Tuesday, 22 July 2014

bloggers at home: little birdie

In the third instalment of Bloggers at Home, I'm pleased to be featuring the lovely Jen from Little Birdie; one of my favourite blogs, Jen writes about great design, shares delicious recipes and occasionally posts pictures of her beautiful home (check out her Instagram feed for some amazing pictures - it's a great source of inspiration!).


I'm Jen from Little Birdie. I write about my family life, food and interiors. I was thrilled to be asked by Vicky to do a guest post on my favourite room in my home.

We live in a tiny two-bedroom end terrace house in Leeds, West Yorkshire. I've always like interiors, particularly bright, happy family homes, and I love a mix of classic design pieces mixed with some vintage treasures. I like to create a home that is colourful and quirky, but do so on a tight budget. It's difficult to say what my favourite room is, but I had the most fun decorating my son's room, so I thought I'd show you that one!

Harry is almost eleven now, and his room has changed a lot over the years. Now it's less about Lego and more about his interests in computers and programming; he's very geeky and not at all sporty, but at least that means I never had to have a room full of football designs! (And yes, his room has been cleaned and tidied to take these pictures; it's usually a filthy pigsty rammed full of video game cases, laptops, missing socks, old crisp wrappers and endless empty cups of juice. The teenage years are heading our way!)

Although his room is predominantly white, we recently painted one wall a lovely navy blue shade, called Breton Blue by Dulux - it's given the white furniture a real life, and has made the artwork stand out more. Harry needed a new desk suddenly, as he has suddenly grown almost as tall as me; we bought the table top from IKEA, but used some vintage Habitat trestle legs (which were actually mine from my teenage bedroom!). Years ago, I won six vintage school chairs on eBay, which have been sitting in the shed ever since - I'd always planned on painting the metal framework on the chairs but never managed to get round to it. I finally managed to do one in Kingfisher Blue from Habitat, and I absolutely love the end result - just another five to go! I also bought a new anglepoise style lamp in this gorgeous jade green colour from RadStudio in Saltaire.

These are two of my favourite little things on his desk; the yellow elephant moneybox by OMM design has come to be a bit of a design classic recently, and I love it - Harry saves up his pocket money in the elephant to buy new comic books, and this is one of his favourites, The Phoenix. The bendy Pink Panther toy on his lamp belonged to my Grandpa, and I can always remember it climbing up his shelving unit where he kept his huge stereo system. It's a bit of a treasured piece for me as I was very close to my Grandpa, and I love that it's one of Harry's favourite things too.

Not only is Harry a big fan of comic books, he also loves the Studio Ghibli films, especially, 'My Neighbour Totoro'. I wanted to get him a poster from the movie to go above his desk, and came across the artwork of Jon Glanville who designs his own versions of Ghibli classics - together we picked out the Catbus print as we both loved it. The Batman print by HelloDodo above the chest of drawers came from a fantastic local Leeds shop, Chirpy.

Harry has a set of bunk beds in his bedroom; he sleeps in the top, while the bottom one is for sleepovers. We've gone through a lot of bed changes in this house, from cots to toddler beds, cabin beds and now these ones from IKEA. Our ancient old cat likes to sleep on the bottom bunk a lot, and she especially likes to cosy up to this pillow and cushion. The bedding set is from Wilkinson (I love Wilkos!) and the cushion was from IKEA; both were really cheap but great quality - I don't think that good design has to be expensive. The bunny print is by Scandi designer MiniWilla.

On the top bunk, I chose the pigeon light by Ed Carpenter in grey with the bright orange flex. I've wanted on of those lights myself for years (especially the hot pink one!) and could never really think of anywhere for it to go, but then decided it would be perfect as a bedside light. It gives off a really gentle glow which I like for reading at bedtime. The 'Pow' print is by Dandy Star and I've had this since Harry was really little; I always liked their comic book style prints, and thought it would be lovely for a boys room - I didn't know then that Harry would be interested in comic books, but it has fit in really nicely.

Even though he is nearly eleven, Harry still likes a cuddly toy to go to bed with - these are his two favourites, Ice Bat and Big Ted. He has this Ferm Living cushion to prop himself up with whilst he reads in bed, and the clock behind is from Habitat. Only the UK time is correct though, as each clock needs two batteries and it makes the loudest ticking noise when all the clocks are in use. I was sleeping in his room one night and the bloody thing kept me up for hours!

So, that's pretty much it. Harry loves his room as much as I do, but I know that it'll change again as he gets a bit older. And I suppose I'll have a lot less say in it too!

I hope you've enjoyed this mini tour. If you'd like to come and say hi, then please pop over and visit me at Little Birdie. Thanks for reading!

