Embellish, Embellish

Ever since I did my first shabby chic furniture course at the Vintage Dove, I have been keen to do the advanced class which goes into decorative techniques rather than just the painting.  Many times I had been signed up, only to hear the course was cancelled due to lack of interest.  Finally I got on the advanced course at Paloma in Rochester last October.  Rochester as I have mentioned before is my favourite place and what makes it so are Kiss Kiss Heart, Rocket and Paloma – three shops all run by the same people.  Ruth at Paloma, is trained by Annie Sloan and runs the courses at Rocket in Rochester.  Annie Sloan brought out a range of chalk paints in 1990 and has gone on to write many books on decorative techniques.  The Telegraph describes her as one of ‘Britain’s most influential female designers’.

We started with a blank plank of wood and painted a third of it in a colour of our choice, I chose Old Violet, and the rest white.


The first technique we were shown was gilding.  We painted Gold Size onto the coloured part of the board.  I chose to create letters and hearts with it but we could have just covered the whole section in it.  We could then try gold, copper or silver transfers or leaf.  I used the silver transfers for my letters and hearts and then added more gold size to form a border and applied copper leaf to this.  I found the transfers much easier to use although the leaf gave a better vintage effect.



The next technique was decoupage.  This was the technique I was most interested in and why I was so keen to take the course.  Decoupage involves cutting out medium (usually paper) and pasting onto an object before covering with a lacquer or varnish and the name comes from the French word, decouper which means to cut out.  It is thought that the craft originated in East Siberia where tombs were decorated with cut out felt.

Annie Sloan Decoupage is a water based glue and varnish.  We painted it onto the wood in the area we wished to apply the image to.  We cut our image out from wrapping paper and then pressed it onto the wood.  We then built up layers as a varnish over the top.  It needs about 5 coats to properly seal it and you need to allow 20-30mins between each coat.  You can get images from anything to use for decoupage – old pages from books or cards for example.  Ruth also showed us an option with napkins though which was very effective.


Image transfer is another popular technique and there are some great websites out there to download images from, particularly ‘The Graphics Fairy’.  Images need to be printed out on a laser jet printer rather than an ink jet as the ink needs to resist water. The front of the image is painted with Decoupage medium and then placed face down on the board.  Once the glue has dried, use a sponge to put a small amount of water over the back of the image and then rub away the paper with your finger.  Remember that if you are image transferring text – it will need to be in reverse to start with in order for it to come out the correct way around.



Stencilling was the fourth technique we were shown.  Paint can be put on with a roller or a stipple brush and you can also mix paints as I did.


Finally we were shown the craqueleur effect.  Annie Sloan Craqueleur is a two-step process.  Once you have covered the area with step one and allowed it to dry; you then paint over step one with step two.  You can vary the size of the cracks according to how thick you put step two on – the thicker it is, the bigger the cracks.  To really enhance the craqueleur effect you can then apply dark wax over the top.


This course cost £75 and was great value and a fantastic way to spend a Saturday morning, I highly recommend it and it inspired me to transform some more furniture using shabby chic techniques.

My mum gave me an old pine dresser which had seen better days.  I transformed the top half and then fixed it to the wall as a shelving unit to display some of my china.  I began by sugar soaping the dresser to ensure any dust or dirt was removed.  I then painted two coats of Annie Sloan chalk paint in Paris Grey.  To make the piece more interesting and add a further vintage angle to it, I purchased a chic moulding from The Vintage Dove, Rainham and glued it to the top part of the dresser after the first coat of paint and then covered it on the second.  Finally I had a mirror cut to fit between the middle shelves.  The unit was finished off by applying clear wax.


Over the Christmas break, I decided to transform a plain white Ikea chair using Decoupage.  I purchased a book of old maps in a little shop in Holt, Norfolk.  To enhance the effect I also used some vintage map stickers which I purchased in Paloma, Rochester.


The old saying ‘one persons junk is another ones treasure’ really is so true.  There are no end to the transformations you can perform on furniture and it is a great way to make your home furnishings truly unique.  So what you waiting for – get yourself on a course and then let your imagination run wild.




A Transient Period

So 12th Jan arrived and passed and the diet had yet to begin with biscuits, nuts and chocolates still hanging around from Christmas. Even now come March, my willpower is currently at an all-time low; in the words of Homer Simpson ‘oooh doughnuts!’ Stepping on to the scales, I nearly gave myself a coronary. I’m not going to share how much I was but suffice to say, it’s the heaviest I have ever been and losing a stone would only really be scratching at the surface!

