Beautiful Living


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!


“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.


“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


Colourful crockery in a medieval town on a cliff…



Rocamadour, in the Dordogne region in France, is listed with 4 stars on the AA map, and noted as an area of impressive natural beauty. I was truly blown away as I first laid eyes on the beautiful medieval village built into the side of a mountain. At Overlooking the village and the surrounding valley is a cluster of Christian buildings (shrines/chapels) called the Cité Religieuse, at the top of the mountain. The site is a destination for Christian pilgrimages, and remains a key attraction. Famous pilgrims include Henry II of England and Louis XI of France. There were signs explaining the different points of reflection for the pilgrims, and if I read correctly, the journey to the top of the cliffs was often done on one’s knees! It was a fairly long way to the top – today there is a funicular and lift to take visitors up to the site.

The village is small enough to spend a day wandering through, although there are other prehistoric/Gallo-Roman sites just beyond. We were lucky to have such beautiful weather when we went, so we were able to enjoy ice creams in the sunshine and escape into the cool of the chapels. It felt very much like the village portrayed in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast! As Rocamadour is now a tourist destination, there were many shops selling soaps, pottery and various souvenirs. They were fun, but the main attraction for me was a shop selling colourful, patterned crockery in all styles – from Japanese tea cups to Polish plates. It was called Petit Pot, but there sadly isn’t a website or anything like that at all.

Have you been to Rocamadour or its surrounding region?

Images: Courage & Dash

The Curious Shop: Ink + Thread


Eeek! We are so excited to share this AMAZING shop we have just discovered. Well, we haven’t just discovered it, per se…. We’ve been following their Instagram profile, and after a while of fan-girling, finally asked to have them on the blog, and here they are: Ink & Thread!

Ink & Thread was opened by Emily Baker in November 2011 in Derby’s Cathedral Quarter. The idea was to have a store that stocked the best of British made things that were both useful and good-looking. To be honest, that does go back to the bones of British products – design with purpose.


“I’m very proud that we only stock items made in the UK – we have an ever growing range of design items from fantastic, small creative companies,” Emily tells us. Emily has always had a love for interiors and design, which comes through in her store layout and the items she has chosen to stock.


“I wanted to showcase and support all the fantastic independent makers out there who care about great design, and not just that, they care about how and where their products are made. Every item in the shop has a story.” We love that!


We absolutely adore the fun and colourful products – the shop has such a lively feel, and it’s pretty clear that Emily has an excellent eye for curating collections.


Ink&Thread-HB-Apr15-14I&T-HB-March-2Shop Nov

For more British-made goodies, visit Ink & Thread at:
No. 28 The Strand, Derby, DE1 1BE |
(Images: Holly Booth, via Ink & Thread)

A Trip to the Coast: Hastings

At the encouragement of Jeska (Lobster & Swan) and Cat (Take Courage), we finally made our way down to Hastings one rainy Saturday. We had heard quite a bit about the antiques/vintage treasures to be found, and about the venerable Hendy’s Home Store, so were pretty excited! What probably excited the husband more was the promise of adventure golf and fish+chips at the end of a day of rummaging and vintage-hunting.

Hastings Old Town is where all the treasure is. It’s a quirky, fun little place with independent shops housed in really (really!) old buildings. We didn’t have time to see everything (blame the husband and the golf) but here are some of our favourite finds:

Butlers Emporium | 70 George Street, Hastings TN34 3EE


When we walked into this shop, the husband asked “are you about to pop with happiness?” Indeed I was about to – the store is set in an old house and has an incredibly charming exposed original wall in one corner of the floor. The shop fittings were beautiful and rustic, casually thrown together and filled with a mix of vintage and vintage-style stock. Ah. CHeck out the sign above, by the way, was our ABSOLUTE favourite sign ever.

Hendy’s Home Store | 36 High Street, Hastings TN34 3ER


I heard about Hendy’s before I heard about the War of the Roses. No, only joking! But Hendy’s is pretty well-known, and for good reason. It’s hard to describe, but the broody interior is set out like a person’s house, and the stock fits the theme of each room, which is pretty fun. Feels a bit like Anthropologie meets industrial New York.

