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5 things you should know before embarking on a renovation project in your homeBefore we met, Will already had two renovation projects under his belt, and not long after we got together he bought his third. I loved being part of the process and offered my interior and decor skills – although I’m not entirely sure they were requested! We extended, renovated and sold that house and eagerly made our way to the next, learning and improving from the last one.

Once that was also sold we were on a roll and started looking for the next. A change in the market however meant despite many offers we simply couldn’t pin down our next project. It was then I found a house that was certainly a project but I knew then and there it was one I wouldn’t be able to sell on.

Five years later we are still working our way through the renovation of our dream Edwardian Semi  (check out our kitchen and porch) and we’ve learnt a few more things a long the way. Renovating your own home brings with it a unique set of challenges that don’t exist when renovating to sell.

5 things you should know before embarking on a renovation project in your home

5 things you should know before embarking on a renovation project in your homeWith the cost of buying and selling these days home improvements and renovations are on the up, so read on if you are considering or embarking on your own renovation to find out what we learnt.


5 things you should know before embarking on a
renovation project in your home


It will cost more than you think

From architects fees, hidden issues and rising building costs it adds up to a scarily large amount very quickly and that is even before you take to Pinterest.

We now create a budget for each renovation project we embark on starting with quotes from builders, tradesmen, interiors and adding on a contingency – perhaps around 15%. In our experience, there is always something extra that wasn’t expected. In our most recent renovation we found an original Edwardian gas pipe gently leaking which had to be replace and moved.

Calculating a realistic budget and getting the finance in place before you start is key to ensuring you don’t run out half way.

5 things you should know before embarking on a renovation project in your home

You will need patience

And lots of it. This is going to take longer than you can bear thinking about – despite all the best planning in the world I have never come across a renovation that finishes on time.

And it is not only time patience you will need but a general patience that will see you shrug your shoulders at the piles of dust, say cest la vie when your painter doesn’t turn up and roll your eyes when you order a piece of furniture that isn’t what you were expecting.

Being stressed, annoyed and frustrated will only leave you feeling, well, stressed, annoyed and frustrated!

5 things you should know before embarking on a renovation project in your home

You are about to question your own style, a lot

Renovating a space often means reimagining it. If you are extending or simply bringing a space up to date you will need to make a thousand decisions that will affect the aesthetics and functionality of the space.

Are you a crittal doors kind of person, or more a traditional wood type? Prefer wood floors or patterned tiles? Team Beyoncé or team Taylor?

A renovation somehow brings all your style and taste considerations to the front and will make you question your very personality. Or maybe that’s just me?!

More than once when making a decision for our home I could be found head in hands asking “who even am I”.

If you are like me then my recommendation is to create shortlist of the style or items that you like. Pin them somewhere you will see them such as on your fridge or notice board and each time you pass them quickly assess which caught your eye first. Which do you feel is right?

If you are the kind of person who already knows what they want, please be my friend and tell me your secrets!

5 things you should know before embarking on a renovation project in your home

Finding good tradespeople is not easy

Ah, this one wraps up patience, money and sanity all in to one. Will’s brother works in the building industry and we still have issues finding good, reliable tradespeople who are available before 2025. The best people tend to come from personal recommendations but if you live in a different area to your friends and family or are the first to require a certain trade or skill then you are in for a challenge. There are tradespeople websites out there but we have often resorted to hours of internet searching, countless introductory emails and numerous initial meetings before we found someone right for the job.

My advice? Well I’m not sure I have advice but I really do want to forewarn you. When you do find somebody good, ply them with all of the tea and biscuits they can withstand in the hope they’ll come back for the next job you have!

5 things you should know before embarking on a renovation project in your home

There’s no such thing as finished

Finishing something is a state of mind. We ‘finished’ our kitchen years ago but we still need to sort out proper sofas for the area and I have forever in my mind had the idea of repainting the island.

You will always want to change something up, add something, redo something.

And once you get to the end, no doubt whatever you started first will now look tired and needy.

The key thing is to finish to a standard that you are happy with and can live in and allow yourself the time and freedom to add the finishing touches.

And also remember, other people are far more forgiving than you will be to yourself. No one else will notice the patch of skirting board that isn’t back on or will know about your plans to add a gallery wall one day!

5 things you should know before embarking on a renovation project in your home


Of course there are many more things you will learn as you go along, some good ones and some not so but the overarching consensus during and following a renovation is that will be worth it (and this will be said A LOT to you)!

I am so looking forward to sharing more of our renovations with you as we complete them (I can’t promise any timescales I’m afraid!), especially of our front sitting room but for now I hope a sneak peek of our gorgeous new Swoon Editions shelving unit and West Elm light (Available in the UK in black and in the US in brass) fitting will whet your appetite.

5 things you should know before embarking on a renovation project in your home

What’s your renovation story? Have you completed a renovation in your home and have some lessons to share? Or perhaps you are just about to begin?

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Our porch makeover

I wasn’t sure whether to share this or not at first as I thought a porch makeover was pretty boring, but I quickly realised just how much of a difference it has made to our house and that it shouldn’t be overlooked.

When we first moved to our house it was looking pretty sorry for itself inside and out. We have spent years slowly restoring it to its former glory and we always knew we would want to change the windows and porch from uPVC to wooden double glazing.

I created and blogged my porch makeover inspiration board earlier this year and we set to work. Our friends and family thought we were mad to go to the trouble and the expense but the results have been amazing and we haven’t regretted it for a moment. A number of people have gone straight passed the house as they didn’t even recognise it (for the better) and we have had so many lovely comments on how it has improved the initial impression of our home.

An entrance or porch really is the first and last impression of your home for your visitors and yourself. Leaving our home through a lovely area in the morning and entering again later in the day helps put me in a positive frame of mind about my house – even though we are still a long way from it being what I would call finished!

Our porch makeover

Here’s a picture before the porch makeover:

Our porch makeover

Nice, eh?!

Our porch makeover

Our porch makeoverOur porch makeover


Our porch makeover


To kick off the porch makeover we replaced the boxy glazing and porch frame that we expect was installed some time after the house had been built. It looked a bit 60s and wasn’t in keeping with the Edwardian house. I found a picture on Pinterest and we designed something with our window makers to fit our space. This was quite hard work first finding someone to make what we wanted (within our budget) and then to get to something we were happy with. It took months of discussion and drawings and was quite frustrating at times but I am so pleased we persevered.

