Let’s talk paint colour! I am sure you already know I am a bit of an interiors obsessive and that I have a strong opinion on what I want my house to look like (although if I am honest, this can change often!). However, when it comes to choosing paint…View Post
Christmas gift wrapping is one of my favourite activities in the run up to the big day.
Each year I save up all my wrapping for one big wrapping event; I lock myself in a room with a glass (read bottle) of Bailey’s, put on the Christmas tunes, burn a scented candle and get to it.
I truly believe a beautifully wrapped gift can really elevate the whole gifting experience. I don’t know about you but I am a sucker for good packaging and have bought more than one item on the basis of its pretty packaging!
So when it comes to Christmas gift wrapping I like to really go to town and take my time to create gift wrapping that is as lovely as the gift inside.
For the last couple of years I have bought all my wrapping paraphernalia from Cox and Cox. This year I decided to get in touch with them to see if they would be up for partnering with me for a Christmas gift wrapping post and I was delighted when they said yes.
I think they have a great selection of Christmas gift wrapping items and I knew it would be perfect to share my tips and tricks to elevate your wrapping.
Also, I find it so easy to buy everything online, cutting out the impossible task of navigating through throngs of Christmas shoppers with an unwieldy bag of wrapping tubes!
Oh – and their wrapping paper comes in ten metre rolls which is the icing on the cake for me as I hate having tonnes of rolls of wrapping paper everywhere!
If you are still looking for some Christmas gifts be sure to check out my Christmas Gift Guide here. But if you are all sorted and ready to start wrapping, here are my five ways to elevate your Christmas gift wrapping.
5 ways to elevate your Christmas gift wrapping this year
1. Pick a colour scheme
Each year I love picking a different colour scheme for my Christmas gift wrapping. One year I had purple and silver, another all white and last year navy and copper.
Having some defined colours makes picking your papers and accessories really easy and your collection of gifts under the tree will look so glamorous.
This year, I am sticking to a simple grey and white theme with green and natural flourishes which is very much the feel of my home at the moment. I am using this lovely star wrapping paper and a selection of decorative items including this stunning velour ribbon, these tags and these toppers.
Having two different but coordinating wrapping papers always looks great. And for the easy win, wrapping paper that is double sided is amazing – you can use both sides which is fuss free and it creates a seamless colour theme.
You could also consider using simple brown packing paper which can work really well.
2. Add interest and detail
This is my favourite bit. Once the gift is wrapped in paper I love adding loads of interest and detail.
Start with a couple of different ribbons – I always think one wide and one narrow is great as you can mix and match and layer them up.
Have a look at different styles of how to tie ribbon. Do some with bows, some that cross over and some just simple bands around the gift.
Next add some interest! It is really easy to get interesting gift toppers now and you can pick them up pretty easily, even from supermarkets. My favourites from Cox and Cox this year are these fluffy pom poms.
If you are on a budget, you can also think outside the box a little (pun intended!) – ribbon can be bought cheaply from craft stores or fabric/sewing shops. I have previously bought ribbon from the Birmingham RAG markets. Whilst there I also found little bells which were so sweet tied to gifts and gave a really Christmassy tinkle tinkle every time they moved!
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3. Go foraging
You don’t need to be restricted to ‘official’ gift toppers.
One of my favourite ways to add interest is to go foraging in the garden and local park and pick up some seasonal items to add to my wrapping. Cuttings of fir trees, holly and mistletoe are very easy to get hold of at this time of year and probably won’t cost you a thing.
I also really like using fir cones. You just need to let them dry out for a few days before using them then simply tie some fine flexible garden wire around the base and attach on to the gift.
If you are feeling super creative you can spray the cones first to match your colour theme or get sparkly and go for glitter!
4. Scent it
Scent has an amazing ability to give you all the feels and to transport you to a different world. Christmas as a season has it’s own unique and utterly recognisable palette of smells; oranges, cinnamon, cloves, fir trees… just thinking about them make me feel Christmassy!
To really elevate your wrapping consider squirting a festive scent on to your gifts or use herbs and plants such as rosemary and eucalyptus as decorations.
Supermarkets also tend to have Christmas scents – room scent will be fine. Just give your wrapped gifts a little spritz from arm distance for a really festive scent that’ll have your friends and family remarking how wonderful they smell.
5. Be creative
There are loads of ways to add your personal creativity to your Christmas gift wrapping. Experiment with different ways of layering the paper, different things to put on top and ways to tie the ribbons. Feathers, sequins, bells and mini baubles all looks amazing as additions to gift wrapping.
Have a play and see what you come up with!
If you need some inspiration, I have created a Christmas gift wrapping Pinterest board which has loads of ideas, and I would love to hear your ideas too – just leave them in the comments below.
