As I was finishing my winter flower post and looking at the hellebores that I had sketched with my camera, I had an urge to paint these beautiful flowers. I had been wanting to paint for a while and it gave me just the inspiration I needed. So this weekend I dusted off my acrylic paints, brushes, palette knife and palette and spent a few hours playing with paint. I had a few plain canvases around the house that I had previously painted with household emulsion in various shades of greys and greens, that I knew would work with my room decor, and used them as my base. I painted quickly and instinctively, rather than sketching anything on the canvas with pencil first, as I wanted to keep it free and use loose brush marks to make the shapes of the flowers.
As a full time textile designer in a busy design studio, I was always painting and drawing flowers in different styles and using different mediums such as ink, watercolour, acrylic, stitching and embroidery. That was a few years ago now but it felt good to get the paints out once again. The great thing with acrylic on canvas is that you can add to it later or paint over it and start again if you like, it just adds to the texture of the canvas.
I couldn’t resist photographing some of the flowers on the palette where I mixed the colours and on my desk – the splats, drips and marks making interesting combinations of colour and texture.
As well as the canvas, I painted on handmade paper and I also stretched fresh cartridge paper on a board and used water for a floaty effect.
As the natural base colours reflected my home I knew they would sit happily in my room, with the hellebores positioned next to them picking up the colour palette.
I now have so many ideas having painted this weekend I think I’ll need to stock up next time I’m at the art shop!
This is a simple idea I had that is easy to do and gave a result that I found pleasing – a candle made with common tea lights and a vintage tart tin.
On my monthly car boot sale trips I had been buying various old baking trays, pots and jars for use as props in my Sugar/Spice shoot with Uli Schade. After the shoot I left them out on display in my studio to see if they inspired any ideas for what to do with them, rather than hide them away in one of my cupboards.
I love the rich patina of the old, weathered cooking equipment and and the implied history this gives them. How old are they and how many times have they been used? Who were the cooks that used them? What did they bake and who was it for? These kind of questions always get my mind whirring imagining the answers to the life they had led.
As I was looking in one of my kitchen cupboards one day I saw a bag of Ikea tea light candles and that sparked the idea to turn these vintage tins into candles.
I took three of the Ikea tea lights and pushed the solid wax blocks out of their thin metal casings and then pulled out the wicks by their metal disks. I placed the wax cylinders next to each other in one of the vintage tart tins, then placed it on the smallest of my gas cooker rings and melted them on a very low heat. When they had fully melted I turned off the flame, placed the wicks with the metal discs at the bottom into the desired position, leaving equal space between them, and then left it to cool. The wax hardened and I was left with a new simple candle.
This idea could be extended to a whole tray of muffin tins with one melted tea light per compartment to make a great centrepiece to a table. The base may need felt, cork or wood under it to protect the surface it sits on and, as with all flames, never leave them unattended.
When the candles have been used up, the tin can be refilled in the same way to make another candle to enjoy.
Simple little lights to warm up these cool, dark winter evenings.
As Christmas is almost upon us I wanted to share the last few photographs of my collaboration with photographer Uli Schade. This is another simple idea to update plain glass baubles.
We finely shredded pages from an old book using a guillotine to cut between the lines of printed text, creating slivers of paper that we simply coiled into the baubles after removing the top. You could use scissors or a craft knife with a metal ruler on a cutting board to cut strips too and tweezers can help position them within the bauble. If you don’t have an old book then you could photocopy or print out your favourite carol or a passage from a Christmas-themed story book instead.
I also collected a few natural objects from the woodland floor on a walk with my family: pine cones, acorns and dried leaves that I sprayed a matt off white colour as additional festive decorations.
Wrapping gifts in a creative way makes a gift feel extra special for the lucky recipient and will look wonderful on display in your home until to is time to give the gift. Beautiful old metal cake tins like this one make wonderful, unique boxes for gifts with their tarnished silver patina. Keep an eye out for them at flea markets and car boot sales.
First I wrapped around the box with cotton ribbon. I then wrapped a twig in strips of Liberty fabric, attached with double sided tape. Beads were glued in place and stitched on like berries. Japanese paper was cut into leaf shapes and folded to imitate the texture of real leaves and a sprayed leaf was added too.
