Sunday, 28 August 2011

Stylish thrifting: Bootsale bargains

I've written about my addiction for bargain hunting before. There's nothing more satisfying than routing through a charity shop, car boot sale or flea market and discovering something pretty, useful or [finger's crossed] actually worth real money!

It's rare to find something special and worth money, although last year I discovered an original water colour painting by a celebrated Yorkshire artist - it was signed and I quickly googled his name on my phone and found out it's value before I bought it for £5. I sold it later in the week on ebay for £50 [even the buyer got a real bargain!].

So I thought it would be fun to share some of my finds, and offer a few little tips to get the most from a Sunday morning outing.

Today's bargains weren't quite as exciting as the watercolour, but fun none-the-less.

The Beatrix Potter books were 25p each - Noah has a little collection that is expanding slowly. The Cath Kidston book is brand new, never opened and was £3. The Romo fabric is from the latest collection, it was an end of roll from a local interior designers and would retail for £45 per metre. The small section, enough to make a cushion, was just 20p.

The beautiful Donna Hay recipe book was 50p, and the vintage jelly mould was £1.

A small selection of Gap and H&M clothes for Noah were 50p each.

  • Get to any yard sale or boot sale early to find the best things. But avoid rummaging while people are setting up, it's frustrating for them and for you.
  • Always take change and small amounts of notes, hopefully you will be spending pennies rather than pounds.
  • Look for boot sales and table top sales in the best areas in your local paper. Schools often have fund-raising sales, and it may seem obvious but the better the area the better the things that are going to be on sale [the same rule applies to charity shops].
  • take plenty of bags for carrying your items home.
  • If possible go without your kids or pets in tow, they will distract you, and will constantly be asking if you can buy them the Thomas Tank/Ben 10/ vintage weapons[kidding!].
  • Always take measurements of items you may be looking for with you - it's possible to find blinds / curtain poles / rugs etc. but unless you know your area you'll be throwing money away.
  • Be prepared to look under stalls and in boxes to find hidden gems.
  • Beware of walking away if you really want an item - chances are it won't be there when you come back.
  • With clothing, look for quality brands and fabrics and don't be afraid to haggle if you buy multiple items. The best clothing to look for if you're a parent is for your kids, as children grow so fast, chances are winter coats, summer shorts, smart shirts etc. will only have been worn for a few months before they grow out of them.
  • Don't be afraid to look at the sellers, chances are if you find someone who looks like your kind of person they will have similar taste.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Friday, 26 August 2011

Designers at Debenhams inspiration

Our home is a very neutral space. White has always featured as a backdrop for our collection of things, but recently I've been craving more colour in our house.

The Designers at Debenhams range seems to be getting stronger each season and I particularly love the home selection in store at the moment, it includes really vibrant and quirky bedding, cushions, ceramics and glassware that all has a really nice luxury quality.

Here are some of my favourite pieces from the Matthew Williamson and Ben de Lisi collections, but it's definitely worth having a look at the website as there is a sale going on at the moment.

Bedspread, £112.00 in sale

Cushion, £20.00 in the sale

Bird candlestick, £18.50

Mug, £6.00

Pompom cushion, £22.00

Ella dog mug, £6.00

Noah cushion, £30.00

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Chatsworth gardens - inspiration

Noah and I spent a lovely day at Chatsworth House with friends today. Noah chased around the maze, and dug in the sandpit in the children's play park while I took in as much inspiration as I could from the incredible gardens.

I am trying my hand for the first time at gardening, with very mixed results. This year I tried the low-maintenance approach and threw lots of wild flower seeds on the muddy earth. Some of the seeds took and have given us some beautiful displays of pretty colour, whilst others ended up in a brown-tinged, tangled mess [although the bees loved them regardless!]. I also bought lots of smaller plants from the regular boot-sales we go to, again with mixed results. A honey-suckle that I planted near the bottom of the garden has withered, while the lavenders I bought for a couple of pounds seem to be doing really well in the pots to the front.

And so I'm hoping next year to have a more planned approach, and to try my hand at some edibles. Any tips for growing in the cooler North of England would be greatly appreciated. We have created a new seating area after demolishing an over-sized out-house, and I've enjoyed making up some new pots to fill the area with colour next spring.