My Christmas gift wrapping tips
And finally, I thought I would also share some of my Christmas gift wrapping tips to make things a little easier:
- Use double sided sticky tape for a really refined finished! It is also great for keeping ribbons in place.
- Always wrap on a large, flat, even surface – I sit on the floor and clear a huge space around me.
- Arrange your gift in separate piles for each person and then wrap all of that person’s in one go – that way you can wrap each of their gifts in an individual way and then copy the style of wrapping for other people.
- Practise your bows – getting the perfect bow isn’t hard but it does take a few goes to get right sometimes!
- For awkward shaped presents consider putting them in a gift box lined with tissue paper and then wrap a ribbon around the box and tie in a bow.
What’s your thoughts on Christmas gift wrapping?
Do you have any tips or tricks to share?
Christmas is coming and I am so excited for it – so much so that I have pulled together some Christmas gift ideas.
In my mind, this Christmas is going to consist of a lot of pyjama wearing, movie-watching, mulled-wine drinking and enjoying my favourite Christmas traditions. Well, after I have (started and) finished my Christmas shopping anyway.
Gift buying is in some ways is one of the loveliest part of the season but can also be one of the most stressful.
Finding the right gift for family, friends, loved ones, work colleagues, neighbours etc can be challenging and expensive and heap on a load of pressure at a time when you could really do without it. I know that’s how I feel sometimes.
So I have pulled together my top Christmas gift ideas guide broken down in to Christmas gift ideas for beauty lovers, home lovers, men and gifts that can be sent through the post (which is some of my favourite kind of gifts to receive)!
I hope that you see some things you like, and more over some things you think your friends and family will love!
Christmas gift ideas for beauty-lovers
1. Pixi Glow Tonic £18
2. Trinny London make up
3. Herbivore Coco Rose Body Polish £37
4. Glossier Cloud Paint £15
5. Aesop Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm £19
6. Beauty Dust Moon Juice £39
7. This Works Sleep Plus Pillow Spray £26
Christmas gift ideas that are sent in the post
1. Biscuiteers Nutcracker biscuit tin £35
2. La Petit Ballon wine subscription From £74.70 for a 3 month subscription
3. Living etc (or others) magazine subscription
4. Craft Gin box subscription £155 for 4 boxes throughout one year
5. Harrods Hamper £50
6. Bloom and Wild Letterbox Flowers from £60 for three months or £18 for a one off
7. Birchbox beauty box 3 months for £30 plus post and packaging
Christmas gift ideas for home-lovers
1. Monsoon Diffuser £17
2. Afaw Rug From £100
3. Cox and Cox dipped matt vase from £30
4. Wire wall grid rack £28
5. Anthropologie gilded mug £8
6. Aldi lamp £19.99
7. Morning Noon Night from Soho House £30
8. Oliver Bonas Large glass mirrored jewellery box £30
9. Sheepskin cushion £45
Christmas gift ideas for him
Have you seen anything perfect for a loved one?
Or maybe you have an eye on something for yourself 😉
I always like to joke that I eat a really balanced diet. I eat a whole person’s amount of healthy food and a whole person’s amount of junk food in any given day!
The perfect combination right? 😉
Joking aside, I am a big fan of cooking and to me it is the perfect way of switching off from a busy day. I find the whole process of chopping, stirring, creating and of course eating very relaxing, especially if it involves a glass of wine and some music.
I lean towards healthy meals that have tonnes of veggies, which in my book means it’s OK to accidentally eat a family bag of Sensations crisps every now and again. And biscuits. Or cake for breakfast. Or a few of these on a weekend!
Eating healthily is naturally that little bit harder in the winter when the call of something warm and stodgy is strong so I thought I would share some of my go-to healthy winter recipes that are tried and tested and I make on repeat.
They are nutritious, hearty and won’t leave you feeling like you are on some sort of diet.
My favourite healthy winter recipes
Warming Beet, Carrot and Apple Juice
By Deliciously Ella
This is so delicious and comforting and perfect for a cold day when you want warming up. I add a little cinnamon to it and if I am honest, it is as good as mulled wine – maybe even better!
Tip: I seem to struggle to find raw beetroot where I live but Waitrose seem to the be the most trusty stockist.
Simple Prawn, Coconut & Aubergine Curry
By Amelia Freer
The first time I made this I loved it so much I licked the bowl. It is SO tasty and easy enough to make as a midweek supper. I served it with quinoa but regular rice or cauliflower rice would also be great or even just scoop it up with a chapatti.
It would make a great dinner party meal – just make sure you double it as people will want second helpings!
Indian Spiced Shepherd’s Pie
This was my absolute favourite go-to recipe last winter. The flavours are so gorgeous and I can’t believe that this isn’t how the original Shepherd’s Pie was always intended. As a non meat-eater I substitute the lamb for Quorn mince and I don’t think anyone has ever noticed!
