Tuesday, 20 November 2018

A Woodland Inspired Autumn Table!

One of the main reasons why I insist on keeping a separate dining room - when we also have a large family room table adjoining the kitchen - is that I love to entertain...  Of course the whole point of hosting a lunch or dinner party is the pleasure of wonderful guests and convivial company, the enjoyment of good food and whatever tipple takes your fancy...  however, if you're anything like me, there's also an immense amount of pleasure to be had from simply dressing the room and table beforehand...

Coming up with a theme is relatively easy when there's a festive occasion such as Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas to guide the decor, but what about those in between moments such as the weeks after Halloween when your pumpkins are past their best, and before the glitz of Christmas decorating officially starts?  What if you still want everything to look season appropriate, stylish and jolly but without going down the whole Christmas route a tad too early?

To help me with this styling conundrum, I was lucky enough to be able to choose a few pieces from the Autumn/Winter range of iconic British brand OKA,  and together with a few vintage pieces and accessories from textile designer Sophie Allport, I came up with my version of an Autumn table with a touch of woodland mixed in...

My colour palette consisted of a mix of green, blue, natural and blush colours, and was inspired by the colours in a beautiful bunch of faux flowers that OKA made up for me a few months ago. You can find similar Here...

As a massive fan of mismatched crockery, I love mixing colours and patterns that may not at first be an obvious mix, yet they somehow, inexplicably compliment each other.  It often helps to look around at planting schemes and every day combinations that occur naturally to gain inspiration as to what will work with what, and so seeing these colours work so well together in 'nature' reassured me that my greens, blues and pinks would work equally as well on my Autumn table.

The crockery is a mix of my favourite vintage cabbage ware, some new OKA green leaf side plates (I also have the equally luscious and much larger dinner plates), my recently purchased 1940's vintage Flow Blue china and some elegantly pretty pink striped OKA dinner plates that I bought last year in the sale...

However, the 'piece de resistance' - and the real prompt for the idea of a 'woodland' theme are these amazing OKA 'Cornamenta' faux antler candle holders, made from polyresin and painted by hand.  (There are matching napkin holders that are currently on my Christmas list for when we're deep in snow and I want to go the whole hog with a full on alpine theme!)  The dramatic addition of four of these candle holders, combined with their flickering tapered LED candles, created a magical and otherworldly atmosphere that was in keeping with the woodland fantasy...

The napkin rings are vintage and the napkins and tablemats are from Sophie Allport in her delightful Artichoke design.

The pink stripe and inky blue of the plates sit together perfectly, and the two colours are mirrored elsewhere in the room...

...As can be seen here with another warm and Autumnal addition - these stunning pleated linen lamp shades and matching scatter cushion are in OKA's Sotota print.  The blue and rouge tones against a neutral background add a pared back yet exotic bit of colour to the otherwise pale background, and provide a lovely contrast to my red check Ian Mankin fabric on a side chair.  See below.

Above all, I adore colour as much as I adore having a bit of fun with my table settings.  Of course, there is so much more that I would love to add - more plants, more playful accessories, more colourful dishes, a complimentary table cloth perhaps (although I do love the look of the table setting on bare wood)... and then I remember that my guests also need room to sit and eat amongst the woodland landscape - and I reconcile myself to the fact that occasionally - but not always - less can more....So life sized Bambi be gone - and now I'm off to plan a belated menu! Ah well!

Until next time,


Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Interiors Spotlight - The Hamptons with James Michael Howard!

It goes without saying that holidays can be wonderfully invigorating,  joyful and restful occasions. With any luck, we come home feeling refreshed, renewed and ready for fresh challenges...

...Exploring new places and seeing foreign cultures at first hand can be incredibly exciting, or perhaps your idea of the perfect holiday involves sampling foreign cuisine and trying out local restaurants or visiting museums and places of architectural interest and fully immersing yourself into the lifestyle of your chosen vacation spot...

Our home for the summer, designed by owner James Michael Howard 
I am all for everything listed above.  Architecture and food are definitely on my top priority list...