S Forrest (Herbs & Spices) | 17 George Street, Hastings TN34 3EG


A random find, but we couldn’t help but be drawn to the reed baskets filled with bits of firewood filling the shop windows. We thought it might be an antiques shop selling wooden furniture, but it was a herb shop that smelled absolutely divine. Get herbs and spices for reasonable prices, and cooking tips from Sally Forrest, the owner of the shop (and another store-owner in a long heritage of retailers). She is passionate about cooking and eating well, as well as supporting local suppliers/growers. Can’t argue with that!

The Clockwork Crow | Westhill Arcade, George Street, Hastings TN34 3EA


This was the first shop we stopped by and we loved it straightaway. A cozy little store filled with colourful vintage ceramic tiles, antique glassware, old hunting horns… A real treasure cave. There was also the sweetest (quite large) poodle/labradoodle type dog (not for sale though)! We left with a vintage hand embosser.

The Goods Depot | 86 High Street, Hastings TN34 3ES


It was late in the day when we found The Goods Depot, and the door was locked, much to our disappointment! However, it was a good thing we hung around (I insisted on peering through the window to take in as much of the interior as I could), because the owner came back to let us in! Plenty of antique furniture, mid-century typewriters and telephones, iron-wrought bells, wooden boot lasts… Was wonderful! We didn’t have too much time in here, but do check out the website and photos of their current stock.


We did get to play some mini-golf, although embarrassingly I turned out to be pretty bad despite actually being able to play golf. How does that work??

There are plenty of other shops we didn’t have time to visit; if you are planning a visit do tell us what you think or if you’ve found any other places worth a peek.

Images: Courage & Dash (apart from: photo of exterior of The Clockwork Crow, from; 2nd and 3rd photos of The Goods Depot from

Marylebone, meet Anthropologie!


One of our favourite lifestyle stores, Anthropologie, has continued to spread its expansionary wings in the capital – new destination, Marylebone. We were so excited when Anthro first made its way across the Pond and into London. It was Christmas come early in so many ways – endless beautiful things to desire, (including the store props!), plenty of hidden gems to discover… We always thought if we had our own shop it would have so many elements of Anthro.

Sarah Stopforth, our beloved DIY guru made it to the store opening and had lots of fun. In addition to festive drinks (plenty of gin, we heard!), she also got to try her hand at silver casting and made a pretty snowflake pendant. Not bad!

Enjoy pictures of the evening below (and covet away!), we wish we were there (we were, however, in Turkey, exploring the Aegean Coast, so can’t really complain…)!


33/34 Marylebone High Street, London W1U 4PT


Images: Sarah Stopforth; third last image via Anthropologie blog

Flea-market Love: Guide to the Braderie de Lille

This post is incredibly overdue! But first things first: are you enjoying the wintery autumn weather? Eeek! Boots and coats and scarves and snuggles and fireplaces. We LOVE autumn.

Back to the Braderie: if you haven’t been, and you are a flea market aficionado, then you must visit. Even if just once! The event takes place very year in Lille, France, on the first weekend of September. The whole city is transformed into a giant bazaar.

Before going, we read some comments on TripAdvisor that dismissed the Braderie as a giant tacky boot sale, which is categorically untrue. What it is, is a giant flea market, and there are different sections that feature different types of items, from modern, mass produced things (we saw SO MANY boxes of loom band materials and socks…), to traditional French vintage objects (lots of glassware, clothes, household items…), to salvage from all eras. There truly is something for everyone (I went with my husband, and although he did spend some of the time working in the hotel room 😦 , he really enjoyed wandering and bargain-hunting)! There are no restrictions (apart from the usual legal ones) on the types of wares that can be sold in the Braderie, hence the variety, but there are areas that you can go straight to if you have something specific in mind.

IMG_0483 IMG_0473 IMG_0474

The great thing about the Braderie, is that the entire city is filled with a festive vibe. While Northern France weather isn’t that much less gloomy vs. London’s (it’s so much further south than us, but you really need to keep going south for any decent sunshine, I’ve concluded!), there were a couple of days with blazing, glorious hot weather. Which, added to the bustle, the sound of stall-owner cries fighting to be heard over buyers haggling and booming street music and the sight of piles of mussels,really come together to lift the party spirit. Oh, and there’s also a half-marathon first thing in the morning. Fun!