It takes a little longer and more effort than the other recipes so is best suited for the weekend or if you have a couple of hours to cook but it is easy enough and well worth it.
Sausage and (Cauliflower) mash
Ah, an oldie but a favourite! When I really need a bowl of comfort food this is it.
I substitute regular potato mash for it’s less heavy, more nutritious friend cauli-mash and trust me when I say you don’t lose out in the flavour stakes.
I use this recipe for cauli-mash, pile on two or three (veggie for me) sausages and pour over lashings of red onion gravy. Oh, and of course let’s not forget the peas!
Warm Winter Salad
By Deliciously Ella
This is such an easy mid-week supper and looks and tastes far more impressive than you would expect from the amount of time and effort it takes to make.
The first time I made it I didn’t think it would fill me up but it really is quite hearty. Although, a side of garlic bread doesn’t hurt. Life is all about balance after all!
Chicken, Kale and Bean Stew
By Amelia Freer
A friend alerted me to this recipe and it quickly shot to the top of my on-rotation recipe list.
Again as a non meat-eater I leave out the chicken, either substituting it with Quorn chicken pieces or not at all.
This recipe makes a big batch and so it is perfect to make on a Sunday and have as lunch for the coming week.
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I’m wearing this Baukjen top (best ever for lazy weekends)
Eat Pretty book (great stocking filler)
My other favourite healthy winter recipes are ones I just make up as I go along – such as this Gazpacho soup and this cauliflower cous cous salad with halloumi. Let me know if you would like me to write any more up to share.
And please share any healthy winter recipes you have. I am always on the look out for something new!
Photography of me by Marlene Lee
The Christmas adverts have been showcased, advent calendars litter the supermarkets and the decorations are starting to appear so I hope you are ready for a little Christmas blog content!
Creating new Christmas traditions wasn’t something I had thought about until recently. As a child you follow the rules and traditions that you have probably followed for much of your life – and those are the things that make the festive season so special to each individual person.
As you move through life, find a partner and start ‘sharing’ your festive season you begin to realise just how special these childhood traditions are to you. After all, Christmas isn’t Christmas until you’ve eaten your mum’s home-made cranberry sauce, watched Home Alone, decorated the tree, played charades or [insert your own individual Christmas marker!].
But as we reach the point in life when you start to create your own family, you begin to realise that you can combine your favourite ‘old’ traditions with your own ‘new’ Christmas traditions tailor made by you for your family and friends to uphold year after year.
These new traditions can take hold very quickly and feel all the more special as they are unique to you.
Here are a six ways I have or will be creating new
Add a new Christmas decoration each year
Each year I add a new decoration to my stock. It started when we visited the Christmas markets in Salzburg and Vienna and I bought the most beautiful decoration. Every year since I have added one that I can recall the time and place where it was bought/made and when I unwrap them each year to display them it makes me feel all the lovely Christmassy feels!
This year it is this beautiful Harrods snow globe that I hope my nephews, Godchildren and maybe one day my own children will love to turn upside down and watch the snow fall over London.
There is something very special about building up a collection of decorations that you can look back on and pinpoint the time of life they represent.
2. Send a pre-Christmas gift to someone you love
Christmas has become overly commercial and whilst this is great in many ways – being able to buy loved ones thoughtful gifts and receive them in turn is quite lovely although the pressure isn’t always – sometimes the best delight of receiving a gift is when it is unexpected.
A new tradition that I will be implementing this year is to send early gifts to the family that I won’t be with at Christmas – in effect, a little pre-Christmas gift for them to enjoy in the run up to Christmas or on Christmas day itself.
I won’t be seeing my mum over the festive period so I will be sending her her own special Christmas decoration that she can hang on her tree during the festive period.
3. Make a date with friends from afar
Ever since I moved to the Midlands from Cardiff, I have travelled back for a girls meal out in December. Getting everyone together at anything that is not a wedding or new baby can be all but impossible, but often Christmas is the exception. It is simply a chance to catch up, be together and maintain friendships when ordinarily miles and a hectic day-to-day life that can make keeping in touch tricky.
It is these nights out that we remember and look back on.
In addition, since I moved to Birmingham we have arranged a Christmas eve meal with Will’s (and now also my) friends who live from afar and come back here to see their families at Christmas.
This has often been a curry, although most recently we deviated and everyone exclaimed that the curry was missed. It really doesn’t take long for something to become an unbreakable tradition!
Try to keep it informal and easy – everyone has enough to plan at this time of year so an easy meal out or informal lunch can be much less stressful than hosting a party yourself.
4. Gift within a theme every year
On a recent Let’s Discuss podcast, Monica and Ella interviewed the incredibly inspiring founder of Not On The High Street Holly Tucker MBE. Holly shared a number of brilliant tips for gifting and one was gift with a theme.
