Tea and cake in a secret Italian village…

Rossella di Bidino is back with another guest post in our travel series focussing on Rome and its surrounding areas. This time, its off to an old, once-crumbling city, now bohemian, artisan community, set high above an ancient valley…

Image: An American in Rome

In a the province of Viterbo, less than an hour away from Rome, lies a quaint, medieval village called Calcata. With 924 inhabitants, Calcata is not your typical tourist attraction. It can feel like a ghost city at times,  a sort of secret world where one would arrive and lose touch with time outside.

In the 1930s, Old Calcata, Calcata Vecchia, was abandoned on fears of the city crags crumbling. A new village, Calcata Nuova, was built on a higher plateau, not far away. In the 1970s, however, Calcata Vecchia was rediscovered: creative people from all over the world arrived, almost by chance, and began to to restore the village. Unlike touristic Rome, which is bustling and alive, in Calcata you find silence, a certain sleepy stillness, and glimpses of artisans amongst the ancient architecture.

101 tea room_calcata detail

In the middle of that dreaming village, Gemma, owner of tea house, La Sala, decided to make her home, 32 years ago. “My story began in Paris – I was visiting a friend of mine. Walking around Paris I saw Mariage Freres and decided to spend all my money in tea. I came back to Calcata and almost immediately opened a tea room.” That was 23 years ago.

101 tea room_on the way101 tea room_teapots

La Sala offers 101 different types of teas. After many years of existence, La Sala’s tea list is rather elaborate; it still has Gemma’s first blend, however: the 101 Tea with its scents of vanilla, jasmine, rose, bergamot and tangerine. Other teas on offer include African Sunset (mango, hibiscus and spices),  and Indian Dream (cinnamon, orange, cardamom). There are also classic teas and oriental teas (Oolong tea, for example).

101 tea room_tea and cake (1)

“People told me I was crazy. Tea in Italy. Italians drink only coffee,” Gemma says. Sometimes, it still happens that someone asks for a coffee in the tea house. It is possible to get a coffee in La Sala, although, to be honest, the magic word really is “tea”.

101 tea room_table

“Every day I’m happy to wake up and come here. I love my job”.

La Sala has small, cozy rooms, but on a hot day, the place to be is on the upstairs terrace with a stunning view of the Treja Valley dropping away from Calcata.

“Alas, my favorite tea room doesn’t exist anymore. It was Patisserie Alsacienne chez Bloch in Ghent. I was in my world there with porcelain and silver teapots, great patisserie and special guests.” Despite that, Gemma should be pretty aware of the importance of her tea room for people like me.


– By Rossella di Bidino

For more, visit La Sala’s Facebook page here.

For information on Calcata, see here.


Images: Rossella di Bidino (except first image, from An American in Rome)


Renting? It can still be your home…


We forgot to tell you that we made a tiny appearance on the Laura Ashley blog here! We joined two other bloggers to talk about what makes a house a home, especially if you (like us) are renting your space. Snippets below, click on the link here for the full post. Thanks for having us, Laura Ashley Blog!

1. Tell us a little bit about Courage & Dash:

Courage & Dash is an interiors+lifestyle blog with a focus on setting up home in a rental property. More people than ever before now rent, and with a new wave of home‑grown businesses and online resources, it’s easier than before to put one’s stamp on one’s residence, whatever the state it came in.

I’ve been living in rented flats in London since I moved out of home (that’s about 10 years now!) and have had various experiences with landlords and flats that were, with hindsight, honestly horrific, so I thought how about I find retailers, designer‑makers, stylists, interior experts, etc. to share some inspiration. I love small‑medium British businesses, and independent designers ‑ there’s so much talent out there ‑ and I love looking at beautiful things, and the blog seemed a logical conclusion.

2. How can interiors help you feel more at home?

Interiors make all the difference in the world! We had to have a cracked wall fixed because water was seeping in, so removed all our wall hangings while our landlady sorted it out ‑ the first time I saw the wall without the hangings, I thought “this place feels so unloved.” It suddenly felt like a flat that hadn’t been moved into, from being our cosy living room. Having rooms look and feel the way you want helps you feel settled, even if you don’t own the place. It can turn a room into a haven. And it doesn’t have to be big things like wallpaper/paint/furniture ‑ it’s the little things like lighting, throws, cushions that make all the difference, in my view. I know some people that take soft furnishings with them on holiday to ‘home‑ify’ their hotel room ‑ I’m not so extreme!


