Archives for category: interiors

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I was recently involved in arranging a farewell party for our pastor who was retiring. With approximately 100 guests, a school hall to decorate and a shoe string budget, I had to be very creative and innovative. But challenges like this are fun and it is amazing what can be achieved.

It is always easier to create an atmosphere if you hang it on a theme so I decided to choose red as it is a warm cheerful colour on a cold day. Mike likes France and speaks excellent  French so it was to be a Red French Café. The fact that I could borrow loads of red checked table cloths sealed it!

We decorated the hall with bunting and red balloons. The décor on the table was glass bottles from my collection with sticks, red tulips, fairy lights and hundreds of tea lights. Message tags were hung from the sticks so friends could write a message or a memory for Mike and Liz. We had red napkins and the cutlery was placed in silver tins. French café music played in the background and everyone was asked to wear a touch of red in their clothing whether it was a tie, a rose, shoes, handbag, hat or even a waistcoat.

As Mike has travelled far and wide during his time in ministry, we decided to give him a hamper of ‘Food from Around the World’. Everyone chose one of the 20 countries from Argentina to Zimbabwe and brought an item for the hamper.

Laughter, memories and a few tears were shed as we celebrated Mike’s retirement and sent him and Liz on their way. What an inspiring couple they are and it is a privilege to have them as part of our lives.

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Which would YOU choose?
Poring over images and descriptions of so many properties set me daydreaming about perfect holiday locations. There are stately homes which would be ideal for a family event, there is Fox Hall with bright orange walls and gilt galore and there is Astley Castle, an award-winning building for combining an ancient castle with modern architecture. There is even a train station, a grammar school, a hospital, a banqueting hall and a lock cottage on a canal.

One that captures my imagination is ‘The Bath House’. Built in the 1700s, it has an upper room dripping with shells which holds the bedroom and a tiny kitchen whilst downstairs is a beautiful icy pool with rough stone walls almost like a cave. If I holidayed there, I would dive in each morning to enjoy the benefits of a deeply refreshing cold bath which are limitless according to the medical opinions of the 18th century. The Handbook calls it, “The poshest bedsit in Warwickshire” and I couldn’t agree more.

In the previous post I explained step-by-step how to create a limewashed effect on a piece of furniture. I thought you may like to see a before and after photo of the bedstead. Nick’s room has been transformed and appears much lighter and airier now.

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Before limewash effect

After limewash effect

After limewash effect



LW - introI haven’t been able to part with my childhood bedsteads but the time had come to finally stop dreaming about restoring them and do it. I wanted a limewash effect and the first stage was to remove all the old varnish. I spoke to my local stripper and he was horrified at the varnish as it had to be stripped by hand rather than by being dipped into chemicals so I daren’t tell him that it was me that applied it 20 years ago! It was a laborious job and costly but finally I was back to bare wood and delighted to discover the bedsteads were oak which is the best wood for limewashing as it has an open grain.

Step 1: I gave the boards a light wipe with a damp cloth to remove the dust from the stripping.

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Step 1: Oak bedstead with varnish removed and returned to it ‘raw’ state

Step 2: This was a scary stage because I was working on raw wood and there was no going back if I hated it or messed up. With a diluted mixture of Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint (Old White) and water I applied the paint with a brush (an ordinary paint brush) ensuring the strokes were in all directions. I then rubbed the paint in circular movements to remove the strokes using a rag. Old bed sheets work well as rags. Using a dampened second rag, I removed any excess paint. You need to be confident in your movements and ensure you can’t see any paint strokes and also ensure that you rub the paint into the grain to get the effect of liming. Work fairly quickly so that the paint doesn’t dry. Wipe off the excess paint several times until you have achieved the look you are after. Work in small sections at a time. Allow the wood to dry overnight before sanding.

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Step 2: Apply paint with strokes going in all directions

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Step 2: Rub paint with a rag, removing all paint strokes

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Step 2: Remove excess paint with a rag

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Step 2: Central panel completed

Step 3: Using a fine sandpaper, I lightly sanded the whole surface. This removes extra paint and also softens the appearance.

