How to get High Octane glamour Saturday, Oct 30 2010 

High Octane glamour has megawatts of appeal..  It’s luxurious, glittering, plush and inviting.  It is dramatic and sexy.  Interiors are sensual and vampy.  Bring it on!  If you want some va-va-voom in your home, here are some sure-fire tips to heat things up!


No glam home is complete without at least one chandelier.  But why stop there – you can have one over your dining table and your bed (unless you’re going for the four-poster) – hang one in your hall and even over your bath.  Just make sure they are as large and luscious as you can afford!

Rich, saturated colour

Colours must be jewel like – think ruby and malachite, deep navy and prussian blue.  Even black – because this is going to offset the sparkle and luxury that will be introduced through all the light-reflecting surfaces.

Dark shiny surfaces

Keep surfaces dark but shiny – the shine bounces back the light and stops the space feeling dingy (which a matt surface would do).  The darker shades are more opulent and welcoming.

Panelling and decoration

Panelling is used in the finest of châteaux: add some to your home and it will instantly upgrade it several notches.  Even if your home is from a completely different period, you can still pull this off – maybe not to the degree of ornamentation in this image, but going for it will pay dividends.

Shine shine shine

Add shine wherever you can.  Just as shine doesn’t work in beachy or rustic homes, here – it is just what is needed.  Ensure that ornaments and objects are as shiny as possible: glass, gold, silver, crystal, polished stone – and then light them with golden lights or candles.


Add as much gold as you can.  Ensure that the gilding either looks distressed or is high quality to avoid a tacky look (no gold plastic or acrylic!).  But pile it on – more is better.


Use mirrors everywhere in heavy gilt frames.  these reflect the light and the colours and make the whole room sparkle.

Luxurious curtains in silk or velvet

Hang heavy generous curtains at the window in the most extravagant material you can afford.  Silk velvet, damask, brocade…. Embroidered silk, Shantung – chose rich colours and iridescent textures.

Furniture covered in fabulous fabrics

Chairs and sofas must be sumptuous in glowing silks and velvets.  Choose curvy antique furniture and update it with a sensual and luminous satin.

Marble and stone

Marble oozes glamour and is the obvious choice for bathrooms.  Combine it with more gold and mirrors and you’ve got the recipe for a hollywood bathing experience fit for a star.


Boring box to crackle glaze stunner in 10 minutes Tuesday, Oct 26 2010 


plywood box before

I got a few of these old filing boxes at auction and thought they were ripe for some action!

Recycled Box with labels cleaned off

The hardest bit of the whole process was getting the old labels off. Seriously!  I had to steam them above a boiling kettle, scrape them off and then take off the remnants with meths and wire wool.

recycled crackle glaze box

Once clean, I applied the crackle glaze.  This is just magic!  (well, as close as we get to having Harry Potter in our house anyway).  First you spray a base coat (I selected gold) all over the box.  I sprayed two thin layers, to ensure even coverage.  Then you wait an hour before spraying the top coat.  This you spray on heavily and then wait as the crackle miraculously appears. 

Crackle glaze close-up

It really is as easy as that!

Recycled box crackle glazed

Sometimes it’s fun being able to transform something in only ten minutes!

crackle glaze box after recycling

It’s a gorgeous box now that adds some lovely texture to a room.

beach interiors

Watch this space for the next transformation!

How do I arrange my furniture in my living room? Thursday, Oct 21 2010 

A few days ago I ran a session for a lovely group of women south of Sydney.  I didn’t take photos (didn’t want to be rude) but AnneMarie has sent me some she took ‘after’ and agreed to share them.

AnneMarie and her family have a lovely home – but there are a few things we could improve without even spending money.  The first was the furniture placement.  AnneMarie’s living room has two doors leading from it, and she had pushed the two sofas against the opposite walls to allow a large passageway through.  It’s a common thing to do, and always has the effect of making a room feel like  a passageway and not a natural seating area.

So firstly, we re-arranged it.  Furniture is better arranged around a focal point of the room.