Once that was in we plastered over the exposed brick – this was Will’s ‘must’ for the porch (if you have read my Romance and Renovation post you’ll know it is all about compromise) and painted it bright white.

I knew I wanted patterned floor tiles and finally chose the Waverley from Fired Earth which are gorgeous. Once they went down we could see the place taking shape!

We added a traditional skirting board and this lovely light fitting in the porch and this one outside.

I had originally planned to paint the front door Railings from Farrow and Ball but it didn’t quite match the tiles so we have kept everything white. Perhaps one day i’ll come back to it and go for a more exciting colour but I am happy with the clean, crisp look just now.

We kept the original front door hardware (which still needs a really good clean) and added a brass bell. Then we were on to the fun stuff – styling!

Our porch makeoverOur porch makeoverOur porch makeoverOur porch makeover

We have an issue in our house with shoes. I think they breed, so we needed some storage solution. I spotted this industrial chest of drawers on Swoon Editions and knew it was the piece for us! It fits the space perfectly and helps the porch feel like a room within the house.

The metal shelf / hook rack is really just for decoration but will be handy if we have a party and we can store coats. Of course I had to add greenery and a vine and cactus seemed the hardy kind of creatures that might survive a bit of neglect.

I have a collection of straw hats that I buy every summer from wherever we are on holiday – they tend to get battered, splashed, squashed etc but the end of a break but I can never part with them. I love how they look in the porch, adding a little bit of whimsy and also a bit of a californian vibe.

Some books, a picture and of course a scented reed diffuser make the space feel like a room in its own right and really homely. I always think scent is so important in making a space feel clean and welcome and the porch is even more important as it is the first impression.

A cute doormat finished off the space from Cox and Cox.

Our porch makeoverOur porch makeoverOur porch makeoverOur porch makeover

Our porch makeover

We still have a few bits and bobs to do including giving the concrete step a good scrub and clean, polishing the old door knob and letter box and I might add some pictures to the blank wall opposite the drawers but on the whole it is done.

So there we have it. What do you think?

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 Studio Sorores Luxury Wedding and Event Planners
Are you ready for some serious drool-worthy images?

After a little summer break, my career profiles are back with an almighty bang featuring Studio Sorores, a luxury wedding and event planning sister duo.

Jessie is a friend of a friend and I have watched her career in the wedding and event planning industry with awe. After thoroughly loving everything about planning her own wedding she set up on her own. It wasn’t long before she was making waves with her effortless styling and incredibly beautiful weddings. Cue her sister Georgia setting up her own floral design company and creating flower arrangements that make even Pinterest envious. They began to work together on weddings and became a force to be reckoned with. This year they took the logical step of creating a partnership Studio Sorores and the results are incredible; they have been featured in every wedding publication worth reading including Style Me Pretty, Rock my Wedding, Glamour, Brides Magazine … the list is long. Jessie put me in touch with my brilliant wedding photographer and offered me some great advice when planing my own wedding.

Whether or not you are planning a wedding or even in to weddings, these girls will not fail to inspire you with their down to earth attitude and incredible talent!

Read on to hear about Studio Sorores :

 Studio Sorores Luxury Wedding and Event Planners

Tell us about Studio Sorores? 

Jessie: Studio Sorores was born out of our existing businesses – we’ve been working side by side for seven years and finally decided to blend our event planning and floristry services together under one house. I can’t believe we didn’t do it earlier to be honest, we’ve had such great feedback since launching!

Georgia: It’s not just about planning beautiful events, it’s a celebration of all the amazing women we’ve worked with in this industry.

Where did the idea come from? 

Georgia: It was getting to the point that it would crazy not to! The response from clients was so good and we were continually winning clients together since we so often have the same vision.

Jessie:  It was our existing clients who encouraged us to go for it – they loved how intrinsically we worked together, and the sister dynamic!

 Studio Sorores Luxury Wedding and Event Planners

What made you want to set up your own businesses originally? 

Jessie: When I first launched my wedding planning business I was in my mid-twenties and in a bit of a career change… I’d moved from publishing to PR, but still craved more creativity and autonomy. Georgia has always been dedicated to pursuing creative roles and I guess working together enabled us to push each other further in areas we felt less comfortable in. She pushed me to explore my creative side more, and I pushed her to take a leap of faith and start her own business!

Georgia: Jessie definitely inspired me to think more like a businesswoman. We’re so often hoping that soon we’ll catch a break and our talents will be appreciated by some luck, but the truth is we have to build these things for ourselves and take some risks. Someone said to me recently that an artist isn’t a successful artist unless they’re a businessperson too. That’s very much how I felt at the beginning, it’s time to be pro-active and make my dreams happen!

 Studio Sorores Luxury Wedding and Event Planners

How did you get started?

Jessie: I took an event planning course online… it was a bit like teaching grannies to suck eggs, but it absolutely gave me the confidence to put my website up and start attracting clients. Every single event has been a learning curve ever since. You learn something new every time!

Georgia: It really all about believing in myself and knowing that I can stand out from the crowd. I did a few cheap jobs and photo shoots and before I knew it, I’d made my own website and enquiries were coming in.

Studio Sorores Luxury Wedding and Event Planners

What has been the greatest challenge so far of Student Sorores? 

Jessie: Merging our contracts and T&Cs was tough, but also incredibly revealing. We spotted weaknesses and ways to refine our paperwork, which wasn’t exactly a fun job… but necessary!

And the greatest success? 

Georgia: Every year our budgets get higher and we’re able to be more creative and original, it’s a very good feeling to not feel constrained with your creativity.
 Studio Sorores Luxury Wedding and Event Planners

What’s a ‘normal’ day for you at Studio Sorores

Jessie: For me, it’s rather unglamorous most of the year – breaking down budgets, interviewing and shortlisting vendors, managing clients expectations, scheduling and spreadsheet making. The most fun element is absolutely design planning and bringing that to life later on. During the Summer it’s fast paced and high pressured – still lots of office work to be done, but also far more active work on site with set up and break down for weddings.