Gardening is a very alien thing for me in as far as I'm used to making, doing and creating things with immediate results. My photography, blogging, design and styling are all activities that you can get immediate pleasure from - they are all equally visual, but you don't have to wait for the rewards. So now I am learning the art of waiting [ironic as Noah is having to learn the same skill at the same time]. A beautiful, well-structured garden takes years, sometimes decades of nurturing and careful planning which can be incredibly frustrating, but all the more satisfying for the wait - not a bad life-lesson to learn for no money!

For anyone interested in these pictures, they are achieved with my ipod and an app called instagram. It is really good fun and has lots of different vintage photography effects that you can try out. They really remind me of going through my Mum and Dad's old box of photographs in the lost - something we'll really miss when it's gone - it's not quite the same with digital.

Wish list: white tuxe jacket and gold pendant

I've just about recovered from the trauma of photographing myself for the last post! Still not too happy with the pictures but my philosophy with this blog is to present to my friends and readers a much more realistic take on style from other mediums that we all read and love.

Since my last post, and after going through my wardrobe to pick out those pieces for the evening looks I've added a couple of things to my 'wish list'.

The first is a simple gold pendant with letters or a symbol that mean something. A good friend came over last night for a cup of tea and a gossip and was bemoaning how expensive these kind of charms are, I showed her some the shops on Etsy that stock exactly the same thing for around $20 or $30 [more Etsy - I know!], but I can really recommend buying from the US at the moment as the exchange rate really works in our favour here in the UK.

The pendant I've show below is from a designer in Vancouver called Leslie for just $19. Similar designs somewhere like Liberty are so much more expensive.

The next item on my wish list is a really simple, elegant white tuxe jacket - I realise this is not the most practical item with a toddler, but I've seen a couple of cool gals wearing them out, in the evening, in particular, and think they look really elegant, grown-up, but also a little bit edgy if that makes sense?! There's a confidence with this kind of piece that is the epitomy of that 'not-trying-too-hard-look'.

This jacket is a great version from Mango at Asos for £79.90, not a bad price.

Now, don't get me wrong the irony of these two pieces is also not lost on me - a little bit Julio Iglesias in the 80s right? Maybe Don Johnson in Miami Vice? But ladies it's the way you wear it, make sure that jacket is slim on the shoulders and drapes really nicely over your boobs, and the gold charm needs to hang on the thinnest whisper of a chain - as my friend Kat said last night - it should look like it could blow away.

What are your favourite wardrobe additions at the moment?

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Simple style notebook: 3 evening outfits

OK - here goes - I'm taking a very deep breath and hoping all my fashionable friends will be very kind to me!

I've recently been reading lots of gorgeous fashion blogs - some of my favourites are:
Garance Dore, the glamourai, Cocorosa and Wish Wish Wish. Most of the fashion bloggers out there are taking their own pictures - which is just brilliant aswell as styling, hair, make-up etc.

So I was inspired to try it myself and I have to say I have the hugest respect for all those incredible bloggers - because it is hard. Let me know what you think of the results? I thought I would do a follow-up from my last few fashion posts, and show you 3 of my really simple evening outfits.

The first one is monochrome so would work well with some bright accessories - the trousers are a heavy cotton cargo style so more relaxed than the sequined top. I absolutely love this top as it works for day or evening brilliantly - I found it on the end-of-line rail in the Jaeger outlet because some of the sequins were missing so was very cheap compared to the RRP.

The second look was one that I worked out recently when I was stuck for something to wear on a night out - sure you've been there! I noticed my husband's dress shirt hanging in the wardrobe and he doesn't wear it very often, but I love that oversize shirt look on girls and with the high waisted jeans and some glam earrings it looks modern.

Looking at it now - I'm not so happy with the shoes - but you know we all have evenings like that don't we, when you're wearing something and you just don't feel quiet right! Our style evolves and changes as we age and our experience and circumstances change and it's about figuring out what works for us now.

The last look is an easy outfit too, I've reached the age where comfort is a big factor whether I'm going out for the evening or spending a day on my feet chasing after Noah! The maxi skirt is such a versatile piece that you can wear much like a pair of trousers, dress it up as here with a jacket and gold flats for evening or with a t-shirt and canvas pumps for day.

So there you go, my first effort after 4 years out of the business of my own fashion editorial. Hope you liked it.