Without a fireplace there was no obvious focal point.  So we selected the large floor-to-ceiling window as the focus.  The furniture was then arranged in a U-shape (the ideal seating shape) around this, with the largest sofa opposite, running across the longest wall (but not crammed right up against it).  I emphasised the focal point by adding lots of symmetry to it – placing her urns and so on either side of it.  We placed the rug and the coffee table in front of it.

The colour of the room is a really lovely pale lilac, but there are no echoes of the wall colour anywhere else.  So I added a lot more touches (cushion covers and books) in mauve and lilac to bring out the unusual colour (she chose a great colour that really works with the light).  AnneMarie is going to purchase some of these as she liked the effect.   I also raided her cupboards and brought out beautiful objects she had hidden away (such as a lovely Moroccan silver teapot) and used these to style it.  If you have ‘stuff’ then you may as well enjoy it!

Then we planned on some changes, that she will implement over time: the art over the sofa needs to be larger and in proportion.  The curtains when replaced, should be hung from the ceiling (not just about the window) to create nice vertical lines.  The new curtains will be trimmed at the centre so that when they are drawn, the focal point has some interest.  I recommended using more silvery grey, rather than cream, which will really complement the lilac.

Finally the built-in cabinet (in the first photo) would be better ending at counter height.  It would be less dominant in the room, and would provide a nice wide top to use.  Shelving that ends at door height when your ceilings aren’t high, just makes them feel lower.  It’s better to go all the way up, or stop at hip height.

It doesn’t cost the earth to make your home more lovely.

(sorry the photos are so small!)

How to do the Parisian Cafe art thing: before and after Tuesday, Oct 19 2010 

You know how Parisian cafes always have this chic mish-mash of pictures on the wall?

I wanted to use that casual way of hanging art to really emphasise the seats in the dining/living area.  Various advice will tell you that you need to match the frames, or at the very least the mounts in order for it to look OK (ie – not a total random mess).

Well – I just gathered together what I had, trying to keep the colour palette limited, and went with that.  I wondered whether I’d need to reframe some, or re-mount them – but when I laid them out they seemed to look OK.

Planning to hang art pictures

I measured my wall space and laid out the pictures and played around until I thought they look best.  Clearly, no such arrangement would be complete without a cat hanging in its midst.  When I pointed out to Diesel that he would have to be suspended by his tail, he changed his mind….

wall before hanging art

Prior to this, two turtle shells were placed to hide an unsightly heating control panel.  The area just doesn’t have enough ‘oomph’.  So… let’s get drilling…

Parisian hung art

I included all pictures that were precious and sentimental – of my mother, and my grandfather, a maps of England (the mother country), photos of me and ‘the man’.  It makes such a wonderful collage of memories!

Paris cafe art hang

Yes – that’s me with the Womble….

This combination of images is a much better backdrop for the chairs.  By hanging the collection close to the ceiling you can emphasise the height (or rather, make up for any lack of height).  If you have the luxury of soaring rooms, you don’t need to worry about this…

French hung art after

And there’s still room for a couple more at the bottom!

How to hang paintings

And by night, it has the lovely moody feel of a Parisian bar, without the 24 hour flight….

How to hang art and make it look great Monday, Oct 18 2010 

A visit to a client’s house has prompted a few comments on paintings.  The way art is hung can really make a difference to how a home looks and feels.

Just like an outfit needs accessories, a home without anything on the walls at all can look as though no-one lives there.  Even Minimalist homes use striking and simple canvases to bring the space alive.

The first piece of advice is a wonderful ‘rule’ I learned years ago: hang the middle of all pictures at eye level, which is generally taken to be 170cm.  So aligning the centre of all pictures to 170cm looks surprisingly right.  Which means you don’t have to align the top or bottoms of frames.

The second piece of advice is to match the scale of the art to the thing over which it is hanging.  This client had a tiny little gilded gem hung over a three seater sofa.  It is a stunning little picture, but just looks lost above a large sofa. 

Beds can take humongous pieces that would look crazy anywhere else.  In fact, the bigger the better behind your bed – it will look dramatic and welcoming.

Sofas and all large pieces of furniture all need large pieces.  These help make a focal point in the room.