Georgia: It changes dramatically during the summer months, which consist of 4am starts – constantly making, inventing and creating. When I don’t have a wedding on, I am either creating design plans, perusing hardware shops for exciting new tools to make installations, extending my vase collection or simply spending just that little more time with my dog.

What is your favourite part of your job? 

Jessie: The people. Over the course of planning with a client – particularly weddings – you get to know them so well, and I often make amazing new friends along the way. I love watching family and friends come together in celebration… so rare in life that we stop and appreciate each other these days. It’s honestly beautiful, and never fails to make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside at the end of the day.

Georgia: The adrenaline. Every single event we do is exactly the same and the excitement really is addictive! On top of that, I get to make creations inspired by wonderful happy people and at the end of it I can stand back at think “Wow, we nailed it again!” I just need a bit of sleep then I’m onto the next one and I love it!

Studio Sorores Luxury Wedding and Event Planners

How do you stay productive, motivated and at the top of your game?

Jessie: By loving what I do. Passionately. It’s not good enough to own and run a business you enjoy… you have to be obsessed with it. Delighted by it. It doesn’t feel like work to me most of the time.

Georgia:  I have to constantly push myself to new design levels. Competition is healthy and if I’m not creating something new and unique then I’m not trying had enough. There are so many incredible florists now and simply seeing their work on Instagram daily motivates me to constantly try harder.

Studio Sorores Luxury Wedding and Event Planners

What do you think is the biggest driver in your success?

Georgia:  Learn. Learn more. Learn that again.

Jessie: Always learning from your mistakes – don’t take them personally, don’t be defensive…. own them!

Do you have any tips for my those who have their own business or are thinking of setting up their own business? 

Jessie: Don’t give up the day job! By that I don’t mean do nothing – just don’t be naive. Seriously… it amazes me how many people recommend diving head first into starting your own business. Take a breath first – create a business plan, do a course in your spare time, seek out a mentor, get work experience in your new industry, save up a chunk of money for when you are ready to go full time, soft launch and get some loyal clients on board… but don’t throw away your existing career on a whim. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
Studio Sorores Luxury Wedding and Event Planners

Any tips for those who would like to work in floristry or wedding planning?

Georgia:  Experience is essential, but do remember to create for yourself rather than always for another businesses. Creating your personal style rather than copying others is essential in being successful.

Studio Sorores Luxury Wedding and Event Planners

AND JUST FOR FUN


Favourite thing to do on a Sunday? 

Jessie: Papers, bottle of wine, roast in the oven, nice long walk. Bliss!

Georgia: Enjoy the time to be slow for a change and walk somewhere you’ve not walked to before, preferably to a pub you’ve not been to, to drink a bottle of wine you’ve not had before!

Favourite travel destination? 

Jessie: Italy or France, preferably with a big group of friends and family.

Georgia: I’ve recently spent a lot more time in the countryside in England and have promised myself to explore that more.

Favourite way to relax? 

Jessie: Shopping. I’m a hideous retail therapy addict.

Georgia: Being away from your normal working environment with no laptop! Technology is hard to escape nowadays but if you’re up a mountain somewhere, you tend to not care about checking your phone. I find it important to have those moments so that I can come back refreshed and ready to be busy again.

Favourite blog or Instagram account? 

Jessie: Oooh tough one! I adore @SinclairandMoore, and have loved watching them effortlessly combine their careers with parenting as a team. So awesome. 

Georgia: @hart_floral for flowers (I adore her brave minimalism), @yoga_girl for her complete honesty about life (plus she has a mega cute baby/dog/goat etc) and @majesticdisorder for travel and interior inspiration (their photos remind me of my Nana’s house, so I go there to feel homely).

Favourite flowers??

Jessie: Roses, always. I usually buy only white flowers for my house…

Georgia: I have to say roses too. I love the variety of colours, the smell, the fragility, how they make more masculine flowers look more feminine, the fact that they have thorns etc.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given? 

Jessie: There will always be more time and new ways to make money.

Georgia: Don’t stop being you.

 Studio Sorores Luxury Wedding and Event Planners

Pretty uh-mazing huh!

If you are planning a wedding and want some expert help from Studio Sorores or even if you want to lose an afternoon drooling over their stunning pictures, you can find them here:

//Studio Sorores website // Instagram // Facebook //


Photography of Jessie and Georgia: Katie Julia

All others: Depict Photography

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Puglia travel diary During our recent trip to the incredibly beautiful region of Puglia, Italy we explored the area around our hotel Nina Trulli. Even with a couple days of doing nothing more than lazing by the pool we still managed to get around quite a bit in our little hire car – thanks to everything being so close together and the roads being well built and blissfully quiet.

Puglia was an eye opener to me and has shot to the top of my favourite places in Italy alongside Venice. OK so I have A LOT of Italy still to see, but I would be surprised to find somewhere I love as much.

They say people travel to Puglia to eat and I have to agree. The food is simple, local and delicious completely devoid of flounce. Wine is excellent – one of my favourite types of red ‘Primitivo’ is from this region so a house red was the perfect choice for me every time and it never disappointed.

One thing that surprised me was the architecture. I know nothing about architecture but I do love a pretty building and Puglia has these by the bucket load. From the quaint and unique trullis to grand baroque cities, it is really very beautiful and there is no end of peeling paint and white narrow streets laden with scented flowers.

There were few English tourists (I know I am so snobby but it is nice to experience a different culture) and in September when we visited it seemed that there were very few tourists altogether.

Puglia travel diary

Here’s a few of the highlights from the trip.

Arbellobello

Arbellobello is a small town that has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site because of the large concentration of the beautiful Trullo. These gorgeous building are a common site across this part of Puglia but are in there highest numbers here and it is worth a visit to see them.

I would getting arriving early though – we arrived at 10am and it was already getting busy. It was the only place we visited that felt it was on the ‘tourist’ map.