However, being somewhat of an interiors addict, I find that for me, the most successful holidays are the ones where I stay somewhere that inspires me and opens my eyes to new interior ideas and ways of living that I can bring home with me to reinterpret in Hill House...

Me & My 'nephew' Jake!
Our recent trip to The Hamptons was a perfect example of providing something for everyone in the Sutton household.  My family enjoyed the delights of the pool, the beach, the fabulous restaurants and glamorous shops...

Jake enjoying 'The Good Life'!
While I went around practically drooling at the houses, the immaculate planting, the perfectly tended gardens and the abundance of exquisite 18th century shingle buildings and estates hidden behind high boxwood hedges and swathes of bobbing hydrangea bushes...

Classically inspired landscaping.
As a lover of traditional houses with perfect symmetry, The Hamptons provided a visual feast of architectural periods, styles and interpretations all executed along this similar theme...

Being guests of my family who were leasing a house for the extended Summer season with a view to potentially buying in the region (Yes please - we want to come back!), we were able to throw ourselves fully into the joys of Hamptons Living - almost feeling like locals by the time we left...

For those who aren't aware, 'The Hamptons' is the name given to part of the East End of Long Island. It compromises of a group of villages and hamlets in the towns of Southampton and East Hampton, which together form the South Fork of LongIsland in Suffolk County, New York.

The house we stayed in is the vision of interior decorator extraordinaire, James Michael Howard, who worked with architects McAlpine to design what to me is close to being a perfect Hamptons home (although to be honest, similar to a child in a sweetshop - almost every home I saw was an exquisite example of a "Perfect Hamptons Home").  Not forgetting, the exquisite landscaping of the gardens and grounds done by Michael Derrig.

The Gardens.

Each room in the house - and there were many to explore and enjoy - is an interior design lovers dream - bedrooms included...

Me thinking about the bedding spree that I intended to go on when I arrive home!
What was particularly inspiring is how James Michael Howard has managed to give a contemporary feeling to the interiors, without compromising on a traditional and homely feel.  There were many interior details, bespoke pieces of furniture, and decorative groupings that wouldn't look out of place at Hill House despite our classic English Georgian design...

I like this idea for displaying books on my dining table when not in use for its primary function,
Me living the Hamptons Life!

In fact, the whole space was a perfect example of the synergy that exists between good classical design and good architecture.  I find that in most cases beauty is beauty, and when it is expertly executed, it can work well whatever the period of backdrop or location.

I have always loved a good 'grouping' of d'objects, whether in my case it be vintage food domes, a group of paintings or Victorian kitchenalia, so it was a joy to see the beautiful groups of collections featured around the house and used as a decorative feature...

A beautiful curated display of found turtle shells.
Artwork grouped to perfection and wall light beauty!
Classic architectural details and a love of symmetry play a big part in the overall cohesive beauty of the interiors...

The beauty of symmetry on an upstairs landing.
A 'Tudor' inspired shape for the front door - I love this nod to classic interiors.

The Main reception room with it's almost 'ecclesiatical' vaulted ceiling.
...As does a very evident love of modern as well as traditionally inspired lighting...

The dining area with its cleverly grouped contemporary lighting.
This wouldn't look out of place at Hill House.
...And contemporary art...

Contemporary art against panelled walls - a good example of James Michael Howard's clever skill at mixing styles.
..Yet, always with an eye for comfort and remembering that it's a family home...

This could be a detail from Hill House - but it's not! 
Of course, no Hamptons home is complete without an ultra glamorous kitchen...

The Kitchen Island - and the best use for a kitchen island below...

A particularly favourite area of mine - The breakfast 'nook'.

...and naturally the beauty and glamour was not just confined to the interior spaces.  The outdoor living spaces were treated with  equal attention to detail...

The decked bedroom terrace.
A Perfect outdoor entertaining space for Summer OR Winter!
Now I want 'festoon' lights just like these!
It's certainly a dog's life...
Nocturnal perfection.