And that just about wraps up my creative Christmas collaboration with Uli Schade. We hope you like the ideas and the photographs and have fun making this holiday season.
Why not turn old light bulbs into baubles? I bought these vintage light bulbs a while ago at a car boot sale. I had no particular use in mind, they just looked rather beautiful to me. Then whilst working on the floral bauble decorations, it occurred to me that they were similar – so why not try the bulbs as baubles? It’s a little bit bonkers but I like it. I simply used thin wire, wrapped and tied around the base, to create a loop to hang them from. The metal ring is a wreath frame used in floral displays, usually packed with moss or oasis; I love the simple bare bones of the exposed wire though.
Some of the wire is wound round with a strip of Liberty print fabric (a similar idea to the covered coat hanger project in The Homemade Home), the rest left bare. For a little extra I added old chandelier droplets too. You can often pick these up loose at flea markets and boot sales. I kept the colours muted and used a scrap of fabric I already had and the bulbs hang in the centre as an alternative Christmas decoration.
My friend Uli Schade, who took all of these photos, made the lebkuchen below to an old family recipe that she learned as a child. They’re a traditional German Christmas treat, a bit like gingerbread and make great edible decorations for your tree if they’re made with the recipe that bakes them hard rather than soft. You can buy similar baked decorations all over Northern Europe and they’re often decorated with brightly coloured icing (think of the gingerbread house in Hansel and Gretel) though here Uli used edible gold leaf as a stylish alternative.
The lebkuchen are hung with strips of paper cut from old, unwanted books and hang on a ring made from some evergreen Jasmine that I cut from my front garden wall.
Uli bought this sweet little hand-carved wooden bird from a Christmas fair in Germany. It’s attached to a wooden clothes peg and the bird nods up and down when you squeeze the peg – utterly charming.
A few more decoration ideas to add a quirky, homemade flavour this Christmas.
I was flicking through some old photos and found these images of two of the Christmas wreathes that I made last year and donated to sell at my children’s schools Christmas fair. I originally posted them on my Homemade Home Facebook page last year but as it’s that time of year again, and following the wonderful response to my simple clay decorations project, I thought I would share them here.
I bought the plain, woven wooden wreathes and then embellished them by hand with felt leaves, beads, ribbon, buttons and a little Robin in some cases. I made a dozen or so and each one was unique.
I used real leaves that had fallen in my local park as templates, pinning them to the felt fabric and simply cutting round them. All of the felt, buttons, beads and ribbon came from my stash of haberdashery goodies.
I used strong glue to fix the leaves on, let the glue dry and then sewed the red beads, to look like winter berries, and also old buttons on to the leaves to add visual interest. The matching ribbon finishes things off.
If you try this idea and use felt or fabric them make sure your front door is well sheltered from bad weather or the rain may be a problem.
My children loved the little birds. They were inspired by the little Robin who visits our back garden regularly, sitting on the fence and watching us in our kitchen.
What Christmas decorations are you making this year?
I first worked with Uli Schade on a story for Elle Decoration magazine and we just clicked straight away and went on to shoot some of my favourite photo stories. We got together again recently to shoot this little homemade edible gifts story. Food is a little bit of a departure for me but combining it with decoration as gifts and ideas for your table was fun, especially with Christmas not too far away.
When my graphic designer husband saw the photos he thought it was perfect to try something different to make the most of their high quality. He had been wanting to try out issuu.com for a while and suggested we try them as a little digital magazine booklet rather than a normal blog post. So we gave it a go, jotted down the recipes and some words and let him design it.
I’m very excited today to bring you my first book giveaway courtesy of CICO Books! This is the new book by Karen Gilbert and is called A Green Guide to Natural Beauty. It contains 35 step-by-step projects for homemade beauty and if you love making then this is a great book to add to your collection.
I had the pleasure of styling all of the images in this book earlier this year to help create the look for it, working with the wonderful photographer Stuart West in his studio. It was a really fun and informative few days and with Karen making the projects in front of us, it was like receiving our own private tutorials.