3. What’s your must have item from laura ashley to create a homely atmosphere?

I’m really loving the Grayson Horse Table Lamp for creating some low level cosy lighting when the winter nights set in, and definitely the Elsham chunky knit blanket as the weather starts getting cooler.

4. To you, what makes a house a home?

At the risk of sounding sentimental, home to me is a house full of memories, so it’s really important to have your favourite items that capture the relationships and experiences that have made you who you are. Things that tell your story really transform a room/building into a living space. But more broadly, as long as it’s a place you can relax in, it’s your home.


Get more inspiration at the Laura Ashley blog:


Images via Laura Ashley

Workspace Heaven

Hello there! Sorry for the recent silence. Been busy working and trying to keep in better touch with family, and doing life things. Meanwhile, though, I’ve still had some time to wander back over to Rigby & Mac in Dulwich (they celebrate their 25th birthday this Thursday, we will be there with bells on, no doubt!), and to Smug in Islington for a Sunday morning breakfast involving croissants and shelfies! I only found out what a shelfie was at this event, haha. Pictures soon (oh dear, we are now many posts behind, aren’t we??).

Meanwhile, we bring you another Real Studio from one of our favourite bloggers, Jane Day at Tea with Ruby. She so kindly let us take a peek into her workspace, and it’s dashing and charming all at once! Enjoy (and wrap up warm, brr! Autumn is truly here).xx

Tea with Ruby


I truly am a sit at the kitchen table kind of gal but I do have nick nacks around me that make it all the more pleasant and the coffee pot is close to hand.   I find nothing more depressing than utilitarian standard corporate office furniture all beige, boring and rather ugly.  Being inventive with your home workspace is key, if you have the luxury of a whole room dedicated to daily business lucky you, if not get creative.   Bring your personality into the space and make it yours, it’s amazing what you can achieve with a little imagination.

Work Space-006

If you have space along a wall be it the living room, hall, kitchen or spare bedroom you can create a well styled station that when not in use looks pleasing to the eye.

Work Space

To have a desk under a window is quite a luxury, having natural daylight and…

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Exciting news + a pretty DIY!

Hello there! We’ve got all kinds of bits and bobs of exciting things going on at Courage & Dash HQ… The most exciting of which we are announcing today!

We think that DIY and styling are quick+simple ways of making your home special, so we were delighted when Renay Howey who runs Pretty Much Design, a wedding and events styling company, agreed to be a regular DIY contributer! Renay’s incredibly talented and lovely and a real go-getter, and she’s got a pretty awesome story, but we’ll leave that for another time (btw, Sarah our crafts editor is still here but busy with various things)…

Without further ado, here’s Renay’s first tutorial with this gorgeous glitter tote!


If you are anything like myself, you cannot possibly have enough totes in your life. I originally got the idea for this little project while designing some totes for a bridal client that wanted an inexpensive but cute way of giving her out-of-town wedding guests a welcome gift. I thought to myself how easy it would be to create some totes with iron-on transfer film. I love that you can get the film in so many colors including gold glitter, and personally, I don’t think you can ever have too much glitter in your life! These totes are perfect for just about anything. They make a great bag to carry your library books, produce from the market, beauty supplies for your wedding day, or even use as a purse.


You will need:

*A canvas tote bag

*Iron-on transfer paper (I have used Cricut brand in gold glitter)

*A template preferably on cardstock

*Sharp craft knife

*Cutting Pad



*Templates for text: Oh So Pretty, Book Worm, Market FreshMrs, The Best Day Ever

Step One:

First you will need to print your template. If you would rather, you can certainly create your own template, just be sure that your letters and shapes are thick enough that they won’t be flimsy when you cut them out.




Step Two:

Using a sharp craft knife, cut out your template to create a stencil. Do this carefully and slowly so that your lines are smooth. If any areas are enclosed like the inside of an “e” or a “p”, you will want to cut them out separately. Don’t loose the enclosed area because you will need it during the next step.


Step Three:

Flip your template over so that you have a mirror image and trace it onto the iron-on transfer film. You will want to trace it onto the bottom side of the film that will be against the canvas. Trace it on the bottom side so that any marks you make will not show on the final piece. Don’t forget to trace the inside sections of letters that you saved from the last step.


