Looking back over 2019 The Highs, The Lows and the Life Lessons Learned

Lets just say 2019 wasn’t one of the best I’ve had. I lost my beloved mum, it doesn’t get much worse really, but strangely, when I looked back over 2019 and really thought about all the things that happened over the year there were some really high points too. For this very reason, I’m so glad that I completed “Unravel Your Year” with Susannah Conway, which was recommended to me by my very wise friend Susan Earlam.

I’ve never been one to look back, always looking forward, trying to remain positive, but looking back can also very often be a positive experience too, so I found. If you think this is something you would benefit from, then I’ve added a link to Susannah’s free download above. There are also lots of goal planning workshops, exercises and downloads online if you feel as though you want this year to be the year for you. A highly recommended one is with Hannah Bullivant.

So the point of this blog is to share my little snippets of Life Advice. Grazia Life Advice is one of my favourite go to Podcasts for nuggets of inspiration from celebrities, writers and creatives. I love that it’s a relatively short podcast and is perfect for when you haven’t got an hour to spend listening to a more in-depth interview. It’s short but full of take aways that would work in your own life. So following a similar format, here are my 10 Life Advice tips and things I’ve learned as I’ve travelled through life and particularly last year.

  1. When you’re going through a bad period in your life and suffering from low self esteem, don’t be afraid to seek help. It doesn’t make you weak, it means you’re strong. There are lots of experts out there that can equip you with the tools you need to move forward. From seeking out self Esteem coaches such as Sas petherick who I worked with during a one day course and later an online Compass course and Lucy Sheridan who is like an instant tonic on her IGTV stories. Both are experts in their field and are very relatable. Some holistic remedies that I’ve found really helpful, are acupuncture and reiki Healing, both known for realigning you and boosting your energy flow. If you are suffering from stress and anxiety then the daily practice of meditation definitely works to make your brain more positive than negative. It’s been scientifically proved, that regular meditation works to increase positive thoughts and I know when I listen to Headspace App on a regular basis, the dark clouds start to shift and I start to feel more energised and positive.
  2. Try new things that you are scared of, they are never as bad as you think they are going to be. You might even surprise yourself and enjoy it? It’s so easy to feel that everyone is judging us and waiting for us to fuck up, but in all honesty most people want you to succeed and they are far too busy, most of the time, thinking about themselves and their own goals. At the end of 2018 I finally accepted my first workshop presentation, after turning down many other offers. I was pretty terrified. Was I going to be teaching people how to suck eggs? was I going to seem unprofessional? would I bring any value to the day? All of these things that most of us think, are usually unfounded. The day was a great success, I got lots of positive feedback and more importantly, I loved it. I have since done another one this year and am hoping that this is now another service I can add to my skill set.

One of the shots from this years ” styling your Christmas Table” part of the workshop run by photographer Jane Burkinshaw with a delicious lunch cooked by Nikki Hill

3. Getting a project off the ground is all about preparation. Don’t rush to get something half baked off the ground, but equally don’t procrastinate too much about the smaller details. Done is better than perfect and ideas evolve over time. Late last year I started a new online antiques business @Theoldpotatostore It still needs branding, a website, professional photography for the website, but over the last year it’s grown more than I could have hoped for and I’ve had a really successful year.

Inside my little building that is Potato Store HQ

4. Network and engage and don’t be afraid to ask for favours. When I first trained as an Interior Designer and was finding my feet working for free for interior designers and architects, I was told by somebody, to never underestimate the power of networking and they were so right. You don’t have to go to networking events anymore, you can do it from the comfort of your own home, through your phone by just engaging and being present on apps like Instagram and Twitter. It’s amazing the relationships that can be made this way. This year I was asked to assist a very well respected and prolific London stylist on a shoot, for a client I had always wanted to work for and that all came about through our regular online conversations on Instagram.