Jen x

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Sunday Style #2

Left: Dress : Lowie // Belt : Zara // Sunglasses : Zara // Shoes : Fashion Conscience
Middle: Breton top : People Tree // Shorts : New Look // Scarf : Fashion Conscience // Boots : Fashion Conscience
Right: Dress : Fashion Conscience // Bracelets : Fashion Conscience // Shoes: Fashion Conscience 

Hello, hello! Hope you're all having a good weekend, and have had some good weather - we had lovely sunshine yesterday afternoon, so I sat in the craft room and worked on a couple of projects while the sun streamed in through the big windows. Heaven!

This week Sunday Style is all about the best sale picks around; I've kept it fairly eco-friendly, heading to websites like People Tree and Fashion Conscience, and even the high street pieces are from brands that have pretty good ethical policies (New Look's can be read here, and Zara's here - it's comforting to see the high street jumping on board the eco-friendly bandwagon, doncha think?). One of my favourite (but usually way beyond my price range) brands Lowie also makes an appearance, with a dress that's just £36 - ethically conscientious and cheaper than Topshop!

What's even better (or not, depending on how easily tempted you are) is that nothing comes in at over £45, so it just goes to show that investing in ethical and organic clothing and accessories doesn't have to make a huge dent in your bank balance. Happy shopping, folks!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

latest thrifts

With our serious lack of funds and pretty sad looking bank account, my opportunities to go for a rummage in the charity shops lately have been pretty limited. So when the Husbands parents gave us some money as a wedding anniversary present, we did what every other couple would do; we decided to split the cash and each have half to spend on what we want. Hurrah! £12.50 might not seem a lot, but to me, it felt like winning the lottery - and look what I managed to find....

I've wanted a round, straw bag since FOREVER, so when I saw this one hanging up in the local Marie Curie, I launched myself at it - I've looked at similar versions on various vintage websites and they all come in around the £25 mark, so to find one that was £4.50 made me incredibly happy. (Let's just gloss over the fact that it was from Primark originally.....) The bag with the leopard on had been hanging up in the nearest branch of Barnardo's for the last couple of weeks, and every time I walked past I had to look in the other direction in case I got tempted and spent our last few quid on it. When I walked past and saw it still hanging there, swaying gently on the hook, I took it as a sign from the Gods and bought it - I like to think that it was just meant to be.

Lastly, I found this great vintage shirt, also in Marie Curie (they really are great for vintage blouses, definitely check them out if you're in the Waterlooville area - which, let's face it, most of you probably aren't). It's an old Marks and Spencer's one, with one of those great St. Michael labels that also tells you it was made in England, and I have grand plans for this - I love the print, but I've got enough blouses and shirts to last me a lifetime, so it's going to get the scissor treatment.

Have you found anything good in the charity shops lately? Feel free to post a link to any of your thrifty finds in the comments - there's nothing quite like a bargain!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

sunday style #1

From top: Dungarees: Monki // Vintage blouse: Beyond Retro // Necklace: Bohemia Design  //DVF Paisley vintage scarf:  Rokit // Hat: Rokit // Geometric bag: Beyond Retro // iPhone case: On Your Case via Etsy //
Headband: Monki // Sunglasses: Rokit // Belt: H&M // Sandals: Toast
Even when we're at our poorest, I still can't help looking at clothes online; it's like a compulsion - I'm sitting quite happily, writing away, and then somehow Beyond Retro (my biggest weakness) has popped up on the screen, and I'm dreaming about Aztec bags and floral blouses. So I decided that as I enjoy window shopping so much, I'd turn it into a little weekly feature with all the lovely things I've found lately - welcome to Sunday Style!

Aztec and geometric prints and patterns are always on my love-list, which is why I added the straw bag from Beyond Retro and iPhone case from On Your Case (they have so many amazing versions, all the colours and patterns you could think of. Check them out!). I'm also currently lusting after dungarees (I really want to get the shorter length ones, but at thirty-one I worry that I'm too old - what do you lot think?) and some round sunglasses after seeing the lovely Hannah from Seeds and Stitches wearing hers - they've got quite a few pairs over at Rokit, so I might have to invest (although by the time we get out of our financial hole, it'll be winter!).

What have you been loving this week? If you've found anything good, let me know in the comments section!

Friday, 11 July 2014

found: shedquarters

A little while ago, via a Twitter conversation about bags, I stumbled across the lovely folks at Shedquarters; a brand new online shop selling contemporary homewares and accessories, they stock ace brands such as House of Rym and Rifle Paper Co. alongside their own studio-produced items. Owners Hayley and Ross handpick items for their bold colours and textures, which probably explains why I love pretty much everything in the shop - from bright geometrics and aztec-style patterns to screen-printed graphics, there's a huge amount to choose from.