Step Four:

This step could vary slightly according to the brand of transfer film you are using. You will now cut your transfer film along the lines. With the Cricut brand that I am using, there is a plastic sheet attached to the top of the transfer film on the side that will be visible in the final piece. You barely need any pressure to cut through the actual transfer film, but you will want to be careful that you do not cut through the plastic sheet. The plastic sheet makes it much easier to line up all or your letters in the next steps. When you are done making your cuts, you can remove the negative space surrounding your design. Don’t forget to remove the enclosed areas as well. You should be left with only the iron-on film that will make up your final design.


Step Five:

Iron your design onto your bag according to the directions of your iron-on transfer film. The Cricut brand that I have, tells me to first warm the canvas with the iron, then place the design where you would like it. At this point the design should look exactly how you want it to look (face up so that you can read it). Iron over the design for 15-20 seconds, then, iron over the backside of the design for 15-20 seconds. I found this step to have a bit of a bad smell so don’t be alarmed if you notice that as well. When you feel the design has adhered to your canvas, you can slowly remove the plastic sheet. If any part of the design does not stick to the canvas and pulls up with the plastic sheet instead, simply lay it back down and iron over it again on the front and back sides.


Hooray! You are finished. Now you have an adorable little tote that you can use to carry just about anything. This project seriously has an endless amount of different designs that you could do. Try using different colored totes or transfer film, or even experiment with different designs. I’d love to see what you come up with. If you aren’t quite ready to make this easy project yourself, hop on over to my little Etsy shop where you can grab one that is already made, or get one customised. Thank you so much for letting me share such a fun project with you!



Thanks so much Renay! Do share your projects with us on Instagram, @courageanddash or @HelloPrettyMuch.

For more Pretty Much Design goodness, visit:


Images: Renay Howey

Styling with Flowers

Hello there! What a lovely weekend – have you been out enjoying yourselves, watching the football, tennis, cycling?


Last time we got to take a look at Katy Barraclough’s fun kitchen and clever styling ideas. This week, it was our turn to pop over to her blog, Folly & Bloom, to share some of our ideas for styling with flowers. Hop on over here to have a look!


Thanks for having us, Katy!

Images: Courage & Dash

Real Homes: In the Kitchen with Katy Barraclough

If you’ve checked out our Blog Loves page, you would have noticed Folly & Bloom in the list of favourite reads. It was probably Katy’s gorgeous photos on her instagram feed that first caught our eyes, and her blog didn’t disappoint either. Katy lives in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, and runs her PR agency, Conway PR, by day; by night, she writes design+lifestyle blog Folly & Bloom. We thought it’d be great to sneak a peek into the kitchen of this creative mind!


Thanks for having me! I thought I’d share a few of my styling tips for creating colourful, quirky yet practical kitchen spaces.

I’m not what you’d call a ‘dab hand’at DIY. Painting, yes. Knocking through walls and ripping out units? Not so much. So when the time came last year to do something with the kitchen (three years is just too long to have to endure lilac wallpaper and matching tiles), it was a case of examining what we could work with and what really had to go.


In the end, we decided to keep the kitchen units because, while they’re not amazing, they’re well-made and pretty inoffensive. The floor could stay too. It wasn’t my dream choice, but again, good quality and neutral. Even the bright pine doors stayed because all they needed was some wood stain to make them look a bit more charming.


So the two main things that changed were the tiles and the walls. Whatever went on the walls, had to complement the units so we went for a light grey paint matched with off-white, matt subway tiles, held together by dark grey grout.


The only other change we made was to add a space-saving fold-down kitchen table (from Ikea) and two fold-away chairs. With space so limited, the idea of a fold-away table seemed like a savvy move as there’s never more than two people eating together at the same time so it seemed silly to take up unnecessary space with a big table.

To style the kitchen up, I drew on these few (self-created) guidelines which I hope spark some ideas for your own kitchen revamp:


  1. Tell a story – why not dot souvenirs and memorabilia around your kitchen which tell tales of holidays or special meals out? I have a magnetic strip notice board above one of my units and I update it every now and again with postcards, photographs, nicely designed flyers and handwritten notes. Similarly, I love to collect beautifully designed menus, flyers or business cards from restaurants I’ve been too which I often frame.


  1. Curated collections – whether it’s candles, plants, bottles, fruit bowls or jars, I like to curate kitchen items in small groups. I like that it creates little points of interest and also helps the room feel more ordered and avoids stuff being scattered everywhere.