There are so many projects in the book that I would definitely make myself, even as a total beauty product-making novice. Many require no heat, but for the ones that do you simply follow the steps like a recipe and it is just like cooking, but you end up with beauty products at a fraction of the price of the high street. As Karen says: “making your own beauty products is so simple once you know how – it really is no different to cooking. In most cases it’s actually easier – if you can make a sauce, you can make a lotion”
Karen is a natural skincare and fragrance expert and runs artisan perfumery and natural beauty workshops. She originally trained as a make-up artist and cosmetic scientist at The London College of Fashion and went on to work as a fragrance evaluator for one of the world’s largest perfume manufacturers. After many years she decided to pursue her lifelong passion for natural health and beauty by training in aromatherapy and joining the product development team at Neal’s Yard Remedies, helping to create many of their award-winning products. A Green Guide to Natural Beauty was published in August and is her first book. If you have a moment pop by Karen’s website.
We also spent a few days in different beautiful locations photographing the finished projects in charming surroundings and it was great to style the book from cover to cover. Stuart is a fantastic food photographer and regularly works for clients including Waitrose, John Lewis, Costa Coffee, Delicious Magazine and many more.
All the photos above are shown courtesy of CICO Books – check out all of their craft books on their website. The photos below are mine that I took for this post.
The book is fab with 35 recipe projects, 144 pages and 200 colour photos. It includes a chapter on getting started and then projects falling into three categories: ‘for the face’, ‘for the body’ and ‘bath and shower’. Karen shows you how to make your own beauty products in your kitchen at home, using easy-to-obtain, natural ingredients and easy-to-follow methods. For the face, there are moisturisers, face masks and cleansers; for the body there are scrubs and shower gels, soaps and body lotions. And when you need some extra-special pampering, there are recipes for lip balms, massage bars, bath oils and eye gels.
You can try your hand at making a neroli hydrating spritz or a jojoba and aloe vera moisturiser, mango and lime body butter or lemon and tea tree foot balm, bergamot and grapefruit wake-up wash or cocoa butter lip balm – the hardest part is choosing which project to try first! Each recipe has clear step-by-step photographs to guide you, and there are numerous variations.
I was naturally drawn to the bath chapter of the book, the chocolate bath melts smelled divine whilst we were making them and would be wonderful gifts to give away too, as would many of the other projects in this chapter. This book would make a great gift, perhaps accompanied with some beautiful empty bottles and raw ingredients for the recipient to start making their own beauty products straight away. Or just keep it all for yourself and make lots of things to give away as gifts.
And here is the good news, CICO Books have let me have one copy worth £14.99/$19.95 to give away to one of you and it’s open to everyone, worldwide!
All you need to do is leave a comment on this post and simply tell me – what do you like making?
The closing date for entries is midnight 1st December 2011 and I will enter everyone’s name in a draw and select a winner by random. The winner will be notified by email.
Great, hey? So you could be getting an extra Christmas present this year if you’re the lucky one!
If you can’t wait that long then the book is available to buy now on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk which also has a ‘look inside’.
Please comment now to enter. One entry per person. I won’t pass your email addresses to anybody else.
I thought I would post a little update to tell you about my new book today. It popped up on Amazon recently and my lovely friend Holly Becker mentioned it in a very sweet post about my work over on decor8.
It is a follow up to The Homemade Home and the working title is “The Homemade Home for Children: 50 thrifty and chic projects for creative parents“. It features in-depth handmade projects with full step-by-step, illustrated projects as well as quick ideas – all with beautiful colour photography.
If you liked my previous book and have young children, are planning a family, have nieces or nephews or even grandchildren then I hope you will like this one too. And although I’ve made the projects for adults to do for and with children, I’ve made them stylish rather than overtly childish so you can create things you can cherish forever and pass on to new generations.
There are plenty of projects that would look great in a house without children and many ideas can be translated or used as inspiration for more grown up versions.
I’m afraid I can’t show you anything from it yet apart from the draft cover, so I photographed it above, along with a few other things that were lying on my craft table.
But if you liked the child-orientated projects in The Homemade Home, such as the China Transfers, Cowboy-collage Chest of Drawers, Creepy Crawly Lamp, Stitched Portraits, Sock Toys and Ribboned Skirt then this book will appeal.