Friday, 12 August 2011

That Friday feeling

It has been a strange week with the news in the UK dominated by images of people rioting in the streets, looting shops, and setting fire to people's homes indescriminately. So the country is letting out a little sigh of relief that for the moment the streets seem quiet.

Our house is very quiet too as my 2 year old, Noah, has gone to visit his Nan and Grandpa leaving me to clean the house, blog, take pictures and well...drink wine probably!

So my Friday evening is starting with a custard slice and a glass of wine - roll on the weekend.

I hope you have a lovely weekend whatever you're up to.

Renovation update

I recently posted some pictures of our home renovation on the Living Etc forum. I've had a great response from people asking where I bought things from and generally saying lovely things about our house.

You can see the images on this link:

One of my favourite pasttimes is reading my new copy of Living Etc when it comes through my post box. I've been known to have chronic house-envy at some of the beautiful, modern houses, especially those open plan, airy spaces in Australia and the West Coast of America. I love the idea of spending lots of time outside and having a home that connects the outside and the inside seamlessly. Our home was never going to be that kind of space but I think we've made the best of what our house does offer and created a much lighter, open feel.

So I realised that I hadn't shown what the house looks like from the outside - so here is the before and after. What do you think?

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Trying to make sense

Listening to the news today has been very difficult. I've been trying to make sense of something that is essentially senseless. Violence and greed have erupted around the country and there is a very real sense of fear as to what will happen tonight.

So I have switched the news off, and baked and tidied the garden instead. Worked out my frustration on the pastry and the weeds! What a tonic.

Wherever you are tonight I hope you are safe and cosied up with your loved ones.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Sad news in London tonight

Image from of the Maria Dahlgren London tea towel.

I spent 10 years living in London and I loved it. It was vibrant, always exciting, creative, and inspiring. So I was so saddened by the news this evening that the city is being targeted by a minority of looters. Tearing into the city they are setting fire to streets where people live and work. I'm sending my love and thoughts out to all of my friends in the city tonight. x

Fashion crush - No. 21 by Alessandro Dell'Acqua

All pictures from

I have a new fashion crush - No. 21 by the designer Alessandro Dell'Acqua. His new Resort 2012 collection epitomises that effortless style I was blogging about last week [although with a much higher price tag I'm sure!].

I love the wide leg pant suit - I've been sporting my Gap flares this summer - the mix of neutral camel tones with bright jewel colours like the greens and sapphire blue, the slouchy v-neck over
cropped trousers. And those simple skinny belt details over the cardi and fitted jacket. These are all elements that we can try at home right?! The first look of the black cardi over pencil skirt is such a simple look to recreate, but is all about that slim fit.

Like I was saying last week, be a little bolder when you're putting your outfits together. The emerald green t-shirt with the lacy skirt looks really modern but how simple! Pay attention to proportions so shorter skirts go with a more covered up top like a t-shirt, an over-sized sweater goes well with cropped trousers, and that skinny, shrunken jacket looks fab with a wide leg trouser - try to think in terms of opposites. There is a certain confidence that comes with mixing strong elements in an outfit: a rock T with a smart trouser suit; a pretty feminine dress with a leather jacket; a sequined top with a relaxed cargo pant.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Lovely things...

Ok, just to confuse matters as I've been blogging on about not shopping and resisting temptation here I am with more lovely things to buy, or look at, or covet, well whatever you think - here are some pretty things that you can buy on-line...enjoy!

1. Jonathon Adler star sign cushion, £70,

2. A5 recycled leather notebook, £20,

3. LSA teal glass vase, £62,

4. Tivoli poster, £18.95,

5. Limited edition handsoap, £16.50, Red

6. Handmade tea light, £19,

Retail therapy - with a difference...

We are home again from our holiday. It is a strange pleasure to return to your own home after a break. The familiar smells, the reassuring order and comforts of the everyday. Odd how going away makes you appreciate what you have.

I had a postscript to add to last week's post. It is a kind of therapy for today, a practice that I think we should all try to remember.

I wrote last week about stylish thrifting and I still believe that we don't need to spend a fortune to look good or have a beautiful home. It takes alot more time and effort but I think the rewards are worth it, but there is another side to stylish living that I think is as important. My personal antidote to the modern consumer world is to realise that the world is full of infinite temptation. For me it is the classic Chanel flap bag, a pair of Tory Burch pumps, the Stella McCartney trousers and Isabel Marant jacket. I'm sure you have a similar wish-list if money were no object?