It doesn’t take long to wander the streets and it is also worth popping across the main road and having a wonder around the old town too. We only spent an hour or two here before heading to our next destination…

Puglia travel diary - Arbellobello

Puglia travel diary - Arbellobello

Puglia travel diary - Arbellobello

Puglia travel diary - Arbellobello

Puglia travel diary - Arbellobello

Puglia travel diary - Arbellobello

Puglia travel diary - Arbellobello

I’m wearing:

Pampelone Amalfi maxi dress

Tan gladiator sandals – similar 

Cult Gaia bag / identical copy on Ebay

Puglia travel diary - Arbellobello

Puglia travel diary - Arbellobello

Locorotondo

Our friends who had visited Puglia earlier in the year recommended this town as the prettiest of the nearby towns and it didn’t disappoint. We meandered along winding streets admiring the faded grandeur; peeling white paint, faded shutters, white streets. There isn’t much to do here aside admire the prettiness and stop for a coffee which is perfect for me!

Puglia travel diary - Locorotondo

Puglia travel diary - Locorotondo

Puglia travel diary - Locorotondo

Puglia travel diary - Locorotondo

Puglia travel diary - Locorotondo

Puglia travel diary - Locorotondo

Puglia travel diary - Locorotondo

Ostuni

After Locorotondo we popped over to Ostuni for the afternoon. I had become aware of Ostuni thanks to the beautiful Instagram of Lois Avery (read Jennie’s inspiring career profile here) and I couldn’t quite believe I got to go there myself. It is a gorgeous city with white streets, beautiful buildings and plenty of places to eat and drink. To be honest, our tummies drove our itinerary and we stayed for lunch before moving straight on to Spritz for the afternoon! Not a lot of sight seeing was had, and even fewer photos were taken but we did manage to snap my favourite picture of me from the holiday and know enough that I would happily come back and would eagerly recommend others to visit too.

Puglia travel diary - Ostuni

Puglia travel diary - Ostuni

Polignano a Mare

This epically beautiful beach is the thing of Italian dreams….which means that alongside its beauty it is also very uncomfortable and jam packed! Incidentally, just the way Italians like their beaches!

We spent the morning here (sitting up s I just don’t know how the Italians not only lie down but sleep on the stones) reading books, people watching and dipping in and out of the glorious water. When our tummies started to rumble it didn’t take long to find an amazing pizza restaurant followed by a wonder around the town and a cone of gelato, naturally. I spotted my next property purchase of dreams – a second floor flat with large juliette balconies overlooking a small bustling square full of osterias. I imagined the next ten years of summer holidays; morning swims, siestas in cool linen, curtains gently waving in the breeze and the scent and sounds of the little square below me as I got ready for the evening out. Well, a girl can dream can’t she!

Puglia - Polignano a Mare

Puglia - Polignano a Mare

Puglia - Polignano a Mare

Puglia - Polignano a Mare

Puglia - Polignano a Mare

Puglia - Polignano a Mare

Puglia - Polignano a Mare

Have I convinced you to visit yet? If you are looking for a holiday destination that is a little bit different, authentic, relaxed and utterly gorgeous then Puglia is the one for you. Honestly, I loved it and we will definitely be returning.

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Nina Trulli - luxury hotel for modern rustic interior loversArriving to Nina Trulli Resort in Puglia, I had no idea what to expect. If you follow my Instagram you may already know that Will and I have started a new tradition of celebrating our wedding anniversary each year in Italy taking it in turns to surprise each other with the location.

So the first surprise for me was Puglia as a destination and the second was the utter gorgeousness of Nina Trulli.

Nina Trulli - luxury hotel for modern rustic interior lovers

Nina Trulli - luxury hotel for modern rustic interior lovers

From the moment we arrived to the imposing wooden gates to request admittance and led up a softly lit winding drive, we were spellbound.

Nina Trulli captures the magic of Puglia in one perfectly formed intimate resort where you are bathed in sunshine, fed simple and utterly delicious food at regular intervals and surrounded by picture-perfect scenes at every corner.

But as you know me, it was the interiors that really got my heart racing. The handful of rooms are set in traditional Trulli – a dry stone hut with cone shaped roof that are typical across the region. Meticulously renovated to retain all of their rustic charm but complimented by the modern requirements of a fussy traveller (hello waterfall shower, luxury bath products and fluffy towels), the colour palette is a muted combination of whites, beiges and a understated blue/grey. I was smitten.

Nina Trulli - luxury hotel for modern rustic interior lovers

Nina Trulli - luxury hotel for modern rustic interior lovers

Nina Trulli - luxury hotel for modern rustic interior lovers

Nina Trulli - luxury hotel for modern rustic interior lovers

It is modern rustic at its best and looked right out of the pages of The White Company catalogue. I spent many an hour considering how I could swap my velvets for linens and bring this look home with me, but in the end decided I would just have to come back, or get a holiday Trulli of my own ;).

Our room, a suite situated in what I think was originally the cowshed complete with troughs, was a haven with a massive bed, spacious sitting area and two private terraces. One of which overlooked the vines and had an outdoor bath big enough to fit a family in.


Get the modern rustic look at home


 

Nina Trulli - luxury hotel for modern rustic interior lovers

Nina Trulli - luxury hotel for modern rustic interior lovers

Nina Trulli - luxury hotel for modern rustic interior loversDinner was served in the equally beautiful restaurant or if mild enough a festoon-lit courtyard surrounded by fruit trees. There are no difficult decisions to make such as what to have for your meal as the four courses are brought to you, decided by chef Blanca who choses from the kitchen garden that day, and taking in to account any guests particular dietary requirements. I didn’t have a meal that was less than delicious.

Breakfasts are served from the kitchen and eaten under the shade of the trees. Home made cheesecake was the order of the day every day for me followed up by plentiful fresh fruit and gallons of strong Italian coffee.

Nina Trulli - luxury hotel for modern rustic interior lovers

Nina Trulli - luxury hotel for modern rustic interior lovers

Nina Trulli - luxury hotel for modern rustic interior lovers

Nina Trulli - luxury hotel for modern rustic interior loversWe spent our days lazing by the pool,  learning to cook orecchiette and Panzerotti with Blanca and exploring the surrounding areas, all of which took my break away. I’ll be sharing more of that over the coming weeks.