  1. Up-cycled style – why not re-use quirky glass bottles, jars, tins or boxes as vases or storage containers? I found this great beer bottle in Booths the other day and because the artwork is painted onto the glass, and not stuck on as a label, I can wash it and keep reusing it. I’d say the key to keeping this look non-studenty, is to only have two or three reused vessels out at a time and mix them up with more contemporary pieces too.


  1. Neutrals and brights – I love to go big on colour but to avoid the kitchen looking like a children’s play den, I try to keep the ratio of colours to neutrals (whites, greys, metallics, woods etc), 30:70. Having more neutrals means you can go bigger and bolder with the colours you do choose and I think they have more impact that way.


  1. Space savers – perhaps not a style tip as such but I think being savvy about the space you have and what you use it for, can help create a more pulled together look. I think you have to ask yourself how often you actually use something, whether it’s a table, a bread maker, a coffee machine or, in my case, a kitchen table. If it’s not something that you use on a daily basis, have a think about whether it can be downscaled, stored somewhere else or removed completely. Less clutter means more room for living!

I hope these little insights and tips help in some way when creating your kitchen space. Happy styling!


Thanks so much for showing us your bright and unique kitchen! I love the dining area, and definitely want a Springer Spaniel in my home.

For more of Katy’s style, visit her at:

Table Styling with Suitcase Susie

Remember Suitcase Susie from our Makegood festival favourites? We loved her travel-inspired collection of dining wares so, that we asked her to pop back in and say hello!

image-14Image by Courage & Dash


There’s something wonderful about alfresco dining in the summer that makes you feel like you’re on holiday when you’ve never left home. I always associate it with having friends around for some good food, maybe a glass of wine or two, great conversation and definitely a few laughs.

SuitcaseSusie KoruImage by Thomas Gonsard 

It’s not as constrained as a formal dinner party and that lovely casual feel often means your friends enjoy themselves more because they’re more relaxed. Of course it’s helpful if the sun’s shining as that always makes people smile, but I’ve had some great ‘alfresco’ dining moments when we’ve had to rush indoors to escape a summer ‘shower’ (for shower read downpour – ah the great British summer)…

Now I was lucky when I styled the first image because someone had left behind that fabulous piece of wood in my garden when I moved into my home. But the rest of the photos demonstrate how you can still achieve the right feel even with a standard wooden dining table. You may not have a garden, or the weather might have changed – but you can recreate the alfresco feel indoors too.

setting w blueberries 01

The key thing about styling your alfresco dining table is to retain a casual feel. That doesn’t mean it can’t still be beautiful. It’s just a lot simpler. The bottle (used as a vase) is a small port bottle that came with a Christmas hamper, but even a jam jar with a ribbon tied around it would do. Wildflowers or even dandelions (as I’ve used in the image at the top) are perfect to retain that impulsive feel.

A rustic basket for that just-baked loaf of bread and fresh fruit sets off elements of your table with a touch of colour and a warm friendly feel. You may have a wooden board to lay out some antipasti or use a wooden salad bowl. Natural materials are what you’re looking for where possible. Keep it slightly random – no need for perfect symmetry here!

setting w lemons 01

Because you’re eating outdoors it doesn’t mean you have to eat from paper plates. Suitcase Susie’s Koru tableware is fine bone china, but perfect for this setting. The wave pattern makes you feel like your at the beach (maybe you are!) and just knowing it was inspired by New Zealand whisks you off to another part of the world, even if it’s only in your dreams. Notice I’ve set out lemon slices for everyone’s gin and tonics…

Napkin 01

I’ve tied the pretty napkin with some suede thong I had at home – no need for fancy napkin rings. You could use some coloured ribbon or raffia twine – the kind that’s popular for gift-wrapping these days. Just a simple knot gives it all the detail it needs.

So I hope you enjoy lots of lovely days in the sun this summer, but even if the skies are grey, you can still recreate the alfresco experience under cover and pretend you’re by the sea in New Zealand – at least you won’t have the 24-hour flight to endure!


Thank you Suitcase Susie!

All of Suitcase Susie’s designs are screen printed in small runs and hand-decorated onto fine bone china in Staffordshire, while her screen-printed textiles are made from 100% cotton also in small quantities in Lincolnshire. 

Visit Suicase Susie at http://www.suitcasesusie.com.

Images by Suitcase Susie unless otherwise credited.