If you don’t like one large painting, you can group a number of frames to create a ‘single’ piece.  This can look stunning.  This can be done on a geometric grid, or in a random, cafe-style grouping.

Grids can look quite formal if very similar pictures are hung very evenly:

You don’t even need to spend a lot on this: a series of magazine covers can look wonderful framed, or similar photos.  

Varying the type of frame and size of picture creates a much more casual look akin to a Paris cafe – a bit harder to create (more on this tomorrow when I’ll demonstrate how to do this one).

Here this laundry room is given an entirely new look by covering all walls with evenly spaced pictures (torn from a book of mushrooms – a very inexpensive way of buying art).

(you can see the full transformation back here:

Laundry doesn't cost the earth

Stay tuned tomorrow for a before and after with a Parisian cafe look….

How to make this $210 ornament for nothing Friday, Oct 15 2010 

Anthropologie have this wonderful bottle for sale.  But it is $210.  It is described as a ‘found bottle’. Yup.  So I got to thinking – I could have myself one of those….

There is quite a trend for these things:

I didn’t think I was going to spend the next few months beach combing Sydney for a bottle, so I looked at what I had.  I found a gorgeous bottle with malt whisky in it – a lovely thick glass bottle.  So I drank the whisky and then set about using the bottle. 

(ok – there may be some bloggers licence with that – but it is a whisky bottle).

So here is my ‘found’ bottle – that I actually found in my liquor cabinet!  I soaked off the label (enough of the jokes about who is the soak here….) and filled it half full of white shells.

I wound a little bit of raffia (that I had lying around) about its neck.  And then I stuck three little starfish into the bottle opening.

bottle with starfish doesn't cost the earth

These starfish, I confess, I had found – all three of them on New Year’s Day this year (I kind of thought that was a good omen – three stars – until I wondered whether years, like hotels, were rated in five-star systems and I was only going to have a three star year, not a five-star one).  Anyway – it’s working out pretty well so far.  The year I mean. Well – and the bottle.  Although let’s face it, most things look better once you’ve drunk a bottle of whisky.

And now I’m rambling…

It’s amazing what you can create with an old bottle and some shells.  I don’t think I’d have the gall to charge $210!!   Would you make this?

Ten ways to get the beach chic look in your home Thursday, Oct 14 2010 

Summer’s coming and I wanna go to the beach!  And more than that, I want the beach to come to me… (not literally – I don’t really want sand traipsed throughout the house and wet salty swimmers on my couch.

But I do love the beach house look, don’t you?

Here are ten easy ways to create that in your home:

Seagrass, Coir, Wicker

The rough texture and natural colour of seagrass, wicker, and coir go a long way towards creating a great beachy feel.  Use these as rugs, chairs, in trays.  You’ll find these present in almost every beach interior you covet…

Faded Colour

Your colour scheme will need to be muted shades of those colours found near the sea: pearl, oyster and driftwood create a gorgeous layered look; sun-faded blues and corals can also work, as can pale sea greens. 

Be careful not to introduce too much or your interior will start looking tropical rather than beach chic (which is fine as long as that’s what you want).

Cotton and linen fabrics

Use natural unsophisticated fabric for your cushions, sofas and chairs.  Ditch the silks, the velvets and anything manmade and reach for nubbly linens, stripped cotton ticking and neutral plaids.

Unvarnished and distressed wood

Make sure that all furniture and exposed wood is NOT varnished – that just looks too slick for this style.  Strip off the varnish, distress the paint, bash the edges to roughen them up a bit!

Shells and coral

Scatted a few shells or a bit of coral around the room.  You don’t want to overdo this, but one or two nice pieces set the scene.  If your budget doesn’t stretch to that driftwood, bowls of pebbles can be just as lovely.

Nautical accessories

Other items associated with the sea can add gorgeous touches to a room: model boats or lighthouses, a copper diving helmet.

Edit out the shine

Make sure you don’t keep shiny slick items.  this isn’t a place for chrome, marble or steel.  Shiny fabrics also look wrong.