This immediately struck me as G.E.N.I.U.S!
Choosing something for a loved one out of ALL of the options is hard. But if you have a theme for all your gifts, it can become much easier to hone in on an idea.
I have decided my theme this year is food, and so will be thinking of food related gifts for my friends and family.
A gift voucher for a favourite restaurant for our in-Laws, tickets for the Chocolate Factory for friends with children and a Harrods Christmas hamper for my Dad. Tailored thoughtful gift ideas that honestly took seconds to come up with but that will be perfect for the recipients.
I hope that this will become a new Christmas tradition for me and I would love to think that one day my friends and family might look forward to seeing what the theme will be each year.
5. Gift an everyday needed item
A few years ago I implemented a new Christmas tradition for Will and I to gift each other a new pair of PJs on Christmas eve. We then wear them that night and on Christmas morning to make breakfast, open presents and prepare the meal for our family later in the day.
I started it because I desperately needed new PJs but I must admit it has become one of my favourite parts of Christmas!
This year I have my eye on these!
6. Take the pressure off present buying
If present buying gets too much, don’t be afraid of creating a new tradition of limiting the number of gifts you buy or to decide to simply not buy gifts at all.
For my girls meet up, we do a secret santa type gift where we each only buy for one other. We pull a name out of a hat and buy and receive one thoughtful and tailored gift. It is much easier and less expensive, whilst still maintaining the thrill of present buying and receiving.
What are your must-have Christmas traditions and do you have any
new Christmas traditions that you have or would like to introduce?
This post as created in collaboration with Harrods but as always, all thoughts
and opinions are my own.
Photography by Marlene Lee.
Using affordable art in your home is an amazing and cost effective way of injecting personality into a space and I love the way it can be used to completely change or update a room.
For me, I must admit I don’t know much about art art and whilst one day I hope to learn more and buy direct from the artists, until then I like to stick to interesting, quality and affordable art.
Now our building work is pretty much over and we are on to the furnishing side of renovating our home, we have a lot of bare walls that need filling. I have found it a little overwhelming and have pretty much left them bare until now.
So when Desenio got in touch to offer me a few of their prints for my home alongside a discount code for my readers I jumped at the chance.
Desenio are a Swedish company that have a huge range of affordable art posters, frames and other art related accessories. The designs are mainly Scandinavian which is perfect for my minimal luxe look and they ship for free and quickly all around the world.
But the really great thing is the affordability. You can pick up a good quality print at an amazing price – and I am talking from £2.95 – which means you can have a lot of fun creating gallery walls, filling empty spaces and you don’t need to worry too much about changing your mind.
With so much choice on offer it was hard to chose what to go for. I was very tempted by some of the more playful prints such as this cactus print and if you have read this post you’ll know I have a real thing for beach, water and sea inspired artwork.
However in the end I decided to keep things quite classic and opted for a series of black and white prints which I can move around my house when I feel like mixing things up a bit.
I was first drawn to two beautiful architectural photography prints – I love the contrast between the light and shadow and the depth they give.
Updating my home with affordable art from Desenio
Arched corridor 30×40 £11.95
Then I went for this light and shadow filled beauty aptly named Let the light in poster for my bathroom which I think almost mirrors the space.
Let the light in 30×40 £13.95
Also for the bathroom I have had my eye on a certain picture that I have seen so many times on Pinterest. It is the Love Warriors Sky poster that kept popping up time and time again in my feed.
You know when you just can’t resist to try and live the Pinterest life IRL? That’s me! And I am absolutely DELIGHTED with how she looks in this space! The colours are just perfect.
Handpicked Love Warriors Sky poster 50×50 £59.95
Cafe Norma 21 x 30 £5.95
La Cucina poster 21×30 £6.95
Whilst much of the posters are Scandi in style, there is such a huge range of choice that I think there is something for everyone’s taste. You can very helpfully search through the website by colour, theme, style and size which helps narrow down what you are looking for.
I opted to get the prints framed myself as I really wanted to add extra interest with a floating double mount, however Desenio do offer a great selection of frames to suit your aesthetic including gold, silver, oak, and white. I absolutely love this range of frames.
I am delighted with our new prints and think they really elevate our bare walls!
If you would like to spruce your home with some Desenio prints they have offered an exclusive 25% discount for The Green Eyed Girl readers.
The code “thegreeneyedgirl” gives 25% off posters between 14 – 16 November.
*Except for handpicked, collaboration posters and frames.
So, what do you think?
Do you like my affordable art picks? I love them!
Desenio gifted me my choice of prints however I only work with brands and products that I would happily pay for myself and recommend to a friend.
All photographs by Marlene Lee
My favourite thing about winter is drawing the curtains on a dark and cold night and cocooning myself in my home for the night.