Nina Trulli - luxury hotel for modern rustic interior lovers

Nina Trulli - luxury hotel for modern rustic interior lovers

Nina Trulli - luxury hotel for modern rustic interior lovers

Nina Trulli - luxury hotel for modern rustic interior lovers

Nina Trulli - luxury hotel for modern rustic interior lovers

Nina Trulli - luxury hotel for modern rustic interior lovers

I loved this place almost too much to want to tell anyone about it but Will has already worked out a way to make it a viable long weekend break so we will be back before too much time has passed. And really, it is just too good not to share.

If you are looking for utter peace and tranquility and some serious interiors goals this is your place. Just don’t brag too much on Instagram when you are there as I don’t think I could take it!


Want to see more of my travels? Take a look at my guide to Santorini and the dream hotels that are on my travel wish list.

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Five new beauty favourites Well hello there!

For those of you who read my last post you my be surprised that I am posting today but I am back from am incredible holiday feeling refreshed and ready to go! I’ll be sharing some snippets from my travels over the coming weeks, including two of the most beautiful hotels, but before that I wanted to let you in on some recent beauty buys I have come across and loved.

But one thing first…I have been nominated for the Amara Interior Blog Awards 2017 for Best Interior Lifestyle blog. I am putting one last call out for votes as voting closes on Friday. Please help girl out and send a vote my way! VOTE HERE!

So back to beauty and what you came for today….

Five new beauty favourites

If you don’t know it already, I am a skincare fanatic. Having suffered problematic skin for much of my life, I do everything I can to make it the best it can be. Over the years I have spent a lot of time and money researching, trying and testing different things and have a arsenal of products that work for me that I rarely stray from.

However, I recently noticed my skin wasn’t as bright or glowy that I wanted it to be. I could see the first signs of ageing and my skin looked a bit dehydrated. So I put my research hat on again and I must admit I am pretty pleased with my finds. My skin is brighter, glowier and looks more healthy. Win!

Five new beauty favourites


5 new beauty favourites


The Ordinary Advanced Retinoid 2%: I have wanted to try a retinol for a few years now but couldn’t quite get my head around which one to buy and they were all so expensive. Cue cult brand The Ordinary by Deciem whose products are straight up skincare-science that is SO affordable. At £8 a bottle it would be wrong not to give it a go.

I have been using this for a few weeks and undoubtedly notice a positive difference. My skin in clearer, brighter and smoother!

If you are not sure what a retinol is, the very simple answer is that is is derived from vitamin A. It helps reduce fine lines, unclog pores, even our skin tone and boost collagen. My friend Nia is a bit of an expert when it comes to The Ordinary products and knows much more about them than me. Check out her blog here.

Five new beauty favourites - The Ordinary

Bobbi Brown Extra Repair Nourishing Milk: I watched a recent make up tutorial on YouTube and found myself nodding along to all the skincare issues and recommendations. Tired, dehydrated skin lacking a little glow. Yup. The solution – a few choice Bobbi Brown skincare products to add to my routine.
The first was the Nourishing Milk. You put it on after cleansing/toner/acid and before moisturiser (read my skincare routine here). It is called and looks like a milk, but goes on more like a serum or oil. It smells wonderful and has worked wonders in ensuring my skin is hydrated and glowing throughout the day.

Five new beauty favourites - Bobbi Brown Nourishing Milk

Bobbi Brown Extra Eye Repair Cream: I have steered clear of eye cream mainly because I always find it makes my eyes run but this one does nothing of the sort. It is thick and nourishing and makes my under eyes look less tired and tissue paper like. I pat on before moisturiser morning and night and get an immediate brightening effect. Late night? No one will know!

Five new beauty favourites - Bobbi Brown eye cream

Bobbi Brown Creamy Corrector: Sorry – this isn’t a Bobbi Brown blog post I promise and it certainly isn’t an ad, I am just really happy with these products!

This is supposed to be used under concealer to neutralise dark circles however it is enough for me to lighten that area and then not need a concealer on top. I don’t know how it does it but it brightens circles without looking powdery or accentuating fine lines which I find concealer can do. This is a life-changer!

Five new beauty favourites - Bobbi Brown Corrector

Jo Malone Wood Sage and Sea Salt: You know when you have a friend who has the best perfume and you can’t help but get right up to them and give them a good sniff? Just me? Well, this is what happened when I met up with an old friend. She smelled A-mazing. After a gentle interrogation I found it was Jo Malone’ s  Wood Sage and Sea Salt. I hadn’t smelled anything like it before and it didn’t take me long to rush out to buy my own. Perhaps most suited to summer but I will be wearing it all through the seasons!

Five new beauty favourites - Jo Malone Sea Salt


Shop my beauty favourites


Have you tried any of these?

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So something REALLY exciting has happened…

My blog, this one right here, has only gone and been nominated for an AWARD!

And not just any award, the Amara Interior Blog Awards which are the Oscars of the interior blogging world.

Let me just make it clear if you hadn’t already guessed it…I am EXCITED about this!

I know you probably aren’t as excited as I am but please stick with me on this one. (And if you don’t want to read the ‘hard sell’ but are willing to help, you can go right ahead and vote here!).

I have been writing this blog for FOUR YEARS almost to the week. It is my hobby and I love it. I love sharing my thoughts, my adventures, my love for interiors and the renovation of my home, my style and anything else that I would talk to a friend about over a glass of wine. As really, that’s what I see you as whether I have ever met you or not – a digital friend who is in to the same things as me. I love that I have learnt SO much on this blogging journey; I know about platforms, SEO, social media, photography and digital marketing all because of this blog.

But, it takes hours of my spare time. Like, all of the hours. My husband will agree!

Let me just tell you that the last time I watched TV was in January when I had Norovirus, and I couldn’t physically do anything else.

And despite there being a lot of recent press about bloggers making money and getting free stuff, I really don’t. I have had a handful of gifts sent my way (and believe me, it is exciting) but as I said, this is my hobby. I do it after my job late into the night, on the weekends. I set my alarm early on a Sunday morning.

As anyone would with any hobby, I want to grow and get better. If my hobby was golf, for example, after four years I would want to see that I had improved…. take less shots to get the ball in the hole.

But sometimes as a blogger it is hard to see yourself getting better. I know my site looks prettier than it did, I think my content is getting better (and I really hope you like it!). But being nominated for an award makes me feel like I am actually doing a good job! Being shortlisted would be AH-MAZING…and proof that all the hours I spend tapping way at my computer is being enjoyed and appreciated by someone else. Call me fickle, but that’s all I hope for.

