Monday, 25 June 2012

English Country House Style...On An English Country Mouse Budget!

What's a girl to do when she has champagne and caviar tastes, but a lemonade and cod and chips budget? It would indeed be rather nice to pop into Sotheby's on the odd occasion to place a few bids on some original regency fripperies but alas, - budget - or my budget at least - does not allow. Besides - isn't it actually far more exciting to achieve a magnificent end result without breaking (or breaking into) the bank? Who hasn't felt a glow of pride when a friend or associate has unwittingly complimented the cheapest and most bargain-tastic item in the room without realising?

Even better than stumbling across a bargain that can be 'upcycled' to look amazing, is the other end of the scale where one finds a bargain...that turns out to be an absolute gem of a find with a pedigree to match! Now those are my favourite finds.

I have a particular love of Constance Spry Fulham Pottery vases, and I am now an avid collector and hunt them down mercilessly. It was fueled after finding a large pair of 1950's planters gathering dust in an old curiosity shop for just under twenty pounds three years ago. They now take pride of place on the mantles in my dining room and drawing room respectively and are my pride and joy. I occasionally see them listed on websites from e-bay to private galleries. The range in price is utterly ridiculous - from double figures to four figures - go figure!?

On an earlier occasion, I once bought a pair of blue and white Oriental style vases in a local auction for a few pounds, simply because they were pretty. They sat on a console table in my hall in London. A very nice young gentleman would often make deliveries for us, and he would always look at the vases. One day he plucked up the courage to ask where we got the vases from. He seemed entranced by them. We vaguely mentioned the local auction but he said no more, and shortly afterwards we moved house without dwelling on it. Naturally, my husband is now totally convinced that they are from some amazing Chinese Dynasty, and that we are sitting on an undiscovered fortune. I tell him that the chap was simply being polite. However we both secretly wonder whether they are in fact something special.

Why don't we get them professionally valued you may ask? be honest, it's much more fun this way. It's like not checking a lottery ticket. Until one checks the numbers, one can still imagine winning the whole kit and kaboodle, and can therefore plot what to do with the 'fantasy' money (please tell me that I'm not the only one who does this??). Thus while the vases are not valued, we can nurture the fantasy that we are sitting on a secret fortune - a bit like discovering Tutankhamun in the basement...

Another cheap and cheerful love of mine are painted Edwardian tables. I have far too many of them, but they are inexpensive and decorative, and because of their beautiful shapes, can look rather special when painted in a chalky Annie Sloan or Farrow & Ball matt - especially when placed in pairs. They are also 'child proof' - and by that I mean that I don't have to freak out every time a jammy sticky hand touches them, or a dangerously held crayon is brandished near...they can simply be painted over!

What if I had a few extra thousand to spend on furnishing a house? Well I'd still say that it's all in the mix - old and new, investment pieces as well as bargains. I won't scrimp on paint or fabrics, and a few antiques here and there are always a welcome addition - especially those that are handed down through generations. However, I'm certainly equally as happy ferreting out a painting, or a table at a flea market if I feel that it has the correct 'bones'.

Back to my Oriental vases. Do you remember that 1980's film 'The War of the Roses'? Where the couple met while bidding at an auction on the same antique? Now, I really don't think that the vases are anything special...and I can't begin to imagine that they're from anything as grand as the 'Ming' Dynasty...but, reminiscent of Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas swinging from the chandelier at the end of that film - they're definitely MINE if they are and Mr Sutton's if they're not!!!

Happy Monday!

Images courtesy of: 1-5) Hill House; 6&7) The War of the Roses Film, Directed by Danny De Vito.



  1. Love the title and the first paragraph - they made me laugh Paula...
    I once read that (some) Ming pottery made tap water smell like cat pee! By that reckoning I don't have any ;o))
    I love the Constance Spry/Fulham pottery vases that you have they look beautiful, and the tables look gorgeous.
    Hope you have a great week.
    Rose H

  2. Hi Paula,
    Brilliant post as usual!
    You are so right in your thinking, and although it is wonderful to look through magazines and books and see rooms decorated and furnished to within an inch of their lives, I often wonder what it would be like to actually live in one.
    I think a real 'home' is one that evolves over time, with a bit of old and a bit of new. Picking up objects because they 'wink' at you along the way!!
    Hope you have a lovely week,

  3. They certainly are beautiful pieces. However, I would have to check their value! I would keep me up at night. :-)

  4. Gorgeous pieces :) I am also loving your white tables too, you don't really need a full purse when cheaper versions look just as good ;) have a happy week sweetie

    Bee happy x
    Have a delicious day!

  5. Paula - what a lovely post. I've never come across these Constance Spry vases before, but you've made me love them! The proportion and shape are sublime. Maybe we'll meet in a bidding war!

  6. The Constance Spry vases are gorgeous. I love the Edwardian tables, they just have that something 'extra' about them. I regularly spend fantasy money, I get through millions!

  7. I've been having a fine time, getting caught up on your recent posts. You've got a very good eye and sense of style, Mrs Sutton! I also admire your wisdom in your value system.

    Best wishes.

