King of the Castle

IMG_3325IMG_3331IMG_3330IMG_3329IMG_3320IMG_3317IMG_3312IMG_3306IMG_3304bustIMG_3286armouryIMG_3264IMG_3265IMG_3262pianoIMG_3244harpIMG_3243jellymouldsIMG_3297IMG_3296IMG_3241IMG_3236door_low

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…

IMG_3332bedroomIMG_3436IMG_3441IMG_3378welliesIMG_3372IMG_3384candle-portraitIMG_3420IMG_3437_2IMG_3440IMG_3388IMG_3446IMG_3401wood-choppingIMG_3410earrings-candleIMG_3427IMG_3341IMG_3416IMG_3412candlesIMG_3482

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

DSC_0531DSC_0271mannDSC_0551Sofa_1DSC_2083DSC_2088stairs

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!

DSC_0208aga

“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.

DSC_0563DSC_2046

“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

20150623-16241820150623-162440

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.

20150623-181253

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.

20150623-162446

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!

20150623-162521
20150623-162440

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.

20150623-162648
20150623-16284020150623-163018

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!

20150623-180258

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)

60 seconds with the designer: Louise Keane’s Top Tips + Exclusive Sketches!

Louise Keane is our latest interior design crush – not only does she design and style at Amalfi White Living, she also does the most beautiful interiors/home sketches… Louise kindly sketched some exclusively for Courage & Dash, which you will find scattered through this post.

Thankfully, Louise managed to find some time from a busy schedule to chat with us. Ready for some super design tips? Here we go!

1. Open plan or cosy nooks?

What a tough question to start with – can I have both please?! The popularity of open plan is obvious – we all love homes that feel spacious and airy and it’s definitely more suited to the way we tend to live these days. But I think the human instinct to nest definitely comes into the mix when you have a cosy window seat or a smaller, more inviting space to snuggle into. It really all comes down to the space that you have to work with and what works best for it and how you want to live in that space.

PastedGraphic-10
Sketch based on design by Restoration Hardware

2. Vintage or modern? Or both?

Definitely both in this case. (Courage & Dash: You have to choose at some point, Louise!! Haha.) I think the best designs usually happen when there’s an artful mix of styles – it definitely adds character and depth to a space.

Edinburgh-kitchen-after-2.jpeg1Kitchen-and-sittingroom.jpeg
Examples of Louise’s work in Edinburgh (Image: Amalfi White Living)

3. What are some ways to style a rented bedroom if you can’t paint walls, etc.?

I think there are lots of ways to add character and style even if you’re just renting. You can prop mirrors or art up against the wall – this can look great especially if you use larger pieces. And there are now sticky pads available so you can hang art or photos (maybe not heavy mirrors!) on your wall without damaging the surface.

Adding rugs, throws and cushions for colour and texture will always inject your personality and style into a space. If you’re desperate to brighten up plain walls, there are great= ranges of wall decals available now – basically repositionable stickers which can add a touch of fun or whimsy, especially to a child’s room. Finally if you have a boring, white bathroom, there are great shower curtains available that can become a real feature and inject personality and colour.

PastedGraphic-6

4. Are ‘posh’ paints worth it?

As an interior designer, colour is obviously important to me, and I do find that a lot of the ‘posh’ brands offer an amazing range of colours with a subtlety and depth of colour that you might not find in cheaper paints. As to the quality – I’d always ask a good painter / decorator as they work with paint every day and can advise you on the technical side of things with different brands depending on where and how you want to use them.

PastedGraphic-3

5. Most inspirational city?

Easy! Has to be New York for me. I hope that’s not too clichéd an answer but I just find myself filling notebook after notebook with ideas and taking hundreds of inspirational photos when I’m there. I’m always buzzing for weeks after I visit.

6. Power shower or rainforest shower?

Ooh it has to be rainforest. Much more soothing and romantic!

PastedGraphic-11

7. Which is your favourite part of the UK?

Another really tough question… I live in Scotland which is so beautiful but I also have a really special place in my heart for Cornwall. There’s just something about it – emerald coves, wild flowers, ancient stone houses, winding lanes. Another place where I feel truly inspired.

8. How do you turn inspiration into a cohesive design idea?

This is something I learned when I started retraining as an interior designer a few years ago and there is quite a distinct process which really helps to translate inspiration into a workable design idea. The methodology is based around writing a ‘Design Statement’ about what you want to create and designing a ‘Concept Board’ which pulls together visual references that evoke the look and feeling you want in that space. You put these together with a really detailed written analysis of what your client wants – practically and aesthetically – and working through those elements you turn your inspiration into a workable design.

If you’re in the UK I’d really recommend KLC where I trained where you can learn more about this methodology on one of their short courses or their diploma if you’re really serious! I learned a lot when I started retraining as a designer but this was one of the most powerful things that I discovered.