So, why all of this heart-bearing I hear you ask? Well, to be shortlisted I need votes. I need to be in the top six in fact. And whilst this might not sound difficult, I am up against the biggies! Blogs that I read, love, admire and aspire to every day. They are amazing! There are over 80 other bloggers in my category and it is a seriously tough competition.

So, I know you are busy and I know you are asked to do so much (anyone else noticed the world is now feedback crazy) but if you have ever enjoyed my content, pictures, ideas or even just enjoyed nosing at my house reno, then I would really REALLY appreciate it if you would vote for me!

The criteria is this:

For the blogs who love travel, fashion and beauty as much as they love interiors, the Best Lifestyle Interior Blog Award is dedicated to those that love to cover all lifestyle topics. Always impeccably stylish no matter the content.

Agree? Then please vote. It’ll take a seconds, and I would be SO grateful.

VOTE HERE

I have pondered long and hard whether to write a post like this because 1. the competition is so hard, why should I waste my time asking you to do something that might amount to nothing and 2. if I don’t get through, well that will be a bit embarrassing.

But, if I am not in it, then I can’t win it so I am giving it my best shot!

And to be honest, I really would like the opportunity to wear an amazing dress (how about this one or this one?) and clink glasses with the best interior bloggers out there. I can barely contain myself at the idea!

Thank you SO MUCH if you have already voted. I can’t tell you how great that makes me feel, and thank you in advance if you are thinking you will vote.


Just one more thing before I leave you to it for the day – I have a scheduling update.

I am about to go on holiday! Woohoo!

And taking in to account what I said above, for one of the first times in years I am going to take a much needed full-on break; a blogging-free holiday! Which I am afraid means two weeks with no blog posts.

Taking the time to recharge my batteries, spend some quality time with my husband and dream up some awesome new content is going to be good for me, and for this blog!

You can expect an exciting, new blog post back here on Sunday 17 September. In the meantime, you can keep up with our adventures on Instagram.

I am wishing you an amazing few weeks and please don’t forget about this little slice of the internet in the meantime!

Claire x

Photography by Marlene Lee

 

 

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If you are thinking of renovating your home with your partner or are even half way through no doubt you will have already encountered a number of renovation and romance frustrations! I know they say moving house is stressful, but what they don’t say is when you have unpacked the boxes and got your feet under the table the real trouble starts!

Arguing over who should have done what, who gets to pick the colours or furniture and the late night decisions about the most menial things you probably didn’t even know existed is the rather less talked about side of doing a house up.

The truth is, it is often hard work with plenty of big money decisions needed for a home you will have to live with for a while at least. If you are working full time and trying to do the property on the side you will have extra pressures too, and don’t even get me started if you are living in it at the same time. I am sure brick dust and half-done jobs have ended many a relationship!

But as a couple who have two buy-to-sell renovations under our belts and one dream home renovation 85% complete (and we are still happily together), I think we can speak from experience.

To mark our one year wedding anniversary this weekend, I thought it would be fun for Will and I to dish the dirt on our renovation and romance situation with a fun Q&A, and a some pieces of our best advice for couples undergoing a renovation too.

Reading Will’s answers really made me laugh and realise just how like-minded we are!

What is the best thing about renovating with Will/Claire?

Claire: Will has got so many qualities that has made him so great to renovate with. The first one is he is brilliant at sourcing items. I will come up with a look or an item that is quite often not suitable or way out of our budget. Will then spends hours trawling the internet to find it or something similar that we can have. An example of this is our bathroom floor – I wanted a wooden floor but it wasn’t practical so Will found wood effect porcelain tiles which look beautiful and are very practical. [See our bathroom tour here].

Will: Claire has a great eye for design and is very creative; she brings really contemporary ideas to life in our period Edwardian home.  She manages to apply her ideas in a way that really compliments my tastes too.  I’m a huge fan of fancy but small hotels – Claire has created that boutique hotel look in our very own home, a brilliant environment to unwind in after a hectic day at work.

What is the most frustrating or challenging thing about renovating with Will/Claire?

Claire: Will is a brilliant decision maker – he will quickly make a decision and never think about it again. This is the opposite to me! I think about things over and over and consider all possibilities, often changing my mind along the way. In fact, I bet this is the answer Will will give! But whilst this can be good, it can also be really frustrating because if I really want him to reconsider something, he is a closed book!

Will: Claire can spend weeks choosing a colour for a wall; we have enough tester pots to have a good go at the fourth rail bridge, plus who knew there could be so many greys.

How do you think you compliment one another when renovating?

Claire: I think we make a great team! I spend a lot of time considering the overall look and Will makes it happen. He has patience to find the things we need to get the look we want within budget and also to pull the details together such as writing detailed notes for tradespeople. He also keeps me to budget – we would have gone bankrupt long ago if it wasn’t for him reeling me in and on the flip side of that I push him to consider things he wouldn’t have on his own.

Will: Claire has the vision, the style and the expensive taste!  I then spend hours on the internet finding the look without the crazy price tag and I relish trying to bring Claire’s vision into our home on budget.  Our kitchen island pendents were meant to be over £300 each; I found very similar ones, albeit not the on trend brand for a fraction of the cost. 

What is the funniest renovation moment that you’ve had?

Claire: Only a couple of months I was at home meeting with our garden landscapers and Will was at work and I lost our cat (she is a house cat after an accident so doesn’t go outside). Incidentally I randomly found one of our floorboards up and I didn’t know how it had happened. I called Will at work panicked that the cat had escaped whilst I was in the garden discussing the plans. Will was adamant she must have squeezed under the floorboard. After a stressful 45 minutes I pulled up some other floorboards in a different room and the cat came out, absolutely filthy and covered in cobwebs. We realised that the electrician had cut a floorboard and not nailed it back down. The cat must have stood on one end, flipped it up and fallen in! I think she had a great time under there as for days after she kept going back to the same spot!

