Tropical getaway.

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Our annual trip to south-east asia is usually the highlight of our holiday calendar. Without it, winter would feel far too long and depressing, and my skin would go into Vitamin D cold turkey, no matter how many supplements I took. It’s a treat for the senses, being in the tropics, and it’s a real chance for us to spend some quality time resting and catching up on sleep. This time, I even managed to read some books (instead of my usual habit of swimming and sunbathing all my time away!). Love it.

We decided to venture off to a northern island off the Malaysian hinterland, to Penang, which is well-known for its heritage architecture and tasty Asian food. And that’s exactly what we got! Our favourite bit was our little stay in Clove Hall, in Georgetown, a UNESCO heritage site. The owners of the boutique guesthouse, Jo and Jim, were super friendly and helpful. The house was a cosy yet luxurious (it is possible!) Edwardian colonial building which was perfect for hiding out in.

If we could have done so, we would have stayed forever. Sadly, because the suite we were in (a sweet – pun intended! – two-storey wing of the house, complete with outdoor rainforest shower!!) was booked up for the weekend, we had to vacate the premises on Saturday morning. I have never stayed in such a large suite before and cannot wait to go back. The three days were so dreamy…

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For our last night, we relocated to the beachy part of Penang (Batu Ferringhi), which was also fab; to be honest, though, nothing really could compare to Clove Hall. The interiors were a perfect combination of colonial antiques and traditional Peranakan/Straits Chinese everyday objects – a real treat for an antique-love like me!

See their website, http://clovehall.com/, for more information and for bookings (there are a limited number of rooms, so do book early if you are planning to). Hopefully we will return before too long!

 

Images: Courage & Dash (our stay was not in any way sponsored)

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King of the Castle

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I’m already quite a homebody, but if my home was like Inveraray Castle, I would never leave. Not even for brunch with Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jonny Depp at the same time. Nope. Home is where I will always be found.

The beautiful castle was the setting of a Downton Abbey Christmas special, where the Granthams went to Scotland to see Rose McGowen’s family and for plenty of grouse shooting. It is lived in by the current Duke of Argyll, but is also open to the public. With a cosy cafe (that serves tasty food), neat and attractive gardens, and charming interiors, the castle was the perfect pit stop on our way from Fife to Argyll. Our favourite room was probably the armoury, in the middle of the castle (tallest room in Britain!), where the ceiling was over three storeys high and the walls were bristling with weaponry. The cheerful yellow-painted walls added to the spacious feel of the room and half reminded me of the domed room in Castle Howard. Oh, also, of course, I spent all my time sat by the large open fireplace. Joy.

The best thing about the castle was how welcoming and approachable it was. Some stately homes can be so lavish as to be uncomfortable, even to a reverent visitor. Inveraray Castle was grand but clearly a home lived in by a family. Well worth a visit!
Images: Courage & Dash

Winter is coming…

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If I have spoken to you recently, you will know that I have been desperate to use the phrase “Winter is coming” legitimately, either as a title to something or in conversation about the weather. I am not well-acquainted with Game of Thrones (either the books or the television series), much to my embarrassment (everyone seems to have seen/read it!), but I just really rather like the motto. I tried to explain it to my boss last week, but as you already know, I don’t actually know the plot of the series at all, and so failed pretty much as I started.

On a cold and rainy day during our Scottish holiday, the husband and I decided to have a really lazy and slow day. When we woke up, the sky was grey, and light rain was pattering against the skylight. I cannot tell you enough how much I love rain whilst indoors, tucked under a warm duvet with fluffy pillows I can sink into. It was fab. After a hot brunch, we decided we really ought to get the fire going, and so the husband was dispatched to make some kindling, which I duly built a fire with.

By a stroke of luck, a couple of Produce candles landed on our doorstep that morning, courtesy of I Love Produce Candles – perfect timing for a cosy day in! In fact, it was exactly the right candle for our pastoral, farmyard surroundings. I first discovered Produce candles at Top Drawer, a home+gifts trade show – they smelled divine, like freshly grated vegetables or gently frying herbs (they are also aptly named things like “rosemary”, “honey”, “sage” and “radish”). These beautiful candles are hand-poured in Charleston, South Carolina (possibly one of my favourite southern cities, and where Frank Underwood from House of Cards went to university) – and now they are being sold in the UK by I Love Produce Candles. Hurrah. I think I want to try Wildflower next (I was sent Rosemary and Fig), and possibly Coriander.

We spent the rest of the day lazing by the fire, eating cake, reading, and dozing. I think I am a true champion when it comes to sitting around and not doing anything!

