How to get the Industrial Rock’n’Roll look Monday, Dec 13 2010 

Are you the coolest person you know?  Then you’re probably already living with this style.

I love the edginess and vibrancy of rock’n’roll and industrial interiors.  They always seem to belong to the hip party girl (or dude).  There are some tricks to creating this look in your home.  It generally works best in a warehouse or loft conversion, but it can be translated into various interiors with a lot of punchy impact.  And the great thing is – recycled objects are the key to rocking this look.

Add bricks

Exposed brickwork really adds some grit (literally!) to this look.  The contrast between the rough brick and the smooth fabric is what makes it work.

Exposed pipework

You don’t want to look as though you tried too hard –  I mean you’re too busy to care whether or not you see the plumbing.  Let it all hang out.  Pipework, brickwork, airconditioning ducts and anything structural – if it’s usually hidden, this look has it all out on display.

I’m not sure whether this is the design equivalent of celebrities without underwear?

Unfinished surfaces

This look has wood and other surfaces that aren’t slick and finished.  Don’t worry if paint is peeling – it all adds character.

Contrasting Sleek

Despite all the rough and unkempt surfaces, remember you are a rock chick.  You’re rich, right?  So you need some very beautiful and sleek pieces for contrast.  The concrete prevents the pink chaise from look girly.  And the pink elegance makes the concrete look chosen (rather than unfinished and cheap).

Industrial accessories

Industrial accessories make you look cool because you recognise the beauty even in the rough.  And you recycle!

Add a flag (or two!)

Flags are an essential part of industrial and rock decor.  They can appear as rugs, hung on walls or covering sofas.  Just never on a flag pole.


Just to show you’re still a child at heart, make sure some really expensive toys are on show – whether it is a motorbike, a guitar or a recording studio.  You know how to play, and your tastes are expensive!

Unusual Accessories

A floating bed?  A door fit for a barn?  Throw it into the mix and you’ll have the kind of home that rock stars dream of.


How to: Paint a wooden floor white (before and after) Monday, Nov 29 2010 

This weekend the ‘man’ and I tackled a project that we have been putting off for months.  It’s quite unlike me to procrastinate as I love getting stuck in (in case you hadn’t noticed!) but this was different…  It involved moving out of my beloved bed for a week.  And my bed is my comfort, my haven, my refuge. 

paint wood floor white

The floor in our bedroom is wood veneer.  This is a really popular choice, but it often looks cheap (well it is cheap).  And it wears really badly.  Rather than pull it all up and start again, we decided to paint it.  We’d already done the sitting room, which you can see here, so I knew what we were in for.

The most arduous part of the whole process was moving the furniture out.  In the end it took us less than an hour, but it’s a hassle!  And you have to find somewhere to put it all..

sanding wood veneer floor before painting

This time I decided not to get the floor professionally sanded first.  Why not?  Well, I suspected it wasn’t necessary before painting.  It might well be needed if you were going to revarnish.  Last time I paid someone else to sand the living room floor before we painted it (it’s a rare thing that I don’t do it myself).  I had heard horror stories of the weight of the sanders, of holes ground in floors through a momentary lapse in attention…  but it was very expensive to get someone else to do it.  I didn’t want to have to pay that if I didn’t have to!

So I used a hand-sander, plugged it in and went over the floor quickly with that.  You can see in the photo above.  This was then washed off with sugar soap.

white paint wood floor veneer how to

Once the floor was prepped, I primed it.  Which brings us to the question of which paint to use.  In the UK or US you’ll have a lot more choice than here in Australia.  The first decision is whether to go oil-based or water based.  Water based paint is far less toxic, both in production and in terms of the fumes it gives off.  However, it isn’t as durable or tough as oil-based.

The only paint I could find that was designed for floors was oil-based.  In fact, it is a 2-pack preparation, like most floor varnishes.  This means it comes in two parts which you mix together.  You can’t buy it pre-mixed as it hardens quickly.  I also wanted a white that wouldn’t yellow over time, which this paint is.  I primed the floor first and then started painting.

painting wood floor white during

I applied the paint with a roller attached to a broom handle, so it was quick and easy.  The painting itself took less than 30 minutes.  I always hate the prep work – it takes so long and you see nothing for it.  Actually painting is FUN!