One of the shots I worked on with Sally for Little Greene Paint Company

5. Don’t feel you have to say yes to every opportunity to grow your online presence or your business. Turning down invites, unpaid blog posts or free gifts or experiences, that don’t fit with your own personal style, is the right thing to do. Your followers will instantly recognise anything that’s inauthentic and you could lose more than you would gain by it. If it’s not a product or a subject that you would normally promote, don’t do it. It just devalues you in the long run.

6. Put yourself and your work out there. It’s what creatives call pitching, they all do it and there’s nothing wrong with it. If you don’t have a huge social media following or a website, then it’s going to be very hard for anybody to find you. The arena is overflowing with talent so unless you pitch yourself in that arena, nobody will know about you or your talents. You could be the perfect fit for a particular brand and although you don’t have a large follower number, if your engagement with your followers is strong, that’s got to have more value surely. So share your work on social platforms through posts, stories and IGTV if it doesn’t make you uncomfortable and contact brands you would love to work with if you have a great idea.

7. Be consistent with your projects. If you write a blog, post on Instagram, have an online business, be present as much as you can be. Keep flexing that muscle and it will get stronger. It’s amazing how quickly you can lose an invested audience if you don’t show up for too long.

8. Don’t underestimate the power of a good lipstick and haircut to lift your spirits. As the great Iris Apfel says, colour can raise the dead. It’s always money well spent and both can elevate a very simple outfit from the ordinary to the super stylish. Brittany Bathgate has a great IGTV video on 4 of the best red lipsticks.

9. There’s aways more than one way to skin a cat. If you want to go to a monthly book club but there isn’t one in your area, start one. If you want a get together with your friends, but it’s January and everyone is skint, invite them to yours for a gathering and ask everyone to bring one course to share the cost.If you want to create a more inspirational shoot than you often get the chance to do with your clients, call upon colleagues to create your own. I did this, earlier this year, with a bunch of friends and having a team to help it all come together, made it easy and fun and the outcome was something we were all really proud of, plus we ended up with some lovely new shots for our portfolios. Make life a co-operative and things will be easier to achieve.

One of the shots we art directed and created for 91magazine with Kirsty Saxon, Si Thompson, Kate Astbury Parkinson and Kathryn Taylor

10. Don’t let age be a barrier to anything. My mum always used to say that she knew many old people that were young and many young people that were old and as I travel through my life, I realise that is one of the truest things I’ve learnt. Age shouldn’t be a consideration or an excuse to hold you back from doing anything. If you want to wear something because it makes your heart sing, do it, if you want to dye your hair pink, then do it, if you want to retrain to be a graphic designer or potter or anything but feel that that boat has sailed you’re wrong. Get on that course now! If you want to listen to my story about how I retrained, at 42, to do the career I now do as a designer, then you can listen to me and Lauren O’sullivan chatting on her Podcast “Beyond The Stories” Oh recording a podcast was another first for me by the way and another thing I was terrified of but loved it and want to do it all again! Feel the fear and do it anyway!

Happy 2020 to you all. May you all be fearless and have your most successful year to date!

How to make a simple foraged festive wreath

Hanging a wreath made with seasonal foliage is a very traditional Christmas way to decorate our homes and to say welcome to visitors over the festive season, but they can be expensive to buy from a professional florists.

Making your own using a few basic tools and some foraged seasonal foliage, is simple and cost effective. For this one I made below, I used a mixture of seeded and silver eucalyptus and snow berries. I’ve made it in a contemporary minimal Scandinavian style, but for a more rustic look you could use a bark or willow wreath and add in garden herbs, such as rosemary or bay leaves, which will also have the added advantage of scenting your home.

You will need:

  1. 1 metal floristry ring
  2. metal floristry wire
  3. sharp scissors
  4. Selection of seasonal foliage

Start be selecting various foliage and tying bundles together tightly at the base with the floristry wire.

Lay the first bundle on top of the metal ring on an angle, starting on one side of the ring and secure using floristry wire. Trim the excess stems so that they are as close to the ring as possible.