Above all, I came home inspired - as well as several pounds heavier, but that's a story of 'gastronomique' excess for another post...) - and buzzing with fresh ideas on how to incorporate some of these Hamptons Style elements into my interiors at home, without compromising the integrity of Hill House - which is after all, an English country house, with its own merits, beauty and identity.

One of my main aspirations is to attempt to 'streamline' whilst still maintaining my collections and love of colourful English textiles and soft furnishings - however there is a fine line between 'collection' and clutter and I fear that I must remember that!   I loved how despite the abundance of art, lighting features, books and decorative items, the house always maintained a feeling of airiness, space and light.  It felt fresh and sophisticated, but still cosy and welcoming.  Now this could be due to the basic fact that there was a lot of floor space to be enjoyed, but in truth, it owed much of it's success to the lightness of hand of its interior designer / owner, James Michael Howard, who certainly knows how to turn a luxury house into a beautiful and liveable home.

Until Next Time!


Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Defining My Teenage Daughters Interior Style in collaboration with DESENIO!

The Finished Bedroom Featuring Desenio Art Prints.
I can quite clearly remember the joy that came with realising fifteen years ago, that not only was I pregnant with twin girls, but that after the fun that I had experienced decorating my sons' nursery 18 months earlier,  I would now be able to expand my creative juices and replicate the euphoria by diving straight into the domain of girls bedroom decor!

The Copper Desenio Frames Complimented the other Copper Accents.
The wonderful thing about decorating your children's bedroom in the early years, is that you usually have a free reign to go as all out crazy as you like.  Have you always harboured a desire to have a totally pink room? Now you CAN!  Want to cover a room in baby blue stripes, fluffy clouds and hot air balloons - GO AHEAD!  For those first few blissful years you can do whatever you want with no objections, no opinions and certainly no alternative decor tastes to conflict with your own.  Its a truly blissful state of affairs - albeit often short lived....because one day they hit their teens...

Every Room Needs A Bit Of Sparkle!

In all honesty, I've actually been rather lucky when it comes to my teenagers and their decor choices.  They appreciate the fact that we live in an old, Georgian house, and so the chance of successfully achieving a truly minimalist, futuristic, modern environment are rather unlikely with wonky walls, classical architrave and original wooden floors.  As a result, they've more or less gone along with the general elegantly vintage and antique vibe that permeates the rest of the house...

Graphics & Botanicals Mixed Beautifully Together.

However, in these days of YouTube and Instagram, there has been an increasing trend for a certain look that has been a particular draw for one of my daughters.  The new ideal is for a personal space to look stylish, and cool and of course 'Insta ready' at all times.  It needs to be a multi functioning space for social media savvy millennials - gone are the days when a bedroom merely served as a functional space for homework, sleeping and the occasional sleepover, and teens were happy to put up the odd poster of their favourite band.   Now it needs to have the potential to be the backdrop of a 'Creator Studio', suitable for making YouTube videos, Snapchat memes, and of course as the defining shoot backdrop for Instagram selfies.

So how did I, as an original art loving, vintage and traditional interiors obsessed Mother, manage to reconcile my daughters need for a bedroom style that encompassed all of the above mentioned needs whilst not jarring with my own English country style?

Well, it started with her desire to have clean, beautiful art work and copper accents.  Those were her two prerequisites that we needed to work around, and the rest could flow from there.


She was particularly adamant that she didn't want her art work to replicate my vintage vibe with their chunky original picture frames and 1930's floral oils. She definitely wanted it to be her take on the things that interest her.  Coincidentally enough, her aesthetic interests are actually very close to mine - fashion, florals, elegant lines all play a big part in what she wanted.  Although, the word "MODERN" had to prefix all of these subheadings - lest I forget whose room it was...

This is where DESENIO - known for their affordable, stylish wall art, was an absolute dream.  Tasteful, elegant designs, with an overall muted colour palette, the huge range of posters have an ingenious way of all seeming to go together - whatever the subject combination.  This meant that I could sit back and let her choose to her hearts content whilst I could rest assured that there would be nothing garish and out of place for either of our tastes!

Just after We'd Put The Posters in Their Frames.
She was also able to choose sleek copper frames that complimented the rest of her bedroom furniture, with clean, graphic art work that clearly put her personal stamp on what was now her very own personal teenage domain...