Hayley and Ross have kindly offered you lovely lot a 10% discount on any items in the shop - this runs until the end of August, so if you're waiting for payday, you'll still be able to take advantage. Simply enter the code OWL at the checkout - happy shopping!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

blog hopping

What is a blog hop?
I've never taken part in a blog hop before; I've seen lots of them about, but as one of the most disorganised bloggers I know, I've never actually got round to getting involved in one. The idea is great, though; after being tagged by another blogger, you answer a set of questions before choosing two different people to take part - it's a great way to introduce readers to your favourite blogs, and also to join in with the blogger community. I was actually first contacted by Melanie from the lovely Geoffrey and Grace blog, but in my usual haphazard way, I completely forgot about the post - then Lori from Wild and Grizzly got in touch and told me that she'd tagged me as well, so here I am! Both blogs are favourites of mine; Geoffrey and Grace is vintage-crafty heaven, packed full of retro print goodies, beautiful projects and glimpses into Melanie's life, while Wild and Grizzly is home to stunning photography, quirky finds and book reviews, and is a constant source of inspiration - make sure you check them both out!

What have been the doings / makings / scribblings at your desk / making table this week?
Due to being almost impressively skint, I've taken on some extra copywriting work and haven't had the time to be as creative as usual - that said, I have been messing around with fringing, denim (no, I'm not making a cowboy costume!), washi tape and patterned paper. I'm also working on a range of crochet patterns for a magazine, and I managed to make a quick anniversary card for the Husband as it was our fourth wedding anniversary last week - the fourth year is symbolised by fruit and flowers, so I did botanical with a comedy twist. (A vintage botanical print of pears, with the words, 'we make the perfect pear' written underneath..... *tumbleweed*)

Where are you currently finding your inspiration? (Influences, heroes, sources of inspiration, paths exploring)?
I always, always find inspiration in charity shops, markets and vintage shops - from the embroidery on an old dress to the way a pile of old suitcases have been stacked, I always come out full of new ideas. I also read a lot of magazines (although I have cut waaaaay back lately - it's an expensive habit!); I like Cereal for travel, Oh Comely for beautiful and interesting writing, and Mollie Makes for crafts and home tours (Davina Drummonds house appears in the latest issue, and it's a beaut!). I'm also always keen to champion the wonderful Lionheart magazine, which has an incredibly wide range of articles and photography.

How important is being creative to you, and how do you blend this with your work / life / family balance?
Being creative is incredibly important to me; I write for a living, so being creative with words is something I have to do every day (even when it's the dullest copywriting in the world, you still have to make it sound like it's the most exciting thing to have happened, in the entire world, ever). I'm also pretty much always making something; whether it's customising clothes, crocheting a blanket or swearing at the sewing machine, and I go a bit loopy if I don't do anything for a while. I had PND with both children, and have always been prone to anxiety, and crafting just brings an element of calm and order to my life - whether it's the repetition of stitching and sticking, or the fact that it's a distraction, I don't know. I think being creative is good for the soul, and I encourage both Ben and Daisy to be as creative as often (or as little) as they like - I'm lucky that I work from home, and can include them in a lot of the things I'm doing. I think there's something really valuable in spending time on something, and then being able to say, 'I did that'.

And now onto my two lovely nominations:

Kathryn from Kat got the Cream
Kat's blog was one of the first I ever read, and I fell instantly in love with it; we've spent countless hours chatting about charity shopping, vintage frocks, retro homewares and cake (because we really, REALLY like cake...). I love her regular features, like the Happy List, which inspires me to appreciate the small things in life, and also the Friday Frock - if Kat knows how to sniff out anything, it's a good dress!

Lou from Little Green Shed
If I could climb into any blog and live in it, it'd be Little Green Shed. Lou cleverly mixes breathtaking photography with great design, and showcases some of the best brands and creatives around; she's also the founder of the Nature in the Home series, which has since become a wonderful community on Instagram (if you're a floral fan or a plant lover, do join in!).

Both nominees will be posting their answers on Monday 14th July - don't forget to pop over and check them out!

Friday, 4 July 2014

freebie friday: florals and blooms

I want to start by saying thanks for the lovely response I had to this post, where I talked about how our bank account is pretty much running on empty at the moment; there have been loads of times lately when I've really wanted to go to an antique market or search for lovely vintage dresses on eBay, and have ended up having a right huff because we can't afford it, and to hear that there are others in the same boat was quite comforting. We can all be skint together!