It needed a day between coats (without cats adding their paw prints).

high gloss white floor paint wood

The paint I used is high gloss – and I chose it because a high gloss floor can make your ceilings look higher.  Yes really!  The reflections in the glossy surface trick your eye into seeing depth and therefore believing the distance between ceiling and floor is greater.  You can do the same by painting your ceiling in gloss, although I am yet to try this…

Here is the floor before:

sanding wood veneer floor before painting

And here it is painted white:

wood floor painted white

It’s amazing how much it upgrades the room.  Immediately the space look more chic, more clean and somehow more classic.

We’re not at the end yet though.  They recommend leaving the paint for a week before using the rooms again.  While the floor is dry – it is still ‘maturing’ and giving off the VOCs that are now getting bad press.  I was absolutely ITCHING to get back in there.  I wanted to make it look beautiful and sleep in my bed (which was dismantled in the garage) straight away.

gloss white painted wood floor veneer

The difference changing your floor makes is huge. Light bounces off this surface and a new colour or texture will alter the illumination of the room.  A white gloss floor has a similar effect on the light quality to newly fallen snow (for those of you in the northern hemisphere).  There is a crystalline purity to it, which I adore.

paint wood floors white before

Here is the view beside the bed before and after.  I decided not to put the rug down as it’s summer here and the white boards feel airy and cool.  The rug can go back down for the milder months in May.

white floor painted gloss white veneer after

Similarly you can see beside the window:

white floor painted gloss white veneer before

and after

white floor painted gloss white veneer before after

The whole room looks cleaner, brighter and timeless.  I’m just thrilled with the results.

white floor painted gloss white veneer classic

It looks beautiful by lamplight as well as in the sunshine.   As for showing the dirt – white floors are far more forgiving than black, where all the hairs and dust show up immediately. 

white floor painted gloss white veneer classic2

Back at last in my lovely bed.  Although I could hardly bear to close my eyes as the light from the full moon crept from behind the blinds and stole across the snow white floor.

How to get that French provincial country look Wednesday, Nov 24 2010 

You can spend hours trawling through photos of a ‘look’ you love, and still not quite know the best way to achieve it.

This series of posts cuts out the work for you, and breaks it down into the elements you want.

 The French provincial look is hot right now.  And no wonder – it looks relaxed and welcoming.  It feels as though families have lived there for generations, laying down memories, reading books in the shade, eating on the terrace beneath ancient vines: an idyllic contrast to our stressed and technological lifestyle.

Here are some easy ways to get that look in your own home.


Flagstone floors conjure up images of fairytale cottages, of boots piling the entry of manor houses, of a life lived outdoors. 

Using these on your floors can hark back to times gone by – just make sure they look slightly worn.


If flagstones aren’t your thing, floorboards can add the patina of age.  Steer away from new floating floors and neat edges and choose recycled wood with marks, dents and a rich colour.

If you want a softer look, you can lime them – this gives them a silvery glow, as though worn smooth by the feet of generations.

Mismatched furniture

French houses collect furniture through the generations.  Chairs are bought over the centuries and the variety of styles adds to the charm.  This is not a style that calls for a three-piece suite.

Wood kitchen

Baking bread over a fire, arranging flowers from the hedgerow, sipping hot chocolate from a bowl (the french way) – all in a stunning kitchen.  Eschew the stainless steel and formica for natural wood.  Freestanding dressers and pine tables or cabinets built-in local wood create the homely atmosphere for long lazy lunches.

Fill free-standing dressers with sets of old crockery – in french blue or rose and white.


While chintz may be English, soft florals look so pretty in a french cottage.

french floral fabric

Soft colours

chaise francaise

Keep colours as soft as the light at dawn.  Blush rose pinks, and grey blues, add touches of sage green or a little yellow to give it a lift.  White should be muted too – no harsh pure white here, but a chalky hue.

Toile de jouy

Toile de jouy is the ultimate french fabric – its monochomatic palette and timeless design is fabulous in almost any room – and certainly makes this theme sing.  You can cover a whole room in it, or use it for cushions or curtains.  It goes beautifully with a stripe of the same colour.

