barcelona and used the colours of the landscape to decorate the interior beautifully. The exposed brickwork and terracotta and nude pink tiles and textiles throughout are the perfect choice for this Catalan outpost.

Cotton House Hotel

This former building was once home to The Cotton House of manufacturers headquarters and the grand structure and interior of the building have been brought up to date with a sense of luxury and indulgence. From the grand library, to the elegant conservatory and the rooftop pool, every part of the hotel has been considered beautifully to form part of the Marriott Luxury Autograph collection. Simply stunning!

 

 

 

 

If you follow my instagram account, here (shameless plug) you will have seen that we have recently redecorated our lounge and although the paint work is finished we’re still a way off finding all the decorative items that we need to complete the look. We have some lovely wall lights either side of the mirror over our fireplace, with some pretty vintage shades and although we still really like them, they have a chrome finish and the blush pink walls which we have painted our lounge are crying out for some brass accessories to enhance that colour.

Current Wall lights

So I’ve been scanning the High Street and online to find some of the best black and brass wall lights on the market. The black is necessary to offset the pink and stop it looking too saccharine and will also pick out the off black paint work by Farrow and Ball that we have painted all the woodwork in.

Our lounge is quite an eclectic mix of styles and periods and I thought instead of having a traditional style wall light such as the ones we currently have, a mid century style would work well?

Here are some of my favourites that I’ve found.

These beauties are my current favourite but are a bit pricey and I’m not sure after the total spend on the room, I can quite stretch to them, but they are the dream? A perfect blend of elegance and mid century style by Bertfrank, also available at Heals.

 

These brass beauties are from French Connection and the design is also available in a lamp version.

 

These lovely lights are from Oliver Bonas and are a very possible contender? I particularly like the wide shade as lighting is so very important in a living space and I always like to light a room with a mixture of table lamps, floor lamps and wall lights.

 

Birdie short wall light by Holloways Of Ludlow also available through Trouva

The Ogilvy Light by Made.com is a great very affordable wall light if you wanted a task light rather than a pair of decorative wall lights, as we do, but for the design and price at £59.00, I had to include it.

For something slightly more industrial the antique brass wall light by Iconic Lights at £20.00, bargain I hear you cry!

 

 

 

 

As a family we love a city break and being only 2 hours by train from London, it’s a city we visit a lot. Over the years we’ve been lucky to have friends that have lived there, which meant a free bed for as long as we wanted it, but now they’ve moved back home, an overnight visit to London has become a bit more of a luxury. That is until recently. Over the last few years, there has been a wealth of affordable, design focused hotels springing up around Europe and London. These hotels are aimed at people just like us, who want a hotel that won’t break the bank but that is a great place to stay, somewhere that has a small but perfectly formed room,power shower, air con, super comfortable bed, with a great location, a cool bar and some where you can grab a quick breakfast before hitting the pavements to take in the city.

As a regular traveller to Europe and a blogger, I am often asked by readers, where I would recommend to stay. You can read some of my previous travel blogs here,here & here.

So with a pending trip to London to visit The Hockney Exhibition currently being planned, here are my round up of some of my favourite hotels in London, based on location, price band and style.

The Hoxton

I’ve stayed at The Hoxton in Amsterdam and it is one of my favourite hotels. The staff are friendly and knowledgable and really helpful. The rooms have the right mix of contemporary and retro design, with the best showers I’ve ever used and gorgeous toiletries, the restaurant is fantastic and good value for money and with the sort of atmosphere that makes you want to stay right there for the evening.

 

Artist Residence

This is a hotel that I’ve seen popping up on a lot of bloggers Instagram feeds and it is so very instagrammable with its gorgeous eclectic rooms furnished with vintage finds. My friend lives in Cornwall where they have an Artist Residence in Penzance and she eats there regularly and tells me the food is fantastic, so this is definitely on my list of places to stay.

Ace Hotel

This hotel is based in Shoreditch which is one of my favourite boroughs of London for it’s independent shops, bars and makers markets. It’s slightly more expensive than some of the other hotels I’ve mentioned but it has an amazing design throughout the private and public spaces and it also has family rooms, which brings the cost down of having to book 2 separate rooms, if travelling en famille.

Malmaison Islington

Malmaison hotels were one of the fore runners in the boutique hotel concept. I remember staying in their Edinburgh Hotel over 20 years ago when it first opened and being blown away that a hotel of such high end design with a fantastic restaurant & bar could be so affordable. I’ve stayed in many of their hotels over the years and the Islington hotel is in a lovely location, inside a historic gated courtyard in the heart of one of London’s oldest areas right next to the Smithfield Market. To call the area Islington is perhaps a little ambitious on their part, it is in the Borough of Islington but nearer to Clerkenwell and The Barbican although you can walk to The Angel within about 1/2 an hour. The Malmaison rooms are super comfortable though with large beds and bathrooms, theres a great bar, that nearly always has an offer on the cocktails, 2 for 1 etc and the breakfast is always a treat and very good value.