The good thing is, I've always been a fan of a freebie and have never been afraid to rummage in a skip for something that 'might come in handy one day' *eyes mountain of scrap wood in the garden*, so I've got a good fair few thrifty tips up my sleeve that keep us cheery on the bleakest of days. I thought since there are so many of us in the same position, I'd start a new series here on the blog; 'Freebie Friday' is going to be made up of ideas for crafting, upcycling, decorating, making and doing for absolutely nothing (or as close to free as you can get!).

I'm starting with my top tips for free (or super cheap!) ways to get some floral loveliness into your home this summer; for me, I can be on my last few quid and have the right hump, but I can't help but feel cheery with little pots of flowers all over the place. Arm yourself with some craft scissors and a basket, and let's go!

1. Change your definition of a flower
In the photos above, quite a few things were found growing up random walls and hidden under bushes; technically, they'd be known as weeds, but as the old saying goes, a weed is just a flower that's grown in the wrong place. Basically, if it's not in someone's garden, and it's colourful and not half-dead, it's going in the vase - I couldn't tell the difference between a wildflower and a weed, but to be honest, I don't care as long as it looks nice.

2. Utilise otherwise wasted blooms
When trying to find flowers for free, there's only so much you can find growing in fields and around the local park - and personally, I don't advocate leaping over someone's fence to snip off a few hydrangeas. What I do tend to do, though, is snip things off of bushes that have overgrown and are trailing on the path - I think if the only thing a flower is going to see in it's short life is a dog's cocked leg, a toddlers sticky hands or a set of bicycle tires, I'm going to take it home and appreciate it.

3. Shop smart for plants
Obviously, if you want a good supply of flowers throughout the summer, you can't just rely on overgrown bushes and colourful weeds - you're going to have to spend a bit of your hard-earned cash on something for the garden. My favourite plants, which tend to give me the most flowers for the smallest amount of money are:
  • Dianthus
  • Scabious
  • Nasturtiums
  • Nigella (Love-in-the-Mist)
  • Lavender
  • Alyssum (which also smells incredible)
  • Sweetpeas
  • Aquilegia
  • Hydrangea
The best thing about these plants is that (and do correct me if I'm wrong, someone, because I'm definitely not an expert!) the more you cut for displays, the more shoots and buds the plant sends out - win-win in my opinion! 
My best tip when buying is to stay away from garden centres - I love the garden centre as much as the next person, but by heck, do they like to overcharge sometimes. My best bargains have come from Wilkinsons (yes, really!) and more lately Waitrose - I really rate their plant range this year; I personally haven't seen anything over £8 for a large hydrangea, and most things come in at around the £4-£6 mark. Rather brilliantly, they've also marked which plants will attract and help the bees - something which we seem to be lacking this year, sadly. Other places that are great for plants are summer fetes and fairs, church sales and even just peoples houses; we often drive out into the country to find people selling plants for pennies - a really good resource, and you get an afternoon of beautiful scenery too.
Another great tip is to save seeds - last year, I bought seeds from the marvelous Higgledy Garden, and then saved the seeds; this year, I've got random Nigella popping up all over the place. There is a special knack to saving seeds (which I didn't follow last year, whoops), and there are some great resources online that can be found through Google - I'd definitely recommend it if you're the thinking-ahead type.

4. Clash the colours
When I sort my flowers into a display, there's pretty much no technique involved; I mostly just organise them by size (big ones in the middle and at the back, and small ones to the sides and at the front), and I don't really think about colour.In fact, if anything, I like to have as many different shades and tones in one display as possible - I've never been a fan of organising things to coordinate (our home is a testament to that!), and I like my flowers to look as much like they've just been plucked from the countryside as possible. Minus the insects though, preferably.

5. Be creative with the container
Personally, I think half the fun of displaying flowers in your home is deciding what to put them in; I can't remember ever using traditional vases, as I prefer shorter displays that will sit on a shelf or balance on our narrow mantle. I've used milk jugs, teapots, jam jars, bottles and about a gazillion other things to put flowers in, and my favourites are always either my oldest, cheapest charity shop finds or just plain glass jars jazzed up with some twine or ribbon; I also like the idea of customising containers by doing any of the following:
  • Spray painting through stencils
  • Dip-dying (dip-painting?!) by dipping jars, cups or jugs into paint and then leaving to dry
  • Wrapping in twine, lengths of lace or fabric
  • Decoupaging with mod-podge and geometric paper
  • Sticking lengths of washi tape around the sides
  • Paint spattering with pastels or neon paints
  • Sticking on beads, shells, buttons or pom poms
If you've got any great floral money-saving tips, good resources or whatever, it'd be great to hear them - feel free to leave them in the comments section, so we can all take advantage of your flower-y wisdom!

PS - All those photographs were taken on my iPhone, and edited with the wonderful VSCO - so you don't need a fancy camera to document your floral goodness either. Boom!