If you don’t have a copy of The Homemade Home then here is a flick-through video we made on my son’s little Flip video camera when the book came out (a year before I started this blog) to give you an idea of what my last book is like (select the 720pHD setting for better quality):
I had a meeting with my publisher Cico Books last week and saw the proper proofs for the first time and it is looking really lovely. I’ll try not to go on too much about it as I know it’s a while until it is released but after five months hard work it’s very exciting to see it all coming to fruition.
It will be published on 8th April next year retailing at £16.99/$24.95 but you can pre-order it on Amazon now (thrifty tip – it’s already less than retail!)
I don’t normally like to use the C word before December as it feels like I’m wishing the year away, but if you want to make things for Christmas, whether it’s decorations or gifts, then it’s a good idea to plan and start early.
By coincidence the lovely team at Brigitte, Germany’s biggest women’s magazine, asked if I would be one of their Christmas ‘Bloggerei’, their list of the most creative bloggers! It’s quite an honour as I still feel very new to the blog world. It seemed the perfect opportunity to have some fun with clay and make some tree decorations.
For anyone with the German version of my book LieblingsDeko you can read the Brigitte.de post here.
These stylish and simple Christmas decorations are easy to make, cost very little and will look great hanging against the dark green of your Christmas tree or on a branch sprayed white.
The decorations are made with air-drying clay and are a variation of a project in my book. If you would like to know how to make them see page 14 of The Homemade Home which has step-by-step instructions. As they are handmade each one is individual and unique and they can be personalized with festive messages and family names.
I found the little branch in a pile of cuttings on the floor of my local park whilst on a walk with my family. I chose one from the pile with an interesting shape and simply sprayed it white when I got home along with some dried Oak leaves we had also collected from the floor of the wood.
I used snowflake stamps to press into the clay when it was wet (I bought my stamps from Muji). I stamped words in black ink onto some when they had dried, others I left plain. Use thin scraps of fabric, ribbon or string in festive colours to make the loops to hang them on the tree. I used strips of Liberty print fabric, red and white baker’s twine and ribbon from VV Rouleaux.
A 500g block of air-drying clay like Das will make approximately 50 decorations (depending on size, mine are about 9cms x 3cms).
I made a whole batch that I’m donating to my children’s primary school to sell at the school’s Christmas fair.
I help with the gifts stall every year and last night some of the other mums from my son’s class came over to my house for a ‘making night’ to make things to sell on the stall – an evening of crafting and chatting over nibbles and a glass of wine. It’s a lot of fun, a great way to build friendships, get involved in the local community and raise money for the school.
This lampshade hangs in my bedroom and is a little idea to update a plain shade into something special. It is a simple, cylindrical white linen shade that I bought from John Lewis. I simply added a stripe of dove grey velvet ribbon, chosen to match the Fired Earth Graphite painted wall behind and help it look more considered in the overall room scheme. I then punched holes randomly around the bottom edge of the fabric shade then wired on a mixture of different types of clear, glass buttons and beads from VV Rouleaux – some tight to the fabric and some hanging slightly for added visual interest.
It only took an hour or two to make and didn’t cost much, but it makes the shade unique and adds subtle interest to the centre of the room. And the little glass details catch the light in a delicate, sparkly way in the morning when I open the curtains to a new day.
This ceiling shade hangs in my daughter’s bedroom and has been embellished and added to since she was born. It’s another shade from John Lewis that I bought years ago and is ceramic with pierced holes pierced that let light through when it is switched on. The linked ceramic discs, some with flowers on, were bought at craft fairs, a lovely glass bead and a stone with a naturally made hole found on holiday have also been added, along with an air-drying clay strip decoration that I made that hangs on white ribbon (it’s the same technique as the storage jar label project in The Homemade Home). I purposely added things of different lengths, sizes and textures in a non-uniform manner to make it more interesting and less symmetrical.
Adding little things like this is such a simple way to update a high street lampshade and help make it uniquely yours.
Following the lovely comments about our homemade holiday home I thought would post a few photos of some of the homemade artworks and objects that my family and I have made to display in the little house in Croatia.