 

Images: Courage & Dash

Beautiful Living

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How beautifully set up is this home? The first time I saw Natalie’s photos on her Instagram account, Laid Back Farmhouse, I fell in love with her style. It’s so airy and light and calm. You can imagine how delighted I was that Nat agreed to let us peek into her home – it’s impressive how uncluttered the space is, despite Nat’s large collection of vintage things – there is yet hope, despite my husband’s insistence that mess is synonymous with vintage hoarding. Over to you, Natalie!

“I’m Natalie Woods, I’m 34 and work in travel – you’ll often find me in either Covent Garden or Southampton.

“Five years ago, my husband and I moved back into the country, this time to West Sussex to a little converted barn that needed (and still does) some love. I grew up on the Shotley peninsular in Suffolk, so country living is deep in my bones.

“My whole life I’ve loved vintage items and very little in my house is new. My favourite pieces are Provence farmhouse inspired, as I aspire to live in rural France one day!

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“I’m still collecting and my favourite places to go are Hill & Co Grayshott and Haus Haslemere. In fact, I go there all the time. Annie & Bill @ Hill & Co often travel over to France and source the most fantastic items. I could spend hours in their lovely shop (and often do). They are incredibly friendly and passionate about antiques and also source from all over the UK. The shop has a French farmhouse feel and I know I will always find something quirky and original – my signs, apothecary drawers and glassware are all from there.

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“Stephanie @ Haus Haslemere has impeccable taste and her shop is incredibly chic. One half is a bright, Scandi/French look and through the door to the other half is an industrial/utility feel. There’s lots of beautiful vintage items and I guarantee you will want to buy everything.

“I love visiting France’s flea markets and Brocantes. My absolute favourite is Villneuve Les Avignon. It’s full of provincial items and is reasonably priced. The market setting is very beautiful.”

 

Images and styling: Natalie Wood

Summer Lazing with Layer Home

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When Hannah from Layer Home first got in touch, I knew that I had met a kindred spirit – someone who had a love of interiors and old things and a lot of energy for a project she really believed in.

Layer Home is currently a website filled with articles about design, styling, and antiques. It is the brainchild of Hannah (a digital guru) and Denise (a property development and expert), a mother-daughter team (even more to love!). We can’t tell you too much, but there are exciting things afoot at Layer, so STAY TUNED!

We caught up with them (in Denise’s beautiful garden) and asked for the pair to share some of their thoughts on design, inspiration, and collecting.

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Denise: These photos are taken in the garden of my house, which is an Arts and Crafts property in a pretty village called Englefield Green, Surrey. The house used to be the old doctor’s surgery, and the original shutters are still on the outside of the house now. I’ve lived here for seven years and still love it.

Where do you find inspiration?
Hannah: Everywhere! Instagram is a constant source of inspiration. Since we launched Layer on Instagram earlier this year, we have been consistently amazed and inspired by so many beautiful photos taken by talented bloggers and photographers within the interiors space.

But we also find inspiration from nature, fashion, shopfronts, people walking down the street – all over the place. Sometimes it’s nice to switch everything off and step away from the online world to give yourself the space to be creative.

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How do you combine style and comfort?
Hannah: Thinking about how the space will actually work and be lived in is something that we believe in strongly. There’s just no point creating beautiful spaces that are uninhabitable or impractical for the people using them everyday (we agree!). We like to think carefully about where everything should sit from the word go – it’s not glamorous, but people forget how important putting plug sockets in the right place can be!

Which are your favourite places in your home?
<Denise: The garden lodge tucked away in a secluded spot at the end of the garden is definitely my favourite place. We built it from scratch a few years ago on a pretty tight budget – but it’s now my oasis of calm to take a cup of tea in the morning and practice some yoga.

Hannah: The courtyard in my house is definitely a triumph! It is very white and light, and when we pull back the full-length doors from the kitchen it really feels like one, really large room. The antique mirrors on the fence reflect back the light and make the space feel even bigger.

Describe the favourite pieces in your home and tell us the stories behind them.
Denise: My favourite painting is by Thomas McGregor who is an artist based in London and it’s an abstract piece called Trees on Park. It’s in a beautiful gold, gilt frame and the juxtaposition of traditional gilt frame and modern painting works fantastically. The blue, pink and green tones work beautifully in my dining room. I’ve just recently started buying artwork as I was quite intimidated by it before. Now I just buy pieces that I fall in love with! This painting was purchased from Mark at Ebury Trading.

Hannah: I visited Ardingly market last week and picked up the yellow and white 1960s woven plastic chair. I just can’t get enough of it! It’s outside in my courtyard now that the weather is nice and it just gives a great pop of colour to the white space. It’s very comfortable and feels quite ‘Mad Men’-esque!