Old french doors

Many architectural salvage yards now have old doors.  Replacing your doors with a pair of these, or even propping them against a wall will add immediate character to your room.

Zinc and Iron

Old zinc and iron furniture really hits the mark with this look.  The more battered the better.  Add urns filled with flowers, old books and hand-blown glass.

Even if a watering can is all you can afford – it’ll still do the job…

Lastly, pile your home with lavender, rosemary and olive branches – all the beautiful silvery boughs that flourish in the warm sun and sandy soils of France.

An antique screen before and after Wednesday, Nov 17 2010 

I just fell in love with this antique screen.  Each panel has five engravings of Rome, exquisitely mounted and framed.  It’s so chic and elegant.  And although screens are usually considered slightly feminine (so that one can throw one’s lacy underwear over it as one disrobes discreetly behind) – this one is delightfully masculine.

Recycled antique screen prints Italian

Its reverse however, was a different story.  Unlike people, where having two faces is never considered attractive, part of a screen’s beauty lies in its ability to have two different sides.  Ideally these should both be gorgeous – mildewed pink taffeta wasn’t what I had in mind.

Antique Pink screen before recycling

This is really easy to fix on a screen.  Firstly, lay it down and rip off the binding that is concealing the edge and its construction.


In this instance, each panel could be removed from the back.  Then you need to select your fabric.  I’m using some fabric I have left over from these chairs.

I like the way the colours match the front, and the way it is also a fairly masculine strong stripe – I think it links well with the other side.

Silk taffeta fabric for recovering reupholstering furniture

reupholstered screen vintage silk

As the silk was quite crushed, I ironed it first (you can’t do this after you have attached it!).  Cut each piece to overlap each panel and then staple it round the back, pulling it as tight as you can, but ensuring (in this case) that you don’t pull unevenly and make the stripes go wiggly.  Above you can see two of the three panels covered.

trim on silk reupholstered screen

Then glue on trim to hide the join.  If you stapled fabric straight on the back – then the trim should hide this too.

recovered antique screen doesn't cost the earth

Make sure you press the trim down as the glue is drying, especially when you’re going round corners.

recovered screen after

Often you can see the rear view of furniture in a room.  It really pays to make sure that it looks good from every angle.

silk screen reupholstered recycled

Just a reminder of the mildewed silk before:

mildewed silk screen before recycling

Doesn’t it look better now?

recycled furniture silk screen after

How to: arrange flowers in your home Friday, Nov 12 2010 

doesnt cost the earth rose

Flowers can really lift a room.  And they can lift your mood as well.

But once you get them home – what do you do with them to keep them looking fabulous?

recycled rhodedendron

Firstly, cut all of the stems again.  This keeps the cut fresh and allows the flower to continue to draw up water.  You should do this every few days if you want your flowers to last.  You’ll probably need to cut them to length, but even if you don’t – just take off 0.5cm.

Spanish Rose

The fashion for very ‘arranged’ flowers has passed – it can look very dated – just have a look at the arrangement below:

Instead – you want to look as though you just ‘threw’ it together.  But just as an outfit is never just ‘thrown’ together, and just as the ‘nude’ make-up look needs as much work as one that shows – so it is with flowers.  If you just jam them in a vase, they will sit all wrong.  Place them in one at a time, looking at where you need more height, colour or interest.

If you add an aspirin or flower-food to the water, that can make them last longer.

Aliums in England

Ideally, keep your colour scheme to a single colour.  It will look more dramatic if the arrangement is entirely yellow, or pink:

For even more ease, keep to the same flower in the same colour.  These miniature pink roses are just gorgeous on their own.  This makes them very easy to arrange.

minature pink roses arrangement how to

Carnations, while they have a reputation for not being glamorous, can last up to four weeks if you keep cutting their stems and changing their water.

White carnations

When choosing the colour of your flowers, they can either match your decor and look like part of the room.  Or you can choose a contrast and make a feature of them.

how to arrange flowers

You can always mix it up!

If your budget doesn’t run to flowers, then go out and pick branches and leaves.  You can play with fruit, seed pods and leaves and create a wonderful and interesting arrangement.  Asparagus makes a wonderful way to conceal a vase…

I created this tablescape using flowers and leaves that I picked from my garden.  It’s a mixture of lilies and their leaves, and magnolia flowers.