Here’s our quick guide to the Braderie, based on what we read/learned from being there.

International Transport:

From London, the quickest way is via the high-speed Eurostar (from St Pancras Station). It takes only ~1.5hours (that’s less time than to go to York!), and Eurostar only requires you to check-in 30mins before departure – less hassle than flying. Tickets are actually pretty affordable if you book in advance (we paid about £50/pp one way, but I booked a couple of months ahead).

Once you get into Lille, the station is pretty-much in the city centre. Lille is very walkable, so you can stay near the station and walk into the Braderie everyday (we got in late on Friday night so chose to stay at the Suites Novotel by the station).

The alternative is ferry to Calais, but we didn’t try that – since you only have a weekend, I’d recommend just taking the Eurostar!

Local Transport:

The Metro is the most efficient way of getting around, especially since the roads are closed off/generally pedestrianised both for the Braderie and the weekend’s half marathon. To be honest, though, I didn’t once step foot into the Metro – Lille is incredibly walkable. There were certain places nearer the canal that were too far to walk for the short time we had (we were there all weekend but it’s amazing how much time one can spend browsing in a small area), so in those cases, Metro is the answer! Most of the Braderie takes place between Gare Lille Flandres (near the international station, and right by a giant shopping mall), and the Porte des Postes station.

If you have a van, according to The Good Life France, you can park just outside the city and take a metro in. The car parks are at: CHR Calmette, Porte des Postes and Porte in Lille, Saint-Philibert in Lomme, and Cité Scientifique and 4 Cantons in Villeneuve d’Ascq.

Where to go for what:

First stop, definitely accept the maps that people working for the tourism office are handing out on the streets. The maps run out very quickly and they are golden!

Generally, we would recommend avoiding the main streets (Rue du Molinel, Rue Faidherbe, Rue Nationale, and the pedestrian areas – Rue Neuve, Rue de Béthune, Rue du Sec-Arembault). The main streets tend to be taken up by local shops selling their wares on their shop front on discount, or by stalls selling bric-a-brac/corner shop type things. Not the main attraction for you, I’m guessing!

Jean-Baptiste Lebas Boulevard, Boulevard Louis XIV, Rue Debierre and Rue du Réduit

This is the place to go to for vintage/antique homewares, books, trinkets. The roads are quieter, and sometimes there are large gaps between clusters of stalls, so you might think you’ve got to the end of the area or have made a wrong turning. Keep wandering! You’ll be rewarded with the contents of someone’s attic spread out across the road, good antique collections of silverware, copper pots, etc. We found an exquisite early 19th century piano chair that was in decent condition and only EUR60 starting price! Alas, taking the Eurostar does mean limited cargo 😦 There are couriers, apparently, but that’s something we haven’t figured out yet… any ideas let us know!

There are hundreds of stalls selling antiques – to be honest, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. There is so much to see – the quality and variety of the wares were as good as what you’d get back in the UK, however, prices are much cheaper at the Braderie than back home, so take advantage! The sellers are professional dealers (as opposed to someone trying to empty out their loft), so expect quality and expect a slight premium. Some of the roads (esp. the Jean-Baptiste Lebas Boulevard) get pretty busy, so brace yourself.

Place Simon Vollant (around the old Paris Gate)

We couldn’t get enough of this area – not only is it beautiful, it’s also has plenty of vintage and second hand finds on offer. Good landmark, too, so you don’t get lost in the maze of the city streets.

Façade de l’Esplanade – near the canal

Sadly, we didn’t make it here! But this is apparently the place to go to for fine and larger sized antiques, e.g. furniture, paintings. The length of the canal is covered with dealers from all over the continent, with chairs and desks lining the walkway… quite a sight!