I found this old piece of plywood on the shore, and after it dried a lick of white paint meant I could draw straight onto it. It’s drawn with a simple but sharp 4B pencil whilst sitting on the beach. It’s just a nieve little drawing in my wonky style of the view from the island across the sea to the mainland, with the jagged edge of the broken wood becoming the mountains in the distance on the horizon.
I drew this picture for my mum. We found an old discarded wooden panel on a walk on the island and brought it home and I thought it would make an interesting canvas after I painted it white. I picked some wild flowers from the garden and drew and painted them in a simplistic style.
I’ve called these toys but they’re really for display only. The fun is in collecting the wood and making them. My little boy and my father made these together. My son (he was six at the time) and husband had been out foraging for interesting bits of driftwood around the shoreline and he and his grandfather nailed and glued them all together, creating different things from the shapes that had been found.
This wall hanging was made from rectangles of rolled Das air-hardening clay, pressed with leaves picked from the garden, and wired together. They’re made in the same way as the storage jar labels project on page 15 of my book if you want to try it at home. The vintage beads were my grandmother’s and the feathers my children found in the garden and pushed into the wire loops. It hangs above an old driftwood fishing net that was found washed ashore – though the net had long since disintegrated– and a vintage Croatian milking stool.
Just a few little things to display in our holiday home that cost virtually nothing but mean everything to my family, and help our little house feel like home.
My Croatian grandfather built my family’s holiday house himself almost 50 years ago. The original one-room bungalow was extended little by little as the family grew and we now stay in what was once the old car garage, built at the end of the land. It had a shower room and tiny kitchenette in one corner but it was home to spiders and old, dusty furniture. A couple of years ago my mother gave my brother and I the challenge (all be it a very pleasant one) of transforming it into a space that is a joy to stay in for our families.
There is very little to buy on the island itself and choice is limited on the mainland near us too, so make do and mend and recycling have played a large part on how we have approached the transformation. People keep their furniture and pass it on, so there are no flea markets or junk shops and we have had to be inventive. I thought I would share some photos I took this summer as it shows how you can decorate when choice is limited and you are on a small budget. It combines all of my loves – homemade, upcycled, vintage finds, family art and found treasures – alongside new items carefully selected from supermarkets, DIY stores and the high street.
My grandparents used these slatted chairs and table for as long as I can remember and we sat around it for dinner when I was little. I discovered this summer that they were originally salvaged by my grandfather in the 1960s from a restaurant of a friend on the island who was throwing them out. The friend’s granddaughter is a friend of mine from the island who also returns each summer and our children now play together. We screwed the rickety old chairs back together and painted them in a pale greeny-grey eau de nil, I love the colour and have painted any available furniture the same shade. This is so it all mixes and matches and means we can move things around to suit our needs. The panel on the wall is driftwood, fished out of the sea while out on a walk. I let it dry out, painted it with white emulsion paint and hung it on the wall to add some texture and character. I draped it with fairy lights which look beautiful at night. I love their twinkle in the evening and how the slats mirror the table below it.
I brought this simple porcelain table light over from England after I found it in the B&Q sale. Pebbles from the beach, succulents from the garden and other little objects all make it feel like home.
The sofa-bed above is a relic from the past but with no easy way of replacing it, I simply covered it with a large piece of cheap canvas and tucked in the sides, although I have been meaning to buy upholstery pins to keep the fabric in place.The cushions are variations of ones that I made in The Homemade Home. They are simple envelope style covers in complementary, natural shades of linen and hessian with buttons and ribbon as decoration. I took measurements of the old cushion pads one year and then made covers back at home before returning. The grain sacks were car boot sale buys and the linen beach bag is from Zara Home that I took out with me in my luggage.
To make cushions and lavender bags like these see the projects in my book, which have step-by-step instructions and illustrations.
The main room above used to be the car garage and the room through the door is the old water cistern. As there was no mains water, all the houses had huge concrete boxes to store rain water collected over winter which would then supply you with water over the summer months. When the house was connected to the new water supply, the old water tank became unnecessary so we knocked through and made a new room with a terrace. My brother and husband white-washed throughout and we had the floor inside and out tiled in basic pale grey.