Make another bundle of foliage, in the same way and lay the sprigs of the foliage over the wire on the base of the first bundle, to hide it, then secure the second bundle again at the base with the wire. Continue in this way all the way around until you come to a point that you would like to stop.

If there are any bits of wire showing, you can cut smaller pieces of foliage and secure them by threading them through the wire.

To secure you can hang the wreath directly onto the wall or add some decorative twine or ribbon onto the top of the wire ring for hanging.

For a video of how I made this, go to @sofology on Instagram

This wreath was made using a bark ring from Sostrene Grene. As well as foraged ivy and pine branches, I added some wax flowers and thistles bought from the florists. If you wanted something more festive, you could add winter red berries, mistletoe or even pheasant feathers.

Trend Alert – Neo Mint colour of 2020

The leading trend forecaster WGSN has predicted that the colour trend for 2020 will be Neo Mint, a fresh, bright, optimistic green and don’t we all need a little optimism right now? To find out more about the science behind how a colour is chosen as the next trend, the report by WGSN makes really interesting reading.

Image Little Greene Paint Company

The colour harmonises perfectly with and is a natural progression for the pastel trend that started with Millennial pink, swiftly followed by coral and lilac.

It makes perfect sense in these times of restrain witnessed by the High Street recently, and our increasing awareness for sustainability, that a colour has been chosen that will seamlessly fit into our homes without the need for any major renovation or re decoration.

This is a mood board a put together for a client shoot, earlier this year, using pastels demonstrating how mint green works with lilac and soft greys.


Mint green with coral or millennial pink instantly fits into the current trend for modern Art Deco, giving a Palm Springs freshness to a scheme. Think of the art deco hotels lining the ocean front in Miami and you will instantly recognise this colour palette.

Neo mint with soft lilac is a perfect pairing for more romantic country inspired interiors.

This is a shot I styled for a client using a palette of fresh light greens on the wall.

If you’re drawn to the dark side and love black and dark moody interiors, a touch of neo mint will provide a bold splash of colour and again is very reminiscent of the Art Deco Era.


Neo mint is such a versatile colour for any room in the house, but works extremely well in kitchens, bathrooms or bedrooms as a soft restful and fresh colour and looks beautiful with brass as a warm accent colour.

As with every colour trend, it won’t be for everyone but I always surprise myself that no matter how adamant a colour isn’t for me when it first emerges, I inevitably find accents of it creeping into our home eventually. With this in mind, I’ve found a selection of objects for the home, some small, some statement pieces, in this new shade and put together a shopping list below.

What are your first impressions? Can you see yourself using this colour in your own home?




Line Drawing Trend and The Matisse affect

In 2014 Tate Modern in London held a retrospective of the work of Henri Matisse concentrating primarily on his paper cuts which marked the final chapter of his career. I was lucky enough to attend the exhibition which was a chance to see so many of his works in one place.

The Cut Outs exhibition at Tate Modern 2014. You can tell how much phone cameras have developed since then!

The work was simple but big and bold, made up of often repeated shapes, using colour palettes which were a combination of deep vibrant colours and soft pastels, Matisse was known as the art worlds greatest colourist, and since the exhibition the design world has been heavily influenced by this period of work by the French modern artists such as Matisse, Picasso and Jean Cocteau.


One of Matisse’s blue nudes that has clearly had a big influence on the design world over the last few years.

With the imminent 150th Anniversary of Matisse’s birthday in December this year, there are so many new products featuring this stylised type of drawing, in honour of this important and influential design period.
Some are exquisitely hand crafted by modern day artisans, such as the designs produced in Morocco for Lrnce, who use sustainable materials and local crafts people to produce the clothes and interior accessories for their two stores.

A beautiful framed tapestry by LRNCE

There are a few select stockists of their products in the UK, including The Conran Shop and we are very lucky to have A Hare In The Forest ,based in Manchester, as an official stockist, selling these beautiful modern designs, along with original lithographs from the artists producing in France during that important period of art history, through a series of pop ups and exhibitions. The next Exhibition is due to take place in Manchester City Centre in November and it is definitely worth following their instagram account to find out more about future events.