Most women will tell you that January sparks the need for a diet and I overheard plenty of conversations about it on the train home from work. There is a tendency to look for a quick fix celebrity diet and I have become victim to this before with the 5:2 diet. This year’s fads appear to include the Paleo diet – where the only foods consumed are those that are believed to have been available to the caveman in the prehistoric era and the Vegan before 6 diet which is what its name suggests. We all would love to find that magic bullet but the reality is losing weight is hard and if you want to keep it off, it’s going to mean a lifestyle change – a diet is forever. All whilst we continue to stuff our faces with fatty, sugary foods and sit on our backsides – we are snookered! (Talking of Snooker, the things you do for love. I sat through over 8 hours of live snooker with my husband at The Masters, held at Alexandra Palace which I treated him to for Christmas).

I guess if I want to get bikini body ready by my holiday in May and then maintain it, I’m going to have to start swapping the chocolate for fruit, the alcohol for water and upping my exercise routine. Now with exercise the key is to find something that you enjoy and for me that is walking. I should have extra motivation to do it, as my husband and I need to get in training for the 26.2 mile Moon Walk in May to raise money for breast cancer research.   Time seems to constantly be an issue but of course that is just a lame excuse really. I feel even guiltier when I log on to Facebook and see my sister in law’s latest plotted walk. Hopefully raising money will push me into it, so if your new year’s resolution was to think of others then here is your opportunity to fulfil that – follow the link to our fundraising page.

I feel the start of the year has conspired against my efforts to adopt healthy eating (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!) as I have been fortunate enough to have a busy social life involving food and alcohol (the dreaded empty calories).

For my sister-in-law’s birthday, we visited Eight in Rainham. This is a lovely boutique restaurant which can accommodate less than 25 diners on the ground floor but does also have an upstairs which is used on special ocassions or can be hired out. There is black sparkly wallpaper adorning one wall, a deep pink wall with a mirror shaped as a number eight and beautiful chandeliers cascade soft lighting over the tables. The food is delicious and I couldn’t resist the camembert wedges to start and pan fried salmon for main. The puddings are a bit of a let-down so I guess it marginally helps the diet.

My friend organised a cheese and wine evening round at hers and whilst enjoying the fine wine and range of cheeses, we amused ourselves with poker. I feel so grown up now we all have mortgages and opt for nights in rather than big nights out! I felt like dressing up a little for this so wore my red full midi tulle skirt purchased in the Asos sale with a black polo neck top from Oasis and some red suede heels I purchased in New Look. I accessorized with a long pearl necklace and clipped a red flower from Glitz4you, onto them.


I then got invited to dinner at another friends to see her new home she has just purchased which is a stunning Victorian semi in Tunbridge Wells. For that I wore a denim dress from New Look which was quite Alexa Chung in style with my black suede Kookai Boots and Swarovski crystal tights. Denim is very fashionable again this season with it even being appropriate to exhibit the long standing fashion no no of double denim. Alexa Chung has designed a capsule collection this year with sophisticated denim brand, AG Jeans and the famous Levi 501’s have also had a bit of a makeover, making them more fitted than previous designs.


Valentine’s Day came round – our first as a married couple. Now going out on the day is notoriously a let-down with restaurants cramming you in and ripping you off with a ‘special’ menu. We opted for something completely different this year and went for afternoon tea at our local garden centre, Dobbies. It was very civilised and great value at only £15 with a glass of Prosecco each.

valentines afternoon

I’m finding it hard to believe that we are already nearing the end of March and this is my first blog of the year, hence it is somewhat longer than usual – time is flying by.

March 25th saw Sarah Jessica Parker turn 50 – so by way of celebration for my fashion icon, I give you my top 10 favourite outfits she wore as Carrie in Sex and the City, along with the one Sarah Jessica Parker wore to London Premier of Sex and the City 2 where I got to meet her. Carrie taught us to be confident in our fashion choices so that you can pull off anything – the candy girl outfit and pyjama/fur coat combo, illustrate this perfectly.

carrie vogue outfit

baby shower

Carrie jury service


candy stripper

flower dress

newsprint dress


oscar de la renta

magazine clutch

At Sex and the City 2 premier in Leicester Square

At Sex and the City 2 premier in Leicester Square

One Friday night in March, I went for a friends belated birthday drinks in Camden at a bar called Fifty Five. For this I opted to wear my new jeans – in the cut of the season – flared; a nod to the 70’s fashion. I teamed it with a grey boxy t-shirt and butterfly snood all from New Look, completing the look, drawing on the purple in the snood, with some purple suede wedges that a bought a few seasons back in the Oasis sale. The one rule to remember with flares is to wear wedges, platforms or block heels as stilettos just don’t compliment them. The more observant amongst you will also notice I chose one of my 70’s vintage magazine clutches (mentioned in my previous blog and seen in one of my favourite Carrie outfit pictures) to really set off the vintage look.