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Tell us about how you use your outside space? What do you love about it?

Hannah: The outside space was something that sold my house to me. In the summer, it literally gives us another room in the house and it’s where we eat breakfast and dinner, practice yoga and less glamourously, dry our washing! It’s also perfect for Friday evening drinks with friends – we open up the doors from the kitchen, light the tealights and get some cocktails going.

One tip for anyone looking to restyle their outdoor space.
 Don’t be afraid to bring ‘inside furniture’ outside. Some of our most favourite events have involved heavy lifting of sofas and chairs and rugs outside, even if only for a short period of time.

You can also buy special outside rugs which really make the space feel welcoming and cosy. They can stay outside in the summer and roll up into a shed for the dark, winter months. Throw some cushions down on them for a perfect spot to relax.

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Best kept secret shops for interiors?
There are too many to name!
Most recently we discovered midcentury furniture dealers Hutch Interiors and House of Twenty. They both have beautiful stock and would certainly be our first point of call for a statement chair or sofa.

We also regularly make the journey to Sunbury Antiques Market and Ardingly Antiques Market (Josie: Take me with you!). They can be hit or miss, but if you pick a sunny day when all of the traders have made the trip over from Europe, there is such a buzz. Get there for when the doors open before everything gets snapped up!

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Thank you so much, Denise and Hannah, for spending time with us and showing us your beautiful garden! Stay tuned for more coming from these talented women at Layer Home!

For more, visit http://layerhome.com/.

(Images by Layer Home)

Real Homes: A Grotty Rental Turned into a Magazine-Worthy Home

Cat from Take Courage Blog is possibly my favourite blogger of all time. Not only is her writing entertainingly witty, her photographs are also unbelievably well-shot.

I was absolutely delighted when Cat agreed to let us feature her beautiful home on Courage & Dash. When Cat and her partner, The Texan, found this flat, it was pretty grim – it didn’t look loved, and the bathroom, from her descriptions, was beyond gross.Cat is an aspiring interior designer (whilst also being a corporate lawyer during the day – how she does it I shall never know!), and has done a fantastic job with her home. I love the mix of old and new and splashes of colour. Take a look at what they have done with this flat and don’t miss their balcony currently on her blog!

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Images: Cat Greenwood

Real Studios: A Sleek, Calming Studio with Lily + Spice Interiors

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It’s been a while since we last brought you a real studio! Today, we are in the studio of Amanda, owner & founder of Lily + Spice Interiors. Amanda is a freelance stylist and wife/blogger/crafter (we love featuring amazing women!). We stumbled upon her Instagram feed and thought we really ought to see more of her living/working space.

Lily + Spice Interiors is an online resource that provides interior decorating services online, at a more affordable budget than hiring a traditional designer/decorator – this also means that no matter where you are in the world, you can consult with Amanda and her team to create a beautiful space of your own. We thought we would pick Amanda’s brains and get some top tips off her for style, managing clutter, and being inspired.

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What inspired the colour scheme of your studio?
I tried to keep with my Lily + Spice colour palette! When we first designed our site we decided on black, white, raspberry and turquoise. So that is what I worked with….of course with pops of silver as that is my go to metallic!

How would you describe your style?
I have always been a big modern and rustic combined lover but have a new found love for more of a Scandinavian style as of late. I really love almost anything!

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How do you piece together your inspiration for decorating?
The simplest most honest way to answer this would be to say that I follow my eye. When I am working on my client’s designs I get into what I describe to my husband as a ‘zone’ and it all just comes together for me somehow.

Tidy as you go along or have a big clean/tidy every now and then?
I don’t like ‘stuff’ so would say that I tidy as I go, usually!!!! I am also very sentimental especially since having children so I might tend to hold onto more than I should these days – eeep! (Courage & Dash: We hear you!!) 

So… where do you keep all the things that inspire you?
Good one! I have albums on my phone and computer full of favorites and I would also have to say that Pinterest is a keeper of a lot of my inspiration as well. I love this organized way of paperless storing, it is so great!

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How do you deal with a styling/decorating/DIY disaster?
Hmmm, good question. I was going to say that I haven’t had one yet so didn’t know how to reply. BUT I have. Recently. I just kept trying and trying again. Finally got there!

What are some tips you have for design-lovers who are currently renting?
Play with your accessories, add fun pops of colours, move things around often and don’t be afraid to ask the owner if you can paint. I find that paint can make or break a space so why not ask?!

Thanks for showing us round, Amanda!

 

Images: Efraser Photo (via Lily + Spice Interiors)