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

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 🙂

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 🙂




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!