It is the first thing I do when I get home on an evening followed by turning on all the lamps and lighting some candles to create a gorgeous soft ambience.
But it wasn’t until I moved in to my current home that I realised the impact, significance and necessity of quality curtains in a room!
Our house is a big, draughty Edwardian home with massive windows and the previous owners took many of the existing curtains with them (and left the ones we really didn’t want). Our house can be chilly and with no curtains it can feel positively frosty!
My first attempt at getting curtains for our guest bedroom wasn’t exactly a success. I tried to save money and sourced the material from the Birmingham Rag markets and took it to a lady who did a bit of sewing after her day job.
Let’s just say this budget option looked, well, budget. The material I picked was awful for curtains and I measured and hung the curtains myself. They looked terrible and I immediately vowed never to take the budget route again. We have put up with them for years but quite frankly they have been embarrassing!
So when Hillarys got in touch to see if I would like to try out their service it was a no brainier. I knew straight away that I wanted to replace the shoddy DIY-job curtains with something that was much better quality and actually fit the window.
Hillarys have just launched a new range of fabrics that are just perfect for curtains and blinds and are right up to date in terms of style, colour and patterns.
To showcase their new fabrics and as part of their #IWANTTHATSTYLE campaign, they asked four interior designers to create four different looks with the new range; Colour Clash by Sophie Robinson, Minimal Luxe by Daniela Tasca-York, Modern Rustic by Emily Henson and Urban Glamour by Kate Watson-Smyth.
Whilst I love them all and was particularly taken with Kate’s charcoal, blush pink and gold colourway, I was immediately drawn to Daniela Tasca-York’s who you may remember from the Great Interior Design Challenge.
Her minimal luxe style is very much in keeping with my own and was just the feel that I wanted for this room. I wanted to create a calm, bright space playing on the light that comes in and creating a lovely guest bedroom.
The Hillarys service
The first thing to do was to pick a fabric. As Hillarys offer a full in-home service, I made my appointment and their local representative Pete came over to the house armed with hundreds of fabric samples.
I wanted to create a relaxing haven for our guests and I knew I wanted to keep the curtains pretty simple so I could change up the paint colour on the walls at a later date. I told Pete the type of thing I was looking for and he quickly pulled out a few options.
Pete advised the best type of style, fitting and and header options which was really useful especially as our walls and floors are far from straight and even which makes getting the curtains to sit evenly on the floor a bit tricky.
The curtains took about two weeks to make and on the fitting day Pete came back and got to work fitting the curtains. Pete put up the curtains, securing the rail so it could take the weight of the heavy fabric, tweaking the length to ensure they were perfect and then steamed the curtains to make sure they were crease free and looking great.
What curtains I chose for my minimal luxe bedroom
I went for full length curtains in the Tetbury white fabric which is a lovely soft plain white fabric that hangs really nicely. I also opted for black out lining as this has thermal qualities and means the light from the street won’t filter in to the room and helping to create a hotel-esque experience for my friends and family staying over.
I went with a pinch pleat header which we have throughout the rest of our home. It is more traditional than say a wave header and in keeping with the period details in the house. Also Pete advised it would be the best option to allow for the uneven floor meaning we could still get a straight-looking finish!
The room was instantly transformed and went from a bit embarrassing to rather wow!
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Bed from Loaf
Collete Bedside table from Maisons du Monde
Avignon bedding from The White Company
Vase and faux peonies from Cox and Cox (as seen previously here)
Black and white print from Desenio
Pom pom throw from HomeSense
Ikea basket with handles
Giant knit throw from Lauren Aston Designs
Z1 light by Ay Illuminate
The new curtains set me off on giving the guest bedroom a minimal luxe makeover and I must admit I really love it.
I did a bit of furniture shifting around from other rooms in the house (with a fair bit of arguing, bribing and nagging at Will to help!) and the room has come together really nicely.
I am still tempted to paint the walls and cupboards but I am undecided about the colour so that might come at a later date.
How to create a minimal luxe bedroom
Keep to neutrals
A neutral colour palette is very calming and relaxed and perfect for a minimal luxe look. It doesn’t need to be all stark white – chose neutrals that have warmth in them and layer in different tones. Neutrals also allow you to mix and match – keeping the window dressings simple and white means I can change the rest of the room and the curtains will always work!
Layer the bed
Minimal luxe is all about taking the pared down minimal look and adding in plenty of luxe elements to make it interesting and luxurious. For the bed, this is all about layering. I love this chunky knit blanket form Lauren Aston Designs which is the softest thing I have ever come across. I also like to add a different colour bottom sheet to the duvet colour and adding in tonal cushions to create a hotel-look.
Keep artwork simple
Black and white artwork will add interest without overpowering the rest of the room. Frames and mounts also help elevate a simple print making it look more luxe that perhaps the price tag would suggest!