Tongue and Groove

Painted wooden tongue and groove panelling immediately conjures up pictures of boatsheds and waterside living.  Clad a wall in this, put it on your ceiling or cover the whole room in it.  The transformation of mood will be dramatic and delightful.  You can even just put it half way up a wall.  I love this look in bathrooms (cheaper and even better-looking than tiles).

Window treatments

Keep any window treatments simple.  Blinds and curtains should be cotton or bamboo and not fussy: no pelmets or swags, no fancy trims.

Art on the walls

Art is best beach related: frame shells or beach finds, or photos from holidays.  Keep frames down to bare or distressed wood.  No aluminium frames and heavy gilding will be too much for this scheme.

Enjoy the beach!

Tray chic: before and after Monday, Oct 11 2010 

I found this Antique (Victorian) tray at auction, looking grubby and stained.  The ‘man’ had actually (bless him) started cleaning it before I managed to take a ‘before’ photo.  So here it is after a slight polish.

Doesn't cost the earth tray before

Originally I had been planning to make it into a table – one of those lovely tray tables with legs that cross over underneath.  Kind of like this:table tray

But then I found a better use for it as a tray ON a table.  But I thought it looked grubby with that old varnish on and the blackened silver.  So I took to it with stripper…. You can see the dark gravy-like sludge coming off it, to reveal some beautiful wood underneath.

Stripping varnish

Once stripped it was a gorgeous and pale imitation of itself!  I think it’s Oak, although it has wonderful cross-striations in the grain.  To seal it, rather than varnish or oil, I limed it lightly.  This keeps the colour pale, but protects the wood.  It creates a lovely milky sheen on the surface.

Recycled wood stripped of varnish

Meanwhile, the ‘man’ was tackling the silver.  Thank god, as I just don’t think I would have had the patience for all that fiddly work.  You can see the little polished feet next to the tray rail, still waiting to be done.

Polishing antique silver

And here it is finished and re-assembled.  A far more elegant (and clean!) looking piece.  Tray chic…

Antique tray after

Of course, when I assembled it I realised I hadn’t stripped the handles, so I had to take it apart again.  Don’t you hate that?  It’s worth doing though as they really finish it off.

Antique silver tray handle

Time for some lovely beachy finds and books…..

Recycled tray after

Assembling objects on a tray, on a table, which sounds strange, is a great way of making them look tidy, and as if they belong together.

Tray with beach chic objects

A crocodile skull (from Darwin), white shells, a porcupine quill (found on a walk in Tuscany), fossils (from the coast in Dorset, England), walnuts, and tusks from Papua New Guinea all find a place together…

Antique tray after stipping and liming

The colours blend well together and the softer colours of the stripped and limed tray highlight the textural interest.

Limed tray with sea side objects

Have you got some old hand-me-downs that would look better for a clean up?

Recycled tray chic

Tray and arrangement

The ultimate accessory for your home Friday, Oct 8 2010 

Cat sleeping on cushions

What is the thing that you’ll love more than anything else in your home?

Without question, it will be your family and your pets.  Well – I’m kind of hoping it is….  if you find you love your sofa more than your spouse, this might be the time to seek counselling…

Cat on recycled chair

Anyway – my point is that homes are for their families, not for interior magazine photos.  And the most satisfying part of creating a home is finding your child curled on a seat, making it (and the child) look the most adorable you’ve ever seen it.  Or discovering your cat posing like an Italian film star on your recently recovered cushions.  (more likely, surprising your cat, as I found mine, kindly vomiting up the contents of its stomach onto a new rug).  Not quite so adorable really.

Cat in bowl

You may find a prized bowl with new contents (a large cat).  Or a lovely expensive table taking on a new fabulous use as a footstool for your hubby.

Smart Investor Cat

Let’s face it – those that we live with are the ultimate accessory.  They are what makes our homes and our lives beautiful….