Last weekend a friend and I travelled to Ladbroke Grove/Notting Hill area for a long overdue girly catch up. For this outing I chose to wear my denim A- line mini skirt (another 70’s inspired look) with my pussy bow blouse with birds on and Ugg Boots as I knew we would be walking around a lot so opted for comfort for a change! My bag was my fast becoming favourite, magazine clutch again.  My friend kindly loaned me her Prada sunglasses which I fell in love with and now have to have a pair! I have been meaning to visit this area of London for a while, immortalised in the Hugh Grant/Julia Roberts romantic comedy of the same name. It was largely run down until the 1980s but has now become quite a fashionable and affluent area with its beautiful coloured Victorian town houses and terraces. Portobello Road is what the area is best known for, which once housed the author George Orwell and is now home to the famous Portobello Road Market. It is filled with antique, shabby chic and vintage style shops, albeit with some well-known chain stores now interwoven. We spent a good while browsing and immersing ourselves in the bohemian atmosphere; as my friend commented very like Camden without the smell of weed! We then enjoyed afternoon tea at the Biscuiteers Boutique on Kensington Park Road. This beautiful shop sells iced biscuits for every occasion and also has an icing café where you can test out your own skills. The tea was beautiful; including an array of London themed iced biscuits and was a real bargain at £24 each which included two glasses of Prosecco.





The shop is stunningly decorated with what I would describe as blue willow wallpaper and a wall of vintage mirrors which gives a fantastic effect and is a stylish idea I might well steal for decorating any future house; which brings me nicely on to my exciting news of the month.

We finally took the plunge and put our house on the market and amazingly it sold in a matter of days to the first and only person that viewed it. This brings with it mixed emotions for me. After nearly four years of living there, it has become my home as much as my husband’s even though he purchased it long before we met. I love the history of it – it is a Victorian terrace built in 1897 and I really like all we have done to it; especially the reinstalling of a Victorian tiled fireplace in the dining room which was a great find on EBay, The North African inspired décor in the dining room, our Greek inspired patio, our sunny bathroom, our purple boudoir and my wonderful wardrobe.

The thought of a new house to decorate however is very exciting and now we have had our offer accepted on a lovely 1930’s semi, I am far more enthusiastic about the move in general. Suddenly bathrooms and wallpaper are becoming as appealing to window shop for as shoes – well almost! One thing is for sure I finally feel content to remain living in Rainham, especially now it has become somewhat of destination vintage; with a new café called Nutmeg which is very Cath Kidston inspired and does a beautiful cream tea as well as a shop called The Vintage Dove which sells various shabby chic gifts and runs craft classes upstairs.  I am hoping to try their class in Autentico Beginners Furniture Painting as I am planning to upcycle the pine table and chairs given to us by my husband’s parents.

the vintage dove




I wanted to end with an array of pictures of what was a much loved first home. Fingers crossed sale goes through and we don’t have to start the search again as it is extremely stressful. Until next time ….



living room

dining room







Reliving the 80’s and 90’s

One of my close friends had an 80’s fancy dress party last month.  I went as a Rubik cube whilst my partner went as the karate kid.  The Rubik’s cube is a 3D combination puzzle originally invented in 1974 and sold to Rubik in 1980.  Although the hey day of the cube was the 1980s it remains popular today and in January 2009 350 million had been sold worldwide.  Often thought of as an impossible puzzle, the record for a single solving is 5.66 seconds!  Solvers of the puzzle are often seen as highly intelligent hence it featuring in films in order to portray this trait in a character, for example Armageddon.  Other costumes at the party included a storm trooper, Madonna, Jessica Rabbit, Prince and Disco divas.  I often think of life as being a bit like a Rubik’s cube; just as one side falls into place another becomes a muddle.