Will: We had only been living in the house for a few weeks and we were watching television in the living room one evening.  The house was not nice when we moved in, but when a tiny mouse ran across the carpet and then disappeared under the door to the hall we knew we’d got some serious work to do.  A few weeks later we opened a kitchen cupboard to discover a fury rodent had eaten our Easter stash of chocolate – empty wrappers and nibbled foil the only evidence left at the crime scene.  It was time to start the renovation!

Has Claire/Will insisted upon something that you weren’t sure about?

Claire: Will loves to do funny things with LED lighting strips! He insisted upon putting LED lighting strips under the shelves in the kitchen and in the in-shower shelf. I am still not 100% convinced with it but all our male friends love it so it must be a guy thing!

Will: I was very sceptical about the blue velvet sofa; but to be fair to Claire it really works in the living room. 

What has Will/Claire got really wrong?

Claire: Haha! We are just in the middle of doing the front sitting room and we are re-installing a fireplace. I really wanted it to be a working fire but lets just say that won’t be happening now!

Will: Its safe to say I can’t think of any particular howlers on either of our parts – maybe Claire disagrees!

What has been Will/Claire’s best idea?

Claire: Will had a clear idea how the kitchen extension should look and be. He spent a lot of time making the architects redraw it to his requirements and the end was result was brilliant. [See our kitchen tour here].

Will: Claire’s best idea was to buy the house full stop – it was in an area that wasn’t on my radar so I would never have found it; it was a very sad house which Claire saw the potential in and now we both love it.  I always used to like new builds too; now I’ve really fallen in love with period properties with their high ceilings, big rooms and big gardens; although they need a lot of love and money throwing at them every single year!  Our window fitter recently summed it up nicely; when you buy a period property, you’re really just borrowing it for a few years and then passing it on to another family.  It fascinates me what life would have been like in our house back in 1912 – with gas lighting and no broadband!

What has created the most debate?

Claire: There has been a lot of debate over almost everything 🙂 But when we were renovating the second floor into a master suite we had a space that was being divided up in to a dressing room and a bathroom. I was adamant the dressing room should be bigger, whilst Will wanted the bathroom bigger. Will’s brother is our builder and was naturally on Will’s side. I remember standing up there, when it was a building site lit by torches after a long day at work needing to make the decision then and there, stamping my foot in frustration. Perhaps not my finest moment! In the end, we compromised …. but I would still like the dressing room to be bigger!

Will: We spent a long time debating where the stud wall would go between the bathroom and dressing room.  I wanted a bigger bathroom at the expense of the dressing room – Claire the contrary.  After drawing many lines on the floor we eventually reached an agreement that suited both boy and girl!

What does Will/Claire think was their idea, but really it was yours?

Claire: I suggested that we integrate speakers in to the kitchen extension that hooked up to our Sonos system. Will thinks it was his idea. It wasn’t!

Will: Claire would claim the ceiling feature above the kitchen island was her idea but I’d have to disagree – there’s probably quite a few other examples where Claire claims I try and take the credit; my memory isn’t great so I forget who actually comes up with the idea so just take the credit myself!

What have you compromised on?

Claire: There has been so much compromise on everything and I think that is how we have made it work. For example in the kitchen I really wanted a Belfast sink but Will was adamant we didn’t have one. I also wanted a painted kitchen and he wanted a gloss kitchen. In the end he got his sink and I got the painted kitchen. I got a little bonus as managed to persuade him that we have a Belfast sink in the utility room.

Will: I love my lighting and so I put in strip LED lights on the underside of the floating kitchen shelving.  Claire hated this look and insisted they were disconnected – we left the bottom shelves connected but the top shelves sit on the wall all sad and dark today. 

What are your tips for other couples undergoing a renovation?

Claire: I have loads!

Play on each others strengths and let the other person do what they are good at.

Compromise, compromise, compromise.

Communicate – where things have fallen down with us is when we ‘thought’ we’d said something and we hadn’t or hadn’t been clear enough.

Use pictures – If I have tried to explain something and Will has not been able to envision it, a picture has always helped. Recently I wanted to paint a room in Downpipe. Will was dead-set against it until I showed him my inspiration.

Allocate jobs and tasks and update each other on where you are with them.

And finally, be kind to one another.

Will: Live in the house for a little while first and get to know your home and how you will use it; only then start spending cash on architects and builders to create your perfect living space.  And finally, accept you will have disagreements along the way as we all have different tastes, but try and find a compromise which you can both live with. 


If you enjoyed this post, I have a favour to ask of you…

I have been nominated for the prestigious Amara Blog Awards 2017 in the Best Interior Lifestyle category. I need your vote to help me secure a place in the finals. It only takes a moment and I would be eternally grateful. Vote here!

(Voting is open until 15 September 2017)


Photo by Xander & Thea

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3 ways to elevate your everyday gin and tonicHappy Thursday everyone! I hope you have all had a good week and are looking forward to the long weekend which is almost upon us.

To celebrate I thought I would share some of my favourite ways to elevate the everyday gin and tonic – and how do you do that I hear you ask? Garnish!

If you’ve been reading this blog or following my Instagram for any time at all you’ll know I am partial to a gin every now and again (you can read this interview here, and this and this cocktail recipe) and I love how they have grown and developed over the last few years. Not only are there more gins than ever before but what you can put with them has become so creative.

3 ways to elevate your everyday gin and tonic


3 easy garnishes that will elevate your gin and tonic


Rosemary and grapefruit

3 ways to elevate your everyday gin and tonic - grapefruit and rosemary

3 ways to elevate your everyday gin and tonic - grapefruit and rosemary

3 ways to elevate your everyday gin and tonic - grapefruit and rosemary

This is my favourite! It is simple, delicious and adds a perfect amount of flavour to the gin and tonic.

Simply add a half moon slice of grapefruit to your gin and tonic, a sprig of rosemary and heaps of ice.

I like to serve this one in a gin gobblet (I learnt this in Barcelona years ago) as it helps you get whiff of the lovely aromas from the G&T, fruit and herb.

These garnishes go really well with Beefeater 24 gin, Gin Mare or Langleys Gin.

3 ways to elevate your everyday gin and tonic - grapefruit and rosemary


Blackberry and thyme

3 ways to elevate your everyday gin and tonic - blackberry and thyme

3 ways to elevate your everyday gin and tonic - blackberry and thyme

3 ways to elevate your everyday gin and tonic - blackberry and thyme

This is such a refreshing twist on the classic gin and tonic and absolutely perfect for approaching autumn. You get brownie points if you can pick the blackberries yourself!