Luckily for those of us with smaller budgets, there are lots of more affordable designs available through small independents and some High Street retailers. Here is a small selection of some of my favourite designs I’ve sourced and collated a shopping list below for you.


I found this vase in Homesense a few weeks ago for just a few pounds.
You might remember this shot that I styled for a client, using the cushion on the mood board available at Rose & grey Interiors and a print by Loulou Avenue, with the one on brown card quickly painted for me by super stylist Tara Royston.

If you like the idea of surrounding yourself with some Matisse style art here are a few more wallpaper designs that have recently been launched by WallpaperMurals.

Rough Plaster paint effect walls and products to achieve the look

We’ve been doing a lot of thinking and talking here at Barlow Towers, about redecorating our bedroom, for what feels like almost a year.

The fitted cupboards that Mr B made, using reclaimed french doors, from The Vintage Rooms Matlock, have been finished for months but we’ve not been able to pin the rest of the design of the room down, mainly because of the lack of head space, due to family ill health and other commitments.

This thinking time, has been valuable in many ways though, as it has given me the certainty to know that I definitely want to achieve a rough luxe look, using some lime paint. The constant images of distressed and time worn style, plastered walls that keep popping up on my instagram and Pinterest feeds, has confirmed that the calming, almost monastic quality of this look is just what I crave in my bedroom, my sanctuary, the only room, it seems I can get any peace and tranquility at the moment.

I first considered this look after using some Bauwerk paint on a set, last year. Bauwerk were the only brand that I knew who made this type of paint at the time and although I bought their recommended wide bristled brush to apply the paint with, the set builder struggled to achieve the exact look I wanted. I now realise from watching tutorials on instagram, which weren’t available then, that the only way to achieve the time worn textured look, is to apply multiple coats of paint, at least 5 and I don’t think we went quite far enough.

This is the set that I used the paint on which looks more mottled than distressed but we were pleased with it in the end?

The influencer Kyla Magrath has used Bauwerk, much more successfully in her lounge and has a fantastic tutorial which she has saved as a highlight on her Instagram profile, which is well worth a watch if you are thinking of using it? This paint is expensive so you don’t want to make any mistakes and Kyla’s tutorial gives a very detailed explanation of just how to achieve the look she has.

The lovely textural wall created by Kyla in her home using Bauwerk paint.

Other brands have now emerged which give varying degrees of the look from the very subtle by Kalklitir seen here in the beautiful home of photographer Karine Kong, Casa Pyla. Karine tells me that the paint is available on Amazon and is incredibly easy to use. I’m actually quite drawn to this more subtle look and I think I’d be less likely to tire of it than a more dramatic distressed look, but that’s only because I’m quite lazy when it comes to redecorating our own house and therefore, I need things to stand the test time.

The Kitchen at casa Pyla home of the photographer Karine Kong.

If The more antique distressed Venetian Palazzo is more your style, then you will love the effect created by Interior Designer, Dee Campling, in her home, using Autentico paint. Again Dee has uploaded a very helpful, informative tutorial on her instagram profile page as a Highlight.

The lovely finish achieved in Dee’s home using Autentico

Another brand of lime paint that I really love for the simplicity of its application alone, is Pure & Original. There are no fancy techniques employed with the application of this paint, just a coat of their primer onto the wall first and then once that has dried, you simply apply the lime paint and wait for it to do it’s magic. The uneven texture and light and shade created, is completely natural to the way this paint dries.

I first saw it in the Airbnb created by the beautiful lifestyle store Igigi and they are in fact one of this countries limited suppliers.

I would recommend that you buy a colour card before using any of these paints to achieve the exact colour you desire. Most of them come at a cost as they are hand painted cards, but due to the high cost of this paint, it’s money well spent to my mind.