I got thinking about what the 80’s mean to me.  I was born in 1983 when the prime minister was Margaret Thatcher, ‘Wherever I Lay my Hat’ by Paul Young was No 1 in the singles chart, the rave culture was in full swing and a first class stamp cost less than 20p.  There was still a £1 note in existence and the trains were the slam door variety.  Newly released was the CD format for music as opposed to tapes.  The 30 years of my life have seen a great many rapid changes not least the internet, DVDs and mobile phones.  Growing up my favourite toys were the Sylvanian Families and my brothers were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  The toy to have Christmas 1983 was the cabbage patch doll.  I bought my niece her first Slyvanian’s this year, hoping she would get as much enjoyment out of them as I did when they first arrived in Britain in my local toy shop in 1988.  Who can forget the TV shows we watched such as Rainbow, Raggy Dolls and Wacaday?

Fashion in the 80’s was a mixture of punk, neon, shoulder pads, leggings, leotards, leg warmers, perms and crimping.  Many of these fashions have seen revivals and neon continues to be a trend for this coming spring season as well as hair crimping being seen on the Moschino catwalk.

I guess though the 90s left more of an imprint on me as I was only 6 at the end of the 80s.  This year as my friends and I all turn 30, I suspect there will be lots of reminiscing back to the 80s.

Last month Britain saw its first flurries of snow for this winter and March has brought more still – I’m so grateful for my Ugg boots – this is not the weather for stilettos!  Snow rarely has its imagined romance unless you are a child with a sledge; cold fingers and toes along with thwarted journeys are not pleasant.  It is a good excuse however to showcase some of the wonderful woollies out there at the moment; I love the woollen headbands, perfect to wear out when I am doing my training walks for Moonwalk.

Definitely time to ditch that New Year diet and relax in front of the TV enjoying a nice cup of hot chocolate topped with cream and marshmallows in your cosy onsie next to an open fire.  Not quite sure why grown adults have started wearing hats with animal ears on though, can anyone shed any light on this?


My Cath Kidston knitting book and supplies arrived the other week so I will be teaching myself how to knit as per my bucket list and should have a nice warm scarf at the end of it.  I’m hoping to add to my list learning to crochet so I can knit a lovely blanket for my partner’s sister’s new arrival.  I may even move on to quilting – all great activities to do whilst it’s cold outside.  Rufus the rabbit certainly enjoyed the snow; perhaps I should knit him an ear warmer!

Despite it feeling nothing like spring outside; I have been giving some thought to spring fashions.  Talking of revivals, there seems to be somewhat of a 90s feel this season with scrunches being seen on the Ashish catwalk, a Bewitched style double denim resurgence and programmes such as My Mad Fat Diary and The Reunion.  Monochrome appears to be big again and I love this dress from Boohoo which I will pair with a coral belt from New Look and coral shoes from last year to give it more of a spring feel.  I also couldn’t resist this fun comic strip dress.


Last month was of course Valentines Day and my partner and I went for a lovely meal at The Barn restaurant near us.

Valentines always brings a surge on the market for underwear and perhaps as fashionistas we often ignore these largely unseen items.  We should give it greater attention however as like a good pair of shoes – good underwear has the power to make us feel sexy and instantly lift our mood.

Anyway I shall sign off now.  Just before I go though I want to share with you another DIY makeover – our dining room.  When the ceiling fell down back in the summer due to being the old Victorian lathe and plaster, we were devastated but we turned it round to a positive by using it as an opportunity to install an open fire and redecorate.


After the ceiling fell down



We have gone for a North African theme whilst incorporating a traditional Victorian feel.  The fireplace whilst not original to the house, we believe to be an original from the period and the kind of style that would have appeared in our house of our type.  The companion set was a vintage find given as a Christmas present and the kettle was my maternal grandmothers.  Besides the usual photos the mantel piece is also adorned with a camel picked up in Morocco and a souvenir pyramid from Egypt.


The light is a Moroccan lantern from Moroccan Bazaar and conjures up fond memories of the bustling souks in Marrakech.  The main canvas was purchased during our trip to Egypt.  There is also a piece of papyrus with my name in hieroglyphics which was picked up in Sharm El Sheik.  The smaller canvases – two are shots my paternal grandfather who I never met took when he was posted out to Egypt with the army and the third is him washing up after Christmas dinner in Jamaica.


The red adds to the North African feel as well as adding warmth to the room.  If my sewing skills improve I would also like to make a window seat.

Look out for my next home feature and wrap up warm.  Until next time………