Add a pop of greenery
Plants add such a homely touch to interiors and are the perfect pop of colour in a minimal luxe bedroom.
And last but not least a statement light fixture will really help elevate a minimal luxe bedroom. I love this artisan Z1 pendant light by Ay Illuminate but it has divided opinion in our house!
What do you think? Are you a fan of the minimal luxe look?
This post was created in collaboration with Hillarys but as always my words and
opinions are my own.
All photographs by Marlene Lee
When Will proposed and we started our wedding journey there was a LOT of decisions to make that took me hours and hours of deliberation.
What to do about wedding gifts was not one of those decisions. We knew we wanted to offer our friends and family the opportunity to buy us actual gifts if they wanted to, and being the fussy sods that we are we wanted to be able to set up a gift list that wasn’t restrained to just one brand.
Enter Prezola – a gift list service that curates items from hundreds of brands! It was perfect and I have been full of admiration for the couple that set it up ever since.
I mean, what a BRILLIANT idea!
So I am pretty thrilled to be featuring Ali here, co founder of Prezola along with her husband Dom. Ali has also gone on to launch her own brand of home wares Ali&Co which is pretty cool if you ask me.
Read on to find out how Ali came up with the Prezola idea and what life has been like since!
Tell us about Prezola
Prezola is the UK’s leading independent wedding gift list company offering couples the ultimate choice from 100s of homeware brands. From high street and boutique to designer and luxe, Prezola is the modern gift list choice for stylish couples. We also own gettingmarried.co.uk, the UK’s leading wedding website creation platform.
Where did the idea come from?
I had the idea in 2008 when friends and family were asking what I’d like for my birthday and subsequently receiving some, shall we say, ‘dubious’ gifts. I always think this makes me sound so materialistic – I’m really not! I discussed the dilemma with Dom, my husband and co founder, and explained I would love an online platform like Pinterest, where I could add all my favourite gift ideas and share them with friends and family. That evening, after a few glasses of wine we thought up the name and registered ‘Prezola’. So the company and I share a birthday!
What were you doing before hand?
I was working as an interior designer. I have a great passion for textiles and furnishing fabrics so while bringing up the children I completed an interior design diploma. These skills have come in very handy as we have developed and sold quite a few houses during our married life!
What made you want to take a career change and set up your own business?
As a couple we always knew we would set up our own business at some point. The idea of building something of our own together was really exciting. Dom had been working hard in London and staying away from the family and that was starting to take it’s toll. It seemed the right time to jump in and start something new.
How did you get started?
Literally a blank A3 notepad. The website was the starting point. We sold my car in 2011 and hired a great local agency to build the site for us. We started as a general gift list company, but this was going to cost A LOT of money! The real lightbulb moment was when we realised we had a great idea but needed to focus on a niche market. Wedding gift lists were already a tradition so with my love of interior design and passion for shopping it was a no brainier. We had the new website up and running in time for Valentine’s Day 2012.
What has been the greatest challenge so far?
One of the main challenges we had to start with was encouraging brands to come on board. As we were an online-only business many brands turned us down to start with as we didn’t have a shop. That’s all changed now thankfully, and we get so many requests from brands who would like to be included in Prezola which is great!
And the greatest success?
Our unique product and brand curation. With over 30,000 products available from over 300 brands in total, this is my day-to-day area of the business and I love it! Over 100 incredible brands choose to partner exclusively with Prezola in the wedding gift list market, and couples love the incredible choice that we offer.
What’s a ‘normal’ day for you?
I’m not sure there is such a thing as a normal day as every day is different! I manage the Product Team at Prezola who look after the brands that we represent. There could be a brand visit either at their showroom or a visit to Prezola HQ where we will see any new ranges and products and discuss sales and marketing strategies. My activities change throughout the year as we are so seasonal. We are currently working on our 2018 Prezola ad campaign, which means calling in a lot of product and organising a photo shoot. Lot’s of logistics involved, but great fun!
What is your favourite part of your job?
Meeting the companies we work with and discovering new and interesting home ware brands. It is so important to me that we have great relationships with each and every one of the brands that we promote. Last year we introduced our own brand Ali&Co to Prezola and it has proved very popular. For 2018 we will be expanding the range dramatically which is very exciting. Choosing the collection and how all the pieces work together is something I love.
What do you think is the biggest driver in your success?
We have built an amazing team at Prezola. Employing staff is never easy and can be a challenge but I truly believe that if you have passionate staff that are happy and motivated in their job, this can drive a business to success. So much of our business is based on recommendation so our customer service has to be top notch!
Do you have any tips for my readers who have their own business or are thinking of setting up their own business?
I have three key pieces of advice…..
- Know your audience and understand how you are going to market to them.
- Surround yourself with people who complement you and your skills.
- Always go with your gut feeling. If something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t.