  8. How are you sweet Paula?
    I've been trying to visit you for some time, but my boys would not have it:-). I really enjoyed this post and like others readers stated, you definitely have an eye for beautiful things. xx

  9. Paula your first sentence made me laugh. I have such grand ideas but only have enough money to buy a sprat! I am an avid reader of all the interiors magazines I can get my hands on and that only makes matters worse. However I do think, with a few possible exceptions, that you can get some really beautiful things much cheaper than glossy magazines would have you believe. Your lovely vases are a case in point, would they actually look any different of they WERE Ming (HA! don't answer that)Plus the fact you are right, with children in the house you can afford to be far more relaxed when you know Hepplewhite furniture and the like aren't flying in all directions.

  10. Love this post Paula and all your vases are wonderful what an eye you have. I don't think the value of them really matters unless you plan on selling them. I would just enjoy them as they are really pretty.


  11. Paula, I just love seeing and reading what next you have going on over here :)

    You surprise us with your English cottage beauty each and every time.

    I find beauty in the inspiration of a favorite magazine Like British country Home and British Country Living they just seem to get it and the history holds value in everything they convey.
    Then I run down and find an old cast off of someones curb side throw aways or a thrift shop find, flea markets and such to then sand the pieces down painting a finish that suits the piece making breating a new life into it making it my own.
    I find great deals this way, and I don't feel guilty if I rid of it to place another find in its place due to the fact I did not pay so deeply from my pockets.

    Paula, come for a visit entering the GiveAway I am hosting "Vintage by Nina" a soulful book of inspiration.
    It ends midnight 6-25-12

  12. PS. That movie war of the roses! what a movie to unwind to LOL!!!
    The way they tear that beautiful home up!
    The way love moves people :)

  13. Dear Paula - I don't remember that movie because I'm toooooo young. Just kidding ;) I'm actually much, much older than your Ming vases.

    I want to go $$$hopping with you to look for some Constance Spry pottery. Make that one $. I'm broke: spending $$$ on roof, washing machine repair, and lots of boring house stuff :(

    I could use a pair of Ming vases right now.

  14. Paula... An absolute fabulous post. Yes, what we would do with an unlimited bank account. Well.... Like you I think the fun is in the hunting. Happy treasure hunting! Bonnie

  15. Great read as always! I love the Spry, had never heard of them before(I know, rather naive) As for the "Dynasty" vases, better lock up tight, you might have a few blog readers over for a chat and tea; and yet sporting over-sized raincoats and casually carrying suitcases in which to spirit them away!

  16. What an amazing collection of vases you have! Great blog by the way and thanks so much for stopping by mine :)

    Abbey x


    Let me tell you about budget.

    I have been married for 30 years, and living only 16 in our very first house.

    When I first saw this house, I did not particularly like it, but I did see it had GOOD BONES....brick, stone, hardwood floors, etc....

    BEING ON A BUDGET for many years forced us to research, to search, to do things on our own until we could get a professional to but the FINAL DREAM TO REALITY: adding two large rooms. Now, our cottage has become a small castle, and the creativity that flows from NECESSITY and vision is what has made it all happen. Your country home is FABULOUS and before you know it, your vision will be reality.


  18. I love your little tables, painted over they are quite charming.

  19. Paula you are so right once you could pick up a bargain but it is definitely getting more and more difficult. I visit Auctions now and things seem to go for silly money there isn't a bargain anymore! Don't get tempted to have the vase valued because it looks lovely on your table.

  20. Dearest Paula, I love your theory on the Oriental vase. It is fun to dream of finding that pot of gold under the rainbow, isn't it? Being on a tight budget, is the story of my life, but it has been my muse for creativity.
    It was lovely to see that you came calling and I am delighted that you like my bottle bags and aprons. I must be doing something right, because you have a marvelous sense of style. Thank you so much for popping in and do have a beautiful week, Connie :)

  21. It's me again . . . I just wanted to say thank you for following my blog, I truly appreciate it . . . you have made my day. Connie :)

  22. Paula .. are you on Twitter? Would love to find you on there.!
    Love your blog .. Am seriously wondering if we are secretly related! We are so similar !!

  23. Gorgeous pieces Paula My mum used to say something similar to me when I was a teenager. She said I "had Champagne taste on Ginger Beer money" It was true as well x

  24. Hello Paula, thank you so much for visiting me and leaving such kind comments. I have read several of your posts and really enjoyed them. Your home looks really beautiful. I wanted to follow you but my computer is being particularly slow tonight. I will come back. I love the way you write it is very amusing.

    Your collection of vases is lovely, but I have a weakness for blue and white, valuable or not.
    Edwardian tables are very pretty too aren't they. Some people cringe at them being painted, but on the whole I prefer them painted. So lovely to have had our paths cross, I think we like the same things. Much love to you, Linda x

  25. Hey Paula, sorry I'm so late to your lovely posts! Been painting furniture!!! The only Constance Spry I've known til now is the rose - now I have a new love - her pottery. They are beautiful, lovely shapes. I must keep an eye out for them. Re spending imaginary lottery wins - its one of our favourite activities in our house!!


  26. Hello, I just found your blog, how have I not found it before?! Anyway, the lottery ticket thing, yes I do it. I have quite a few potential winning tickets living in my purse.
    I love your painted tables, very pretty. I'm going to have a wander around now and see what I've been missing!

  27. These look absolutely gorgeous!
    Thanks for sharing this



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