Cat on rug

Finally the chair! Before and after…. Wednesday, Oct 6 2010 

This chair as already been the subject of much debate.  For some reason I have been more indecisive about this than almost anything!  Firstly a confession – it’s from an old-people’s home.  That really puts me off it.  Doesn’t it you?  Maybe that contributed to my indecision.

doesnt cost the earth chair before

This was the photo (below) that inspired me.  But not having any french grain sacks to hand, and not having large sums of money to purchase these now highly desirable items, I found a way that doesn’t cost the earth.  Coffee sacks!  And as you unanimously advised, I combined these with Ralph Lauren linen.

recycled french grain sack chair

Firstly I stripped the chair back.  It’s amazing how much the fabric had faded over time.  But the structure was still sound (phew!).

Stripping the chair back

When redoing an armchair you start from the inside out (and the outside covers up all your messy workings).  So the first job is the bit under the cushion, for which I used the back of a coffee sack.  You can see that I already had a very helpful assistant.

My assistant (cat on sacks)

I covered the inside arms with the Ralph Lauren linen – this is just gorgeous heavy-weight fabric.  It’s usually hellish expensive and if you were to cover the entire chair in it, you’d need 5-6 metres.  But because I was combining this with sacks, I used just two.  Don’t you love a bargain?

Recovering the inner arm

Then I started on the inside wings – lots of curves mean you have to pull the fabric very tight, use lots of staples, and snip into the curves to ease the fabric round (without cutting the wrong bit…)

Recovering the chair - half way through

I was worried about not seeing any coffee sack from the front, so I used one to cover the inside back.  it’s contrasting nicely with the linen I think.  The seat cushion isn’t covered yet, but Porridge (cat) is testing it for comfort and (I think) giving it her approval.

Cat trying out the chair for size

I decided to use the coffee sacks mainly on the outside.  This doesn’t take any wear and tear – it isn’t sat on or leaned on – so doesn’t need to be either smooth to the touch or very tough (although I assume these sacks are pretty tough).  They aren’t rough to touch, but they aren’t as silky as the linen feels.

Chair covered in coffee sacks

The seat cushion was a total b**tard actually – I had to sew it twice before it fitted properly – the corners kept not aligning.  I measured it really carefully so I have no idea what happened.  Anyway, I got there eventually.  Please note at this stage what I call the ‘old lady’ legs.  The legs of this chair really bothered me.  Like those American Tan tights that make legs (my legs not chair legs!) look frumpy, these legs kind of look old-people’s-home to me.  I considered cutting them off and replacing them but I was worried about the structural integrity of the chair.

Cat on coffee sack chair

I finished off the arms ends with some lovely printed sacks and pondered the legs.  I was also indecisive about using the nailhead trim but an overwhelming vote (thank you!) meant that 100% of you thought I should.  Porridge realised immediately that the new colour scheme of the chair sets off her fur beautifully.

I decided to cover the legs with a dark stain – almost black.  The difference that small change made is amazing.  Here is the finished product in all her (I think it’s a her) glory….

Coffee sack chair after

It was so easy to hand over the decision that I am seriously considering polling all major life decision this way.  How much easier to have web votes on which job to take, where to live and so on!

Recycled chair with coffee sacks

I love the nail-head trim round the arm.  The old chair was piped around the edge, which I think looks dated, so I pleated the fabric over the end of the arm and added an end piece.  The fabric on the end of the arms has printed writing running vertically, but it looks kind of like leopard skin.  Funky!

Coffee sack chair with dark legs

You can really see here the difference in texture between the linen and the sacks.  I love her smart dark legs.  So much better than American Tan (if you’re still wearing those tights, stop right now and wear fishnets or black instead!).

Coffee sack chair with grain sack cushion

She even looks beautiful with one of my grain sack cushions on…   (wombats rule – they are such cute, chubby creatures)

I used a different sack for the back (if I’d had another black one I would have used that, but I couldn’t face an hour’s drive to get another one). 

Back of coffee sack chair

Just a reminder of what it looked like before?

doesnt cost the earth chair before

And what it looks like now…

Vintage recycled grain sack chair after

I’m very happy with how she turned out.  And for the price of 2m of fabric.

The cats wanted a final pose too…

Cats on coffee sack chair

What do you think?  Does it still look like it’s from an old people’s home??

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