PastedGraphic-12

9. What is an upcoming trend to incorporate into a room?

I’m not a fan of trends per se as I am more interested in producing an interior that’s timeless. I love when I open an old magazine or even see a mid-century design and realise that it still looks as fresh and modern today. That for me is more important than a trend which may look great now but which could look really dated in a few years.

10. Your favourite best kept secret shop?

One of my favourite interior brands is well known in the US but it’s pretty much a best kept secret here in the UK as it doesn’t have any branches here. It’s called Restoration Hardware and I’ve just discovered that one of the people who designs for them – Timothy Oulton – has his own UK website so it’s well worth checking out. His lighting range in particular is stunning.

Thank you so much Louise for spending time with us and for sharing your beautiful sketches!

For more of Louise Keane’s design work and thoughts, visit:

Amalfi White Living
http://amalfiwhiteliving.com/

 

Images: Louise Keane

 

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!

IMG_0174IMG_0184IMG_0189IMG_0191IMG_0193IMG_0200IMG_0202IMG_0205IMG_0209IMG_0212IMG_0214IMG_0218IMG_0226IMG_0231IMG_0236IMG_0250IMG_0252IMG_0254IMG_0257IMG_0259IMG_9330IMG_9331IMG_9333IMG_9338IMG_9355IMG_9356IMG_9358IMG_9360IMG_9380IMG_9381IMG_9389IMG_9390IMG_9394IMG_9396IMG_9410IMG_9412IMG_9413IMG_9427IMG_9432

Images: Cat Greenwood

Light, breezy interiors with Arlene Gibbs

living room
The Tuscany Project by Arlene Gibbs (images: Mario Flores)

Hello there! I know, it’s been a while! Been busy practising for a music exam and working hard before the end of the year. Now that the exam is over (woohoo!), I am back!

Today we bring you another guest post by the lovely Rossella Di Bidino all the way from Rome, Italy. Rossella kindly took some time out to interview Arlene Gibbs, a decorator and writer, and previously film executive/producer/screenwriter! Curious? Read on…

****

Arlene Gibbs’ style is “understated luxury” or, as one of her closest Italian friends describes it, “relaxed chic.” Arlene, a decorator and writer based in Rome, was born in New York City to parents from the Caribbean island of St. Martin. Her parents were very traditional and did not allow her to put posters on her bedroom walls like her American friends. However, she was able to choose the paint color for her room. Her bedroom received a lot of sunlight so she went with a cool, light yellow, a feel which still influences her work today.

open_plan_living

Arlene studied foreign affairs at Syracuse University. While in college she did an internship at Bloomingdales’ headquarters in Manhattan. Upon graduation she was offered a position in their highly competitive Executive Buyer Trainee program where she worked in the Home Furnishings Division.

doorwaybedroom

Prior to moving to Rome in 2008, Arlene worked in Hollywood for ten years as an executive and producer.

“When I moved to Rome six years ago, I was still working full-time in Hollywood as a screenwriter. After the release of Jumping The Broom, I had to decide if I were going to move back to Los Angeles. I didn’t.

“Instead I did an internship with a prominent Italian interior and furniture designer in Rome and followed up that great experience with an intensive design workshop with interior and textiles designer Kathryn M. Ireland in Los Angeles.”

family_roomwardrobe

“My career change is a return to my roots in a way,” Arlene states. “I love my job because is collaborative, creative and not corporate. It can be emotional and not necessarily logical. There is a strong connection between her former Hollywood career and interior design: “Being a decorator is very similar to working on a film set. Both are visual mediums that tell a story.”

bathbathroombedroom3

Her interior design mantra is “let the house breathe”. “I don’t enjoy rooms that are too minimalist or the opposite extreme, overly decorated. I like my spaces to “breathe” and to be rooms that people can actually live in. For those reasons, I collaborate with my clients to create homes that reflect their style and tastes.”

diningroomguestroom

She gives us some suggestions on how improve our homes: “Even something as small as a throw pillow adds a personal touch. I suggest not buying all your furniture from the same store, whether it’s B&B Italia or IKEA. The room will be too homogenous, without personality. Look at what you already own with fresh eyes. For example, try to put an old table in a different room or paint it with a different colour. That will give it a new life”.

chairs

When Arlene isn’t busy with new decorating projects, she is trying to learn the dolce far niente (‘the sweetness of doing nothing’). Not bad for such a multi-talented, busy woman!

outside pool

****

For more of Arlene Gibbs’ style, visit her at http://www.arlenegibbsdecor.com/.

Visit Rossella’s blog at http://machetiseimangiato.com/.

Images: Mario Flores via Arlene Gibbs