Another simple way to create impact with flowers is to place each bloom in a separate, matching vase or jar, and have a wonderful repetitive element.  This looks great as a table centrepiece or on a mantle.

Maybe you’ll treat yourself to flowers this weekend?

If not, I hope you’ve enjoyed my photos of the wonderful roses and rhododendrons of Spain and England from last summer.

yellow rose

How to: Make your own Micro Green Salad Wednesday, Nov 10 2010 

A few weeks ago I had an incredible salad while on business in New Zealand, consisting of microgreens.

These are a new and trendy (and utterly delicious) alternative to boring old lettuce.  Basically, they are little seedlings, harvested once the first set of leaves begins to grow.  Just the thing to grow on your window sill….

Soaking seeds for micro greens

First of all I soaked the seeds overnight in water.  This helps them germinate quickly and easily.

Then I lined a couple of trays with newspaper, which I wetted.  I covered this with about 3cm of potting mix.  I scattered the seeds on top and the put another 0.5cm of potting mix on top.


Micro greens for a salad

I put them on a sunny windowsill, and made sure every day they were moist.  And in a few days they had sprouted!  That’s beetroot below, and cabbage in the photo above.

Beetroot microgreens

It took another couple of weeks before the actual leaves appeared.  You don’t want to harvest them when they first sprout as those are the seedling leaves.  You wait until the first pair of real leaves appear (as in my photos) and then you snip them off with scissors and scoff them!

Micro green salad

They are all beautiful and young and tiny and tender.  Delicious little leaves that melt in your mouth.  Clearly they are organic!  (I don’t spray pesticides in my kitchen, and I’m guessing you don’t in yours).

Just toss them in a little dressing and enjoy.  I used extra virgin olive oil, and a caramelised red wine vinegar.

Microgreen salad organic

They are unbelievably sweet, tender and tasty.  Like the salad version of candy floss!  Of course you can buy them – but where’s the fun in that?

Organic microgreen salad

This is such a great project to share with children.

Why colour looks different on your walls: part 2 Monday, Nov 1 2010 

My last post on getting the right colour on your wall had a lot of you talking, so here is the promised follow-up.

It really is true that all colour is relative.  Remember how you think your jeans are white until you go out into the snow – and then the blinding brightness of the snow makes them look a dirty off white?  Or how surely black is black, until you wear several items of black clothing together and find that they are all subtly different?

I’ll try to show you what I mean here.  Here are two blues:

Blue on walls

But you’ll feel like the one on the left is really purple.  Until you see it next to purple:

Blue versus purple

So now, you’ll admit that maybe that one is blue, it was the first colour on the right that was greenish grey.  So let’s look at that with a greenish grey..

Blue with grey green

This is one of the reasons that when you paint a colour on a wall it looks different from what you expect – because of the colours that surround it.

It is also the reason why it is incredibly hard to work out whether you like a colour on a wall when you paint a bit on – you are automatically judging it next to the current colour of the wall.  The wall will look different when you can’t see any of the old colour as comparison.

Basically all colour is relative (to its surrounding).

Some ways to make it clearer are:

1. some colours are very clear and clean and bright.  others are ‘dirty’ or more subtle blends of colours.  Which you like is generally personal preference, but if you put a clean colour next to a subtle one, they won’t look nice.  The clean one might look ‘cheap’ or the subtle one ‘dirty’.  Look at these book spines.

The green on top is clean, the lower one dirty.

Put dirty greens together and they look great.  Likewise clean greens:

2. All colours are a blend and therefore have undertones.  A red can be pinkish (if it has some blue in it) or orangey (if it has yellow in it). If you have clashing undertones (a greenish beige with a reddish beige), even though they are both the same colour, they won’t look right.

This bedroom starts to look lilac not blue when you see the one below – because the blue above has lots of red in it, while the one below has yellow in it.  The one above is moving towards purple, while below it’s heading towards green.

And looking at the one below, it appears almost grey…

The solution:  take your paint and fabric swatches with you so that you can compare actual colours.  If you can’t take a sample of your carpet or rug, find paint sample cards that match them, and take those instead.

And if it’s all too hard – ask a professional.  We’re here to help, and save you money in the long term!

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 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….

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