Prada Marfa This Way!
Like mother, like daughter, she has a love of fashion and the iconic images and people that have populated that world.  With a particular interest in graphics and typography, her choice of two posters that combined fashion and graphics made a perfect combination.   The addition of the two softer, more botanical prints - 'Pink Flower Dream No2' and 'Monstera Three' -  add a layer of femininity without being too girly,  and are a nod to my own love of floral paintings, whilst the overall muted colours and copper accents place it firmly in the modern present...

Daisy looking thoroughly delighted with her new room!
As they used to say in The 'A' Team - "I love it when a plan comes together!",  and judging by the fact that I have one smiley happy teenage daughter, and a teen bedroom that I would also happily spend time in, I think that it's a plan that certainly has!

Until Next Time!

This post was written in collaboration with Desenio who kindly gifted the posters to me and have also offered me a discount code to share with my readers.

The Code "hillhousevintage" gives you 25% off posters on the DESENIO website between today  - 28th & 30th August 2018 Only.  *Except for frames and handpicked-/collaboration posters'

Posters used in the room are; 1) Prada 2) Pink Flower Dream No2, 3) Coco and 4) Monstera Three.


Monday, 21 May 2018

Making A Puzzle Feeder For Coco With Perfect Fit +!

It has to be said that my dog Coco would be the first one to admit to her own capacity for genius and ingenuity in the canine intelligence stakes - No - she's never been one for false modesty and I am not at all biased..!  

However, when we were approached by the people at Perfect Fit +, even she welcomed the idea of a new challenge in the form of a puzzle feeder as part of their 5 Step Perfect Fit Programme.

A puzzle feeder is to put it simply, a food dispensing toy.  The main aim of which is for your pet to work out the necessary movement needed to reach the delicious treat enclosed within.  It's a wonderful aid to mental stimulation for both dog and - if I'm really honest - the owner...  

Of course, you can go out and buy a perfectly adequate puzzle feeder from your local pet store, but the challenge for me was to build one out of everyday household supplies.

I started with three empty plastic water bottles of a similar size.

Coco giving me a look that says that she would have had this finished hours ago...
I then found a bag of bamboo garden supports in the potting shed, and chose the thinnest one...

I knew that these would come in handy one day!
Hurry up Mummy!
It was then time to measure a place to pierce 2 identical holes on either side of each bottle in order to allow the bamboo cane to pass through...

Measuring up...
All set to drill a hole, although a sharp pen could also be used.
Lining up the holes.
...Now push the bamboo through the holes.

The holes were made slightly higher than centre and at the thinnest end, in order to maximise 'swing potential' when filled with treats...

All three bottles threaded through.
I then needed to create a holding structure to attach the canes so that Coco could confidently attempt to reach her 'prize' without everything collapsing on her!

Patiently waiting for Mummy to secure the bamboo cane at either end.
Something to secure the cane to the stools.
Tying the canes to the stools.
All Set...
Just the treats needed now!
"Waiting until we're allowed to start..."
"We'll try this end one first..."
"No - I think that this middle one is the weakest link!"
"There you go - I knew I'd get there in the end!"

"Rather delicious, and definitely worth the wait!"
"Kibble?  What kibble?"

Well, the whole exercise was a wonderful success.  Coco found the 'challenge' highly entertaining and was happy to keep challenging herself over and over - and over - again...

I was left confident in the fact that I had done something special and creative for my dog, and Coco in turn was encouraged to 'think' and stay mentally challenged, whilst indulging in a little light exercise and boredom busting activity.

It was a win win situation all round, and as I have since read that Puzzle Feeders can actually aid in weight control, as well as encouraging your pet to eat slowly, I am wondering whether the same concept may work with me and my predilection for frosted donuts - although finding a bottle with a mouth wide enough to fit a donut through may be challenge enough in itself!

Until Next Time!

Thank you to Perfect Fit + for sponsoring this blog post and inviting Coco to be part of their 5 Step Perfect Fit Programme.

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