AND JUST FOR FUN:
Favourite thing to do on a Sunday? Lie in. Walk the dog. Roast dinner with Dom and the kids…..and relax!
Favourite travel destination? Currently The Betsy in Miami, but Dom and I are going to Marrakech later this month, which I think will become my favourite destination! It’s very important for us to escape regularly. Mixing shorter breaks in with longer family holidays is very beneficial. One of my mottos is ‘always have something to look forward to’.
Favourite way to relax? I am so lucky to live and work in beautiful Bath, so a great way to relax is just to go out for a walk and take in the gorgeous scenery and Georgian architecture. We have so many lovely restaurants so I enjoy nothing more than a nice meal and glass of wine to relax after a long day at work. I also love the theatre, reading and flicking through interiors magazines for inspiration.
Favourite blog or Instagram account? Someone who always makes me laugh on Instagram is Kat from @doesmybumlook40. For interiors inspiration I love @madaboutthehouse and @mywarehousehome.
Favourite flowers? I just love hydrangeas.They add wow factor instantly.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given? “Pick your battles”, and it actually came from Dom. Whether it’s dealing with teenagers at home, choosing new brands to list at Prezola or juggling everything, deciding where you can add maximum value is crucial. Its very easy to go around in circles otherwise.
Keep in touch with Ali and Prezola here:
You can read more career profiles here.
Photography: Images of Ali and Dom courtesy of Emma from Heart Full of Tea / All others c/o Prezola
Today I am introducing something a little different to the blog – a home tour. I found interior designer and blogger Laura Butler-Madden on Instagram and fell in love with her bright, white aesthetic.
Laura has an effortless style that is very recognisable and she effortlessly blends traditional and contemporary to create really gorgeous spaces.
Whilst Laura has been renovating her incredible family home in Dorset (with a kitchen that is out of the this world), she somehow managed to squeeze in the renovation of a two bedroom flat in Notting Hill.
And it is said flat that i’ll be showing you around today!
As you’ll already know, I am a fan of white and grey interiors and it would seem Laura is too. The flat is beautifully bright and airy and has been painted throughout in Farrow & Ball’s Strong White which helps makes it look very spacious keeps it and coordinated from room to room.
I love the attention to detail including the bench seating to create a dining nook and the rise and fall pendant over the marble table.
There are plenty of plants, marble and pops of brass throughout the space so no wonder I love it!
“We wanted to create a light, fresh and calm feel – we took influence mainly from Scandinavian apartments and commissioned the lovely and talented Kristin Gaudio Endsley to paint a Diptych as the central piece to the room (and to hide the TV!).”
See if you can spot Laura’s adorable little pup in the pics too, and scroll down to get the look in your own home.
Oh, and the best thing? You can stay! Laura offers the flat up for holiday lets. Visit here for availability and booking. Wouldn’t it be the dreamiest space to retreat to after a busy day exploring London?
Get the look
I have rounded up a selection of items to help you get Laura’s effortless style.
What do you think of Laura Butler-Madden’s beautiful Notting Hill flat?
Love it as much as me?
I don’t think many of saw the demise of Great British shopping institution BHS coming a few years ago, but sadly the end came and with it the end of BHS lighting – arguable the best lighting selection on the high street.
It was noticeably missed. Before it went pop I managed to get my hands on a few pendants at rock bottom prices for my hallway and staircases but we hadn’t managed to get much further with our renovation than that, and when we did my first lighting port-of-call had gone.
Fast forward to last year ago when they relaunched a pared back store online with the all important lighting range. Whoop! All was right in the lighting world again!
I have been meaning to do a blog post ever since but I am glad I waited as their lighting range has gone from strength to strength. Affordable, stylish and with plenty of (on-trend) choices, there really are few other retailers doing lighting as well.
Read on to see my favourite picks from BHS lighting.
Oh, and this is not an ad! I just really like them!
My top BHS lighting picks
First up, the show stoppers – chandeliers. I love a contemporary chandelier and the elegance and drama they give to a room. I particularly love a chandelier in a bathroom (I have one in mine) and in a living room or bedroom, but really these versatile beauties will work well in any room. And at the price, you could have one in every room 😉
- Aubrey frosted 5 light £240 (in the sales, was £300) – How elegant is this?!
- Olivia Chandelier £360 (in sale, originally £450) – I have to find somewhere in my house for this. It is so beautiful.
- Akira 18 light cluster £200 – I love this style of light and this it would look great over a dining table.
These brass and frosted glass chandeliers are so on-trend. I love the luxe and contemporary look they give whilst absolutely looking like designer pieces. I have seen similar lights to the Hol pendant for THOUSANDS!
- Hol pendant light, brass £200 – I mean seriously, how much?! Such a bargain!