Motel One

A well travelled friend has just been to Edinburgh and stayed at this relatively new hotel and she thought it was excellent value for money, with a clean contemporary interior and good breakfast. The hotel in London is worth checking out for the location and affordability and I’m assured the beds are extremely comfortable. I know I keep talking about the comfort of the beds a lot, but if like me you don’t always sleep as well in hotels, this is a big plus.

CitizenM

This hotel chain started life in Amsterdam, a city I love for it’s design credentials.  They now have 3 hotels in London, the newest being Shoreditch, an area,as I’ve said, is a favourite, so this is definitely on my list of places to stay in London. The design is fun, bright and contemporary and the prices definitely fall into the affordable bracket for London.

 

Have you stayed in any of these hotels? which ones would you recommend, I’d love to hear from you x

 

 

 

Almost 20 years ago we bought two flats in a Victorian house and set about turning them back into a semi detached home for our growing family. Money was tight but our expectations were high and we knew we wanted to make our home unique and interesting. Ikea then was not really going to cut it for us. Around the same time that we were exhausting the local charity shops and car boot sales, we found out about a massive international antique fair that was held every other month, in Newark Nottingham. We instantly fell in love with our regular trips there, the excitement and the buzz of never knowing what we were going to find, has never left us and 20 years later, we’re still going as often as we can.

Obviously over those 2o years, the trend for vintage, salvaged and reclaimed has grown enormously and although there are still bargains to be had, the heady days of bringing home a french bust for £20 or a dutch mirror for £30 have gone. But if you take plenty of cash and you are prepared to barter, you will come away with some gems and have a fantastic day out, meet lots of interesting people with a wealth of knowledge and build up your dealer contact list. Be prepared to pay what you think an item is worth though, don’t forget it’s not a car boot, these items are often the best of their example you’ll find and the vendors need to make a profit.

So last week as we set off on a rainy Manchester morning and drove into lovely warm sunshine as we approached Newark, we were armed with a list of what we were looking for. Namely a leather armchair, an ethnic rug, some mid century wall lights and lots of artwork to complete our recent lounge renovation. What’s always so brilliant about these types of fairs are that although you know what you want, you’re never prepared for what you didn’t know you wanted until you see it. It’s such an exciting way to shop and is completely addictive. I still get a thrill as I walk through the turnstile, into the showground. The anticipation of that perfectly imperfect item waiting for you to take home is so thrilling.

The antique fair is held on Newark’s show ground and is vast, so be prepared to walk, a lot. Comfortable shoes are called for, suitable clothing for the weather, pockets full of cash, although there are bureau de change available for a small cost and if like me you have a dietary requirement, take something to eat. There are food and drink vendors around the show ground, but they are mainly of the fast food variety. Also take a large rucksack or a big laundry bag and a trolley that you can pull it around on. There are usually vendors on entering where you can buy them if you don’t have one and they are highly recommended. If you see the thing of your dreams and you can’t transport it back home, the vendor may be able to arrange delivery or there are shipping companies at the show ground that can organise that for you.

The event, organised by IACF is on for two days and a full calendar of the organisers events can be found here. The first day you will pay more to enter but as all the dealers, interior designers, props stylists and shop owners are there that day, you will find the best that the vendors, from all over Europe, will have to offer. One the second day the entry fee is reduced and you may pick up some great bargains as the majority of the dealers won’t want to be taking a full van back onto the ferry for the return to Europe. One tip I would advise though, is get there early, especially on the second day, as many of the vendors start packing up shortly after lunchtime, especially if they have had a profitable fair. It’s what they call swings and roundabouts, there are advantages to both days and of course you could always attend both days?

In case you are wondering if this is the chair we bought, no it wasn’t? Out of all the things on our list we only bought some artwork but we got contact details for dealers that regularly get the items we are looking for and of course it gives us another excuse to go and do it all again. The chase is never quite over if you’re a salvage hunter, as some of you well know?

 

 

 

B&Q used to be a store that I only visited for paint and hardware such as screws and nails. That was until a few years ago when I started to work on design boards for their in store brochures. Everything for the shot had to be their own product and it was only then that I realised that they sold really quite nice throws, cushions and decorative objects. Since then a few years have passed and their homewares ranges have improved immensely, so much so that I now regularly pop into one of their stores to buy props for other clients shoots.

I was in my local Trafford store last week propping for a scandi inspired shoot. Scandinavian design is often predominantly black and white but the client wanted to bring some colour and warmth into the shots, so i’d decided to use blush pink and metallics such as copper and brass and I’ve had an artist paint a marble effect wall for us to add some texture.

All the above image are from Pinterest

I’ve put together a design board with some of my best finds and favourite pieces currently in store. I hope you’ll be as surprised and impressed as I was at the designs and prices? Let me know what you think?

  1. Tezz gold brushed light -£20
  2. Rosa White light – £25
  3. Rilynn cushion – £11
  4. Tansy Cushion -£9
  5. Cordula Cushion -£11
  6. House Shaped Mirror – £8
  7. Brushed Effect candle stick Large – £7
  8. Grey Marble ceramic vase – £12
  9. Antique copper effect octagonal tea light/lantern -£10
  10. herringbone Dolomite Vase – £9
  11. Marlow gold wire baskets – £10

All words and opinions are my own. This is not a sponsored post.