I like to add 5 or 6 blackberries in to the bottom of a high ball glass, fill with ice then add gin then tonic. Push in a sprig of thyme and one more blackberry on top for effect.

As you sip away more of the blackberry flavour and colour will come out and when you get to the bottom your blackberries will be deliciously boozy! I would say this definitely counts towards one of your 5 a day, so win win!

These garnishes will go really well with The Botanist Gin.

3 ways to elevate your everyday gin and tonic - blackberry and thyme


Lemon peel and pink peppercorns

3 ways to elevate your everyday gin and tonic - lemon peel and pink pepper pod

3 ways to elevate your everyday gin and tonic - lemon peel and pink pepper pod

I have had a big thing about pink peppercorns ever since I had them crushed over avocado on toast a few years ago (which I insist you try immediately – HEAVEN!). Incidentally, after I had eaten them I made the connection to one of my all time favourite scents

Anyway, you are here for the gin…so…I started to try out what else I could incorporate my pink peppercorns into and lo and behold they go down a treat in a gin and tonic.

Make your gin and tonic as you would usually, remembering plenty of ice and then add in a thumb sized slither of lemon peel. If you give it a bit of a twist before it goes in it releases its flavours. Add in a few peppercorns – you can crush them if you like. I would recommend not using a straw for this one as you don’t want a high-speed peppercorn hitting the back of your throat!


3 ways to elevate your everyday gin and tonic

On a side note, I am a bit of a tonic snob and prefer Fever Tree to anything else. It really does make a difference. Oh, and Aldi sell one that is verrrrrryyyy similar to it 😉


So there you have it. Will you be trying out these tips to elevate your gin and tonic?

Do you have any other ‘flavours’ that you would recommend?


If you enjoyed this post, I have a favour to ask of you…

I have been nominated for the prestigious Amara Blog Awards 2017 in the Best Interior Lifestyle category. I need your vote to help me secure a place in the finals. It only takes a moment and I would be eternally grateful. Vote here!

(Voting is open until 15 September 2017)

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My top 5 tips for successful goal settingI have been thinking about this post for a while and I planned to keep it in my mind until the New Year when most people are setting themselves goals aka New Year resolutions. But the more I thought about it the more I realised now is the right time – not only because I know many people see September as a second New Year (thank you to Monica from The Elgin Avenue for verbalising that!) but also because I believe that starting now is always the first step to achieving your goals – not putting it off until a later date.

“Every positive change in your life begins with a clear, unequivocal decision that you are going to do something or stop something” (anon)

Your goals don’t always have to be a big life goal either. In February, I made the decision that I would introduce regular exercise into my lifestyle. I made the commitment to exercise once a week and whilst I know for many this is a ridiculously small amount of exercise and it isn’t a huge change but it was more than I had ever done consistently I can happily say that I have stuck to the goal that I set myself (a whole six months so far!) – and I feel pretty darn pleased about it too!

My top 5 tips for successful goal setting

The thoughts, actions and strategy I took in my goal setting to ensure I achieved that relatively small goal is however transferable to any type of goal; be it a huge life goal or just a small habit that you want to change.


My top 5 tips for successful goal setting


Break it down

If you have a goal in mind it is useful to start by breaking it down in to manageable parts. Coming back to my exercise goal – really the bigger goal for me is to get fitter and make exercise part of my life. That sounded a bit hard as a whole and pretty easy to get side-tracked from.

So I broke the goal down – what would it look if I took the first step towards getting more fit? What was the easiest thing I could do to integrate exercise in to my life?

This can work whatever your goal – if you want to eat healthier what are the smaller steps that would lead to that bigger change. Can you change just one thing to begin with that would move you towards your goal?

If you want to move house, change career, stop smoking, get a promotion, what ever it is you want to achieve, ask yourself; what is the first thing you would need to do make that happen? And then what is the second and so on.

My top 5 tips for successful goal setting

Be realistic

Once you have broken your goal down to more manageable parts, think about the first step. Is it realistic? Can you actually start to do it now? What can you realistically start to do and easily stick to?

If it involves a time commitment and you are already living a busy life, look at your schedule and see where you can allow some time regularly to work towards your goal. Then make your goal realistic within your time constraints.

If it involves changing a habit that you already have, don’t try and change it overnight. For example, if you want to eat healthier switching to an entirely plant-based diet overnight might last for a week or two but unlikely any longer. Decide what is realistic to you – decide on some smaller more realistic changes and build from there once that is your new normal.

Start now, not tomorrow

The problem that I have when I hear people say they will start working towards their goal at some future dat is that they are putting it off. This probably means they are making too a challenging goal that will be stuck to for only a short period of time.

I’ve heard the words ‘I’ll start my diet on Monday’ too many times!

“A year from now, you’ll wish you had started today” Karen Lamb

Don’t put it off or hang around – get going now as the sooner you start, the closer you will be to reaching your goal.

My top 5 tips for successful goal setting

Make it accountable

It is always good to make yourself and your goal accountable. The type of person you are will drive how you can make yourself accountable. For some people simply writing it down and setting a deadline (be it a self imposed deadline or one that is externally set – for example a wedding date etc) will do the trick. Others may need external accountability such as publicly declaring the goal so it has be done or getting a buddy on board.

Have a think about what has helped you stick to goals in the past and make your new goal accountable in the same way.

Be kind to yourself

And finally, once you get started remember to be kind to yourself. It is likely you will slip somewhere along the line. Don’t let that put you off or derail you completely. Brush yourself down and get straight back to it. If t was going to be plain sailing the whole way it wouldn’t be a goal.

My top 5 tips for successful goal setting


I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Are you good at goal setting?

Do you use any of my goal setting tips already or do you know of other effective goal setting ideas?


If you enjoyed this post, I have a favour to ask of you…

I have been nominated for the prestigious Amara Blog Awards 2017 in the Best Interior Lifestyle category. I need your vote to help me secure a place in the finals. It only takes a moment and I would be eternally grateful. Vote here!

(Voting is open until 15 September 2017)

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