- Ned Cluster light £220 – love the industrial style
- Kolding ball cluster £200 – Just imagine this cascading over a staircase well!
Perfect for adding a touch of contemporary style to a room these pendants are ideal to hand over bedside tables, as the main light in smaller rooms or as an additional side light in a larger room to create a cosy nook perfect for curling up with a book.
- Lem pendant £70 – These would look amazing in a pair hanging over bedside tables.
- Parker pendant £64 – One of these in a reading nook would create a soft and welcoming space to curl up in. It is very Tom Dixon-esque.
- Kolding ball ceiling light £60 – I would love these hanging either side of a vanity unit in the bathroom – so chic!
I love lamps for creating a soft, welcoming glow in the evenings and night time. Have two or three dotted about a room to create a lovely relaxing ambience. I have picked all brass as I can’t get enough of it at the moment.
- Westwood table lamp £90 (in the sale, originally £100) – I love these and I am seriously considering them for my guest bedroom side tables.
- Tristan floor lamp £80 (in the sale, originally £100) – this contemporary classic would look lovely in a living room painted deep shades.
- Voel Floor lamp £130 – this is one trendy little number and would be perfect near a desk or in a home office.
So what do you think of the new BHS lighting range? Like it? LOVE it? I do!
Let me know in the comments below.
Are you a last-minute holiday booker? Or a planner?
I have always been the former but over the last couple of years we have started to get more organised and book our trips in advance.
Right now, when you still have a bit of a tan and you can vividly remember the feel of the sand between your toes it isn’t likely that booking next year’s trips are high on the agenda but I think it is the perfect time to dedicate some time to holiday planning.
Read on to find out why…All the pictures in this post were taken in the very beautiful Nina Trulli Resort in Puglia.
5 reasons why you should book your 2018 travel now
Have something to look forward to
I absolutely love travel and one of my favourite elements is having something to look forward to. We have all had one of those days (or weeks) when everything goes wrong; the weather is awful, you aren’t on your best form and you need something to look forward to.
For me that ray of light is a future trip especially during the cold, dark winter months here in the UK!
We always try to have one trip ‘in the bank’ i.e. booked and waiting in the wings. It means that whenever the weather is really getting me down or I need something to look forward to I have something fun to focus on.
To take it one step further a friend once said to me that the ideal situation is to always have two holidays booked. Can I get an ‘Amen’ to that!
Whilst there are a number of bonuses to booking your travel last minute (like, hello excitement and good deals), being able to strategically think about your travel plans in advance can bring a wealth of positives.
Firstly, it allows you to plan out where you can and can’t take time away around family and work commitments.
For us we have to carefully plan out when we are able to take time off from from our respective jobs at the same time. Leaving it until the last minute might mean I can’t take time off when my husband does so being forward thinking is essential.
Setting out the available dates also lets you space out your trips evenly. This year we ended up going on three trips within the space of one month, but the rest of the year felt pretty sparse. Planning ahead helps ensure we evenly space our trips across the year.
Of course if you have school-age children you are a little more restricted, but even planning which of the school holidays you will go somewhere and which you will stay at home for will help you plan better and book in advance.
Whilst I normally like a bit of spontaneity I have actually loved being able to sensibly space our time away out, plan around bank holidays to maximise annual leave and just know what exciting things are on the horizon!
Get a deal
In recent years there has been a emphasis on the last-minute travel deals you can get but we have found that having more time to research your options properly allows you to get the best deals.
Long haul flights and all inclusive holidays also tend to get more expensive the closer they get not cheaper and if you book early you can get the early bird deals which sometimes are limited in availability.
You can also take advantage of sales that come up. Many airlines and tour operators have January sales and it can be a great time to book your trips for later that year.
I have lost count the number of times that I have found an amazing hotel or destination but not been able to go because it was fully booked for my dates.
Many smaller hotels or in vogue destinations book up quickly as they have fewer rooms and you can find yourself missing out on where you really want to stay.
Booking ahead allows you to nail down your first choice, saving time and heartbreak during the research and booking phase!
During our recent visit to Puglia, Will booked our two hotels well in advance as they were both very small (with only about 6-8 rooms) and filled up quickly. You can read more about our trip here.
Spread the cost and have time to save
Booking early can help take the pain out of paying for a trip in one go. Oftentimes we have been able to pay a deposit and then pay the rest of the balance a few weeks before leaving or at the end of the trip.
And do I even need to mention the fact that it allows you to spread your holiday-clothes shopping haul over a period of time? I a very guilty of
needing wanting new clothes for each trip I go on and that can be expensive. Knowing I have a trip coming up means I can spread the cost of new items over a period of months rather than weeks.
ps don’t forget to book with a credit card. This protects you if any of the providers goes bust in the run up to your holiday.
Shop the post
What’s your take? Do you plan in advance or are
you more of a last-minute booker?