These heart-shaped stones are made from discarded porous building blocks that had washed to shore, shaped into hearts by my children and husband by rubbing them on the rocks. The small white one is a cuttle fish bone and fashioned in the same way. I painted this cheap, pine drawer unit the same green and added a handle that I had bought in Anthrolopolgie in London and brought over with me, along with one of my car boot sale purchases – an old clock face! The branch is from the garden and I made little beads from air-drying clay to hang from the branches.
This is a variation of the wired button vases project from The Homemade Home that I made from an old jar whilst I was out there.
Above is a display that we love. My little boy found an old bird’s nest that had fallen out of a tree (no eggs or birds in sight). We put it in a bowl and he ran to the beach and found three little, smooth pebbles that look like eggs! The green objects below are sea urchin skeletons, so fragile and delicate in colour, that my family found whilst snorkelling.
The kitchen area is old and minimal (we hope to replace it next year when a new Ikea opens in Zagreb) and there is a large shelving unit that we moved to divide it from the bedroom area in the main room. As our choice was limited and things were going to be on display I chose simple, classic, neutral items that would all sit together and blend with the overall room. Plain white china, clear glasses, kilner jars, stainless steel and natural wood utensils. We got them all on day trips to the mainland by just being selective from the local big supermarkets and home stores like Konzum, Pevec and Baumax. The vintage metal milk pail was my grandmother’s.
Making displays from simple everyday items means you know where things are. I chose nice bottles and packaging and we found simple pine wood boxes which are perfect for storing art materials and other things. The vintage enamel jug and mug are more finds from my grandmother.
For the new terrace we managed to find some contemporary wooden furniture in a DIY store that we liked and that was really good value. I bought the vintage-look graphic towels from H&M Home and took them over. You can also see walls made by my grandfather from the hundreds of rocks that were cleared from the ground before it could be used. This is common here and the island is covered in these rock walls that help divide the plots of land.
In the bedroom area the mosquito net works on a practical level, stopping the mozzies from nibbling us while we sleep, but also acts as a soft curtain around the bed helping divide it from the main living area. I found the linen throw, printed with an old drawing of a ship, in Anthropologie and couldn’t resist it.
We have struggled to find wardrobes, so this year we simply put a broom handle on the wall to hang clothes. Two of my favourite handbags are in this shot, both by Ally Capellino that I bought at her fabulous sample sales. The Standard Goods bag is used for storage and was bought from H&M Home. The little vintage donkey was given to my daughter by a kind lady at a little bric-a-brac market in Zadar last year when she showed a penchant for it.
This collection of books and tins all came from my grandmother’s apartment in Zagreb, that my mother found when she was tidying up there. There were some very old sweets still in the tin! The tube at the back is my mother’s old kaleidoscope from when she was a child and the little clock is one that sat upon her desk when she was studying.
This old cabinet was found discarded on the side of the road, fixed up by husband and given a lick of paint in my favourite colour and decorated with plastic vintage characters and wind up children’s torches (the penguin and ladybird). I made the banner hanging on the wall to decorate the children’s room with a nautical theme. The base fabric is linen and the shapes had fusible web ironed on to the reverse of the fabric and were then cut out and ironed into place.
The evening activity usually involves a stroll around the town harbour eating ice creams from the best ice cream parlour in the world – well according to my children it is! They love to collect the paper umbrellas and flowers and display them in their bedroom.
The old garage is now a sweet little place to stay but it will take a few more years to make it our own, little by little each summer. But that is part of the fun and it is now enjoyed by three generations of my family. I think my grandfather would love what we have done and love that the place he created for his family to enjoy is loved and enjoyed by his great-grandchildren too. It’s a true homemade holiday home.
This is a little place to share my work and the things that I love: interior styling and flea market finds; homemade and handmade; celebrating the old and embracing the new; creativity, family and fun.
These are the things I believe make your house a home.
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This blog is only my personal opinion. I try to be as accurate as I can but if you do try any projects, tips or ideas from this blog at home I can't be held responsible for the outcome I'm afraid!