The point is that there will always be things that are beautiful, covetable and just out of reach. The list is infinite. And that is just the point - in the modern world of consumer craving there is never enough, so I accept that I can live without the dress, trousers, pumps, bag etc. because after all, even after I have bought those things there will always be more, the craving will never be satisfied so I simply choose not to. I realise that this philosophy is pretty extreme and is certainly not going to get the economy back on its feet, but it is trying to apply my yogic acceptance to the modern world.

I still love looking at lovely objects, fashion, and interiors, all those things I always loved and appreciated and I will always blog about them, but now I don't feel the same temptation to open my wallet. I do have a perceptible cringe when I read a magazine and it suggests that a pair of £650 Rupert Sanderson shoes are 'worth a splurge', afterall how many of us in the real world would agree? But I can also accept that magazines sell us a fantasy and we can choose not to buy into it.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Stylish thrifting

We are enjoying another short break on the English coast [I know!]. This time we are in Scarborough, a quintessentially British seaside resort, all cream cakes, donkey rides and predictably wet weather!

I wanted to make a start on a post that I've had in mind for a while now. Many of you will have already read my thoughts on thrifting and second-hand shopping, but this is a kind of manifesto to bear in mind.

My previous life as a fashion editor on women's magazines was thrilling, but even then I never really bought into the high-fashion, high-spending life. Some of my colleagues would not blink an eye at spending £250 a season on the latest it-bag. I think my stoic Yorkshire-upbringing was too deep-rooted. I scoured second-hand markets and designer sample sales for things that I would fall in love with. London was the ideal place to find wonderful things and my position meant I could go to a Chanel [only invited once!], or a Jimmy Choo sample sale [yes I did!].

And so my suggestions on thrifting stylishly and well. This is not about looking like you buy second hand but looking chic and up-to-the-minute without breaking the bank. I believe it can be done.

1. The main principle is to take time. To find the good stuff you have to be prepared to rummage and go out of your way to find the right shops and markets. If you have a wedding or a party to go to at the weekend and you need an outfit now you'll struggle to find exactly what you're after in a hurry.

2. My other main point is to go through your current wardrobe and have a really good sort out. If you have the number of a really good tailor it is amazing what can be done with ill-fitting dresses, trousers and jackets. Things can practically be made new if given a little attention. Being frugal with fashion is about getting the most out of what you already own. As a stay-at-home Mum I no longer have the disposable income to spend on clothes that I used to so I have taken to rethinking what I already own. Dresses I normally wear in the evening can be layered over a long-sleeved t-shirt for day time with a pair of flat biker boots and tights in the winter or vest top and flip flops in the summer. Smart work jackets look great over rolled up chinos and a stripy T shirt. A relaxed denim jacket makes a maxi skirt and vest look effortless.

3. Which brings me to another point, always think timeless and effortless when looking for clothes. Particularly after a certain age women should try to avoid anything that looks too trendy or try-hard. Eurrgghhh! I hear you moan. I don't want to preach about skirt lengths and bingo wings as I know some of the hippest gals who are over 40, but real style comes from not trying too hard - FACT.

4. I've written about it before and I'll keep writing about it: fabric, fabric, fabric. Particularly with second-hand clothes. The quality of the fabric is the main thing. If you're buying second-hand you should be looking for quality labels anyway, this is about finding the Sportmax coat at the same price as a Zara [think ebay or charity shops in the best areas!]. I once found a pair of Marni cotton twill trousers for £35 from a charity shop on Marylebone High Street [it can be done].

5. Don't be tempted to buy something just because it is cheap - I speak from experience. It should at least fit properly and be something that you love, although the first point can always be altered with the help of your tailor. Skirts and trousers can be shortened if they are too long, but tops are a little harder to make right so look for the correct size as much as possible.

6. T K Maxx in the UK is a source of many of my bargains. Some of the labels I've seen there include: Nicole Farhi, Missoni, Earl jeans, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Gharani Strok. This is where time and patience really does pay.

So here endeth the first lesson. I'm toying around with the idea of photographing some of my finds again, let me know what you think. Time to get back to the cream cakes...
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