Other places


Wazemmes area of Lille
Place de la Nouvelle Aventure

Boot Sale:

Boulevard Victor Hugo
Moulins (rues d’Arras, de Douai, de Cambrai and de Maubeuge)

Food & Drink

Wander around and you will not be disappointed. You’ve probably heard about the moules mountain competition amongst all the restaurants, where the restaurant with the biggest pile of mussel shells wins (great photos to be found on instagram, use #braderiedelille). However, I really liked Raptor Shack for a quick (and dirty!) burger and fries, if you don’t want to interrupt the antiques-hunting. Yum.


The only problem with the Braderie predictably falling every first weekend of September, is that there is no way around the pricey accommodation then. The market attracts visitors from all over Europe/the world, so places on AirBnB (which we gave up on fairly quickly) and similar platforms tend to get booked up very early on, sometimes even a year in advance. We ended up staying at the Suites Novotel, which we would highly recommend. It was ~£130++/night for two sharers. Super comfy, clean, right by the Metro/Eurostar station, extremely friendly staff…


One of our favourite things, by the way, were the random street bands – there was a fantastic student (?) brass band that was playing Michael Jackson hits. We couldn’t stop laughing!

The Braderie de Lille is one of the best flea markets I have been too, not just because of the sheer volume and variety of things (it was the salvage hunter’s dream, I wish I had a large van to take everything home with me), but also because of the feel of the place. Everyone was so friendly, and it didn’t matter that I did not speak any French. All round good fun, worth a visit!

Have you been? Any tips to share?


Images: Courage & Dash

Additional information from The Good Life France, and the Lille Tourist Office.

The Curious Shop: Love French markets? Meet Maison Brocante

We’ve been meaning to post all kinds of goodies, from our trip through time in Rome to our weekend salvage-hunting in Lille. And more moodboards. And interviews. And real homes. Ahhh! However, time is zooming by and work is manic, and 24 hours is not enough, so we APOLOGISE for not being able to post as often as we would like to 😦 The aim is still to write interesting, relevant and helpful posts, however. Bear with us!

Today, we bring you one of our favourite Curious Shops, Maison Brocante, an online homewares store featuring French vintage. If you have a thing for French markets, but like me, can’t take the time to travel to the deep south of France where the best ones are (if I didn’t work, I think I’d be gone every week), this could be the answer!

Beautiful images by Ellen Tobin

As the name suggests, Maison Brocante features French vintage/flea market finds. The lovely Nicole Milligan spends her time scouring all corners of France for the best in kitchenalia, furnishings, homewares. So eye-catching are the items she stocks, that Homes & Antiques has featured the shop!


“It was an easy decision to create Maison Brocante,” Nicole tells us. ” I have always loved French markets and I have a passion for beautiful interiors (who doesn’t?!) so it made perfect sense to put the two together.”

“French Brocantes are pretty amazing – there, they are a part of daily life there and quite often an exciting annual event – like a massive treasure hunt where you never know what you are going to get!”


“When you find that special something, it makes all the walking and early starts worth it!”


“French vintage is perfect for injecting a bit of character and personality into the home – I love the quality of an original piece of French enamelware or the stunning look of an original porcelain or ironstone tureen – the variation is endless making these markets pretty addictive,” says Nicole.


Nicole founded Maison Brocante in 2012, with the mission to bring unique and beautiful homeware at affordable prices. Her love of antiques and “old stuff!”, combined with her appreciation for new trends have led to a range that is current, fresh, and filled with that have enduring appeal.

“I just found an amazing French Faience plate with a picture of an old man’s face on it – it’s big and bold and I just love the blue and white colours,” shares Nicole. “Very on trend and very French!”


Maison Brocante will soon be stocking a range of French fabrics, after Nicole returns from sourcing French Linen, Hemp and French Ticking from Provence.

“I am also launching the Maison Brocante blog, whichwill follow my trips to the Brocantes and my latest treasures and projects. I hope it will be an interesting read to those who love all things French or are intrigued by these amazing markets.”


Last we spoke to Nicole, she was about to head back off to the continent on another shopping trip – best job, or what? Do visit the store and let us know what your favourite items are. We would love a whole set of enamel pots and pile of linen, we think!

To keep up with Nicole’s adventures, or to visit the shop, go to Maison Brocante at


Images: Ellen Tobin (via Nicole Milligan)