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Step 3: Wood is lightly sanded after first layer of limewashing

Step 4: Paint again. Yes – go through Step 2 doing the whole surface again to add depth and to ensure you are getting the paint into the grain of the wood. Make sure you work carefully and wipe any blobs of paint before they dry as a drip running down a leg will not enhance the limewash effect. It is a good idea to check about an hour after you have finished in case any paint ran once you were finished. Allow the wood to dry overnight.

Step 5: Sand again – sore fingers and tired wrists but you are getting there.

Step 6: With a tiny amount of wax ( it is far easier to add more wax than remove it) on a clean rag start rubbing over the surface of the wood. Ensure you rub the wax into the paint completely and remove the excess wax before allow it to sit overnight. It will start to have a silky smooth surface and will feel lovely under your fingertips. I used ‘Annie Sloan Soft Wax (Clear)’

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Step 6: Waxed bedstead

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Step 6: Detail of waxed bedstead

Step 7: Give the wood another quick light sanding.

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Materials used

Step 8: Wipe the wood with a cloth impregnated with wax to buff it up and to give it the perfect finish.

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Detail of comparison of before and after limewashing

Hooray – all done. My bedsteads lived in the studio for about 2 months as I did a little at a time but I’m delighted with the results. I just daren’t tell Martin the stripper that there is a matching pair waiting to be stripped. A job for another day!

Start on an unimportant section.
A greyer appearance is part of limewashing.
Don’t rush it but rather do a bit everyday.
Have a picture of limewashing to keep referring back to.
Ensure you rub away the paint strokes properly. I didn’t the first time (see photos below) and this meant I had to sand very hard to rescue the wood.
These are two useful website links about limewashing: – Explains the ‘dangers’ of wax – Tips from Annie Sloan about limewashing. She has created a stronger effect than I wanted.

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What can go wrong if you don’t rub away the brushstrokes

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Detail of what can go wrong!

birthday invite

birthday9 birthday6 birthday10 birthday11 birthday7 birthday8 When it comes to occasions, some people focus on the food, others the music or the outfit – me – it’s the decor and the invitation. My birthday was a great excuse to indulge in this hobby. The invitation was a quirky take on a train ticket with the date being hole punched. I went for a fresh natural slightly coastal look –white translucent bunting, black and white photos, blue striped runner, quirky blue plates and beautiful pebbles. I invited about 18 local village friends for champagne, croissants and chocolate cake and there was a great atmosphere with lots of laughter, chatter and sparkle. On Saturday night I celebrated with a family dinner party (and the same decor). The table was set with a herb plant and a ‘memory’ pebble for each guest to take home. Everyone had received a tag to fill in about ‘What’s fab about 40’ and ‘What is not so hot about 40’. The answers varied from the profound to the hilarious. Profound included “You are young enough to still enjoy some of the benefits of youth and old enough not to jump straight into the pitfalls!” And what is not hot about 40? “The grey and the sag!” Someone wrote the same answer to both questions – “You still have a lot to learn”. My husband wrote that he has finally reached the age he was born for!
Photos: Emily Macaulay, Tessa Casebirthday5

This was a challenging topic because many things make me happy but I didn’t want to create an incoherent collage and part of this task was to display a gallery of nine images. My solution was to photograph items on my treasure shelf. Each item tells a story, reminds me of a memory or is a cool colour and all make me happy!

1 – I love nostalgic items like this pond yacht that I bought in Dartmouth and it also reminds me of our glorious family holiday in August. The kitsch postcard makes me smile.
2 – Books on countryside lore are close to my heart.
3 – Ladybird books remind me of childhood and these items showing wear and tear create beautiful textures and tell a story of being loved.
4 – My granny loved this vase all her life and I couldn’t bear for it to be consigned to a junk shop when she died so I rescued it. In fact it inspired an artwork called ‘Memories’. (Have a look at this link.)
5 – Metal farmyard chickens from an era when toys weren’t plastic and in the background a collage by my son.
6 – Découpage South African style – the classic pilchard fish packaging, the colours, the recycling of found objects all remind me of growing up in South Africa.
7 – A beaded ladybird from South Africa which is so jaunty and reminds me of our special holiday there in 2010.
8 – All girls need red shoes and these belonged to my youngest.
9 – My babies in a shabby chic frame.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Each week WordPress provides a new photographic theme for creative inspiration. We take photographs based on our interpretation of the theme, and post them on our blogs anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme is announced.

Street furniture and shop windows interest me and I loved all the signage on the brick wall especially the reminder to be quiet! It was very quiet when I took the photo of Foss Street except for the joyous choruses from the blue chapel which sounded so welcoming and uplifting. The shop window of Signature may well be the inspiration for my son’s new bedroom décor as nautical flags and a lime green feature wall are acceptable to both of us.

Our family holiday to Dartmouth to celebrate my parents’ Ruby Anniversary was an outstanding success and we left with happy memories.

I used to have blue glass bottles in a window that needed to be screened from the road. That was until a game of corridor tennis brought the bottles to an early demise. So when I saw an antique abacus for half price at The India Shop that was closing down, I bought it immediately. I had admired this abacus for many years but somehow couldn’t justify buying it. Now I am delighted to own this slightly wonky wooden 100 year-old abacus from India. Not only does it act as a bead curtain but the children love counting the beads and playing school with it.

A fantastic gift of two original posters from my mom and they will have pride of place in my studio. They are about 22cm square and form a delightful pair. My mom received them from her friend Lois who grew up with her grandparents in Kissimmee which was the ranch capital of Florida yes cowboys down the one Main Street! It is pronounced Ku SIM ee rather than the tourist modern KISS im me and Kissimmee was the centre for citrus groves and fruit such as kumquats, loquats, guavas, tangerines, grapefruit and oranges. Lois’ grandfather was a great eccentric, country lawyer, farmer, rancher and always went to fire sales and auctions. When a big citrus packing warehouse burned down, he bought the posters and these citrus prints were the paper on which Lois drew as a child.

…unless you want to incur the wrath of the artist. But I have just had a number of items returned from the framers and it is so exciting to see them looking complete. AC Picture Framing Service set up at a street market in Thame with all their samples and you choose your mountboard and type of frame. They complete the work at the warehouse to return the items the following week. It is a great system as they don’t have the overheads of a high street shop window and we get good prices.

I love nosing around our local village church which is small with special features such as the original encausting tiles and the remains of a wall painting in which an angel and some lettering can be discerned. But my favourite feature is that if you stand on a pew and climb onto the window ledge of the westernmost window (best not done on Sunday mornings) you have a delightful surprise. As the light shimmers through the old, clear glass an engraved inscription can be seen: ‘C Parker Glazed this church Mar 2 1785 & glad of the job.’

A slightly different creative angle – planning a family dinner party to celebrate my mom’s sixtieth birthday. I had a ball with tête-à-tête daffodils, ticking table runners and Lin’s life in black and white photos. Each guest was given a mini canvas (7cm square) in advance to decorate as a gift for Lin. Mine features fragments of plates. I can’t stop myself picking up little fragments on my walks as they fascinate me – what is their history, why did they break and who handled them? They are so beautiful with a hint of their design and some day I hope to use my many pieces.

For my last birthday, my sister gave me an enormous 1930s typewriter apologising if it was a ‘white elephant’. It wasn’t and was given a home on our hallway table – a Singer table which I had revamped with an oak top and a lick of paint. We have gone back to old technology and type messages or whimsical thoughts on our typewriter. To set it all off, I knew that I now had the perfect reason to buy the giclée ‘Liquorice Buttons’ by our local artist Kate Kessling where hidden amongst the buttons is a surprise that makes me smile each morning. Want to know more about Kate? Visit