Our Living Room Makeover

On a whim, (typical of the way that so many of our household decisions seem to be made!) my husband and I decided to redecorate our living room a few weeks ago.

When we moved in five years ago we plumped for what we (then!) perceived to be a vibrant red flower-print feature wallpaper on one wall. Other bright accessories such as a red wall clock, Roman blinds and rug helped complete the look we were going for. For a decent stretch of time, we were pleased with our finished room and enjoyed spending time in it. Here’s what it looked like:

before sitting room

Other updates since we moved in

Fast forward a few years, we have effected a few updates to our home. Most significantly, we had a small extension built to replace the low budget, DIY conservatory that the previous owners had installed, which happened to adjoin the living room. This extension was originally intended to be more of a playroom for the kids than anything else, as well as lending space for a concealed home office in a large cupboard.

However, with the passage of time, we seemed to spend less and less time in the dedicated living room. Our rebounder (mini trampoline) became inadvertently housed in there which looked scruffy which didn’t help. But I think the primary issue that deterred me from that space was that the bold red print wallpaper now bugged me as seeming too ‘busy’. It didn’t make for a particularly restful sight being a couple of metres directly opposite the sofas that it was.

Yearning for a tranquil, child-free oasis

Since moving in five years ago, the number of children we have has tripled, as has the swathe of toys and general mess, not to mention the noise! Of course, I wouldn’t trade my little people for anything, but I found myself hankering for a calm, more grown up and elegant oasis set away from the chaos. Even if I mostly only spent evenings in it. I suspect many other parents can identify with that desire?! Our underused living room was the ideal place, ripe as it was for a makeover.

Few things pique my excitement like the prospect of redecorating a room. So I joyfully launched into a flurry of planning and researching, armed with handfuls of home interiors magazines along with Pinterest and Instagram.

Walls

A dark-ish feature wall was a must, to highlight the beautiful limestone fireplace that we installed shortly after moving in. Yet the busily patterned wallpaper on the wall behind it had the unfortunate effect of concealing what should have been our feature fireplace. So we have now covered that wall in a clay-grey shade which should make the fireplace stand out way better and receive the appreciation it has been lacking over the last few years. In the end, the other three walls were also painted in grey, albeit a slightly lighter shade than the fireplace wall.

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Sofas

Our old navy blue leather sofa suite has served us well: they were second hand (although in immaculate condition) when we acquired them almost fifteen years ago. They have weathered the storms of three young children in the intervening decade and a bit and are a bit shabby for it. Luckily, we bagged a great deal in the Black Friday sale on a new sofa and two armchairs which arrived a few days before Christmas. With silver-hued fabric, they are heavenly to relax in and I don’t regret splashing out on them.

sittingrm new3

Picture ledge feature wall

I fell in love with the idea of a gallery wall created from picture ledges the instant I spotted the idea on Pinterest. It is pretty straightforward and quick to create yet conjures up a striking impression.

The ledges are from Ikea (though I purchased from an eBay supplier as we don’t live particularly close to an Ikea store). They are basically shallow floating shelves designed to display photo frames and similar items. They are available in white and black. As you can see from the pic, we bought six of them to arrange on quite a large expanse of wall. Two different lengths are available: 55cm and 115cm.

I struck gold in Asda when I spotted they had a sale on simple white photo frames. Even the largest ones cost no more than about £4 each. As I bought so many, the sale savings really mounted up.

The next job was to fiddle around with the arrangement of the frames on the ledges. I won’t lie: this took a lot of tweaking until I was happy with it.

The true beauty of this type of photo display is how easy it is to change the display- just replace the frames with different photos to freshen it up. We have put quite a few of our wedding photos up to start with as we haven’t displayed many at all since we got married ten years ago.

The little grey birds in front of some of the ledges are cheap laser cut shapes that I bought from eBay. My late father was hugely into birdwatching and scattering a few of these little wooden birds around, (which I painted grey with a tester pot) gives a comforting feeling, even if I can’t explain quite why.

Accessories

Ah, I’m sure I’m not alone in finding home accessories the most fun part to shop for, am I?! After collating ideas on Pinterest boards and snipping out appealing living room images from interiors magazines, I was eager to track down the perfect accessories to complement our newly decorated room. At the same time, I wanted to keep a tight rein on the purse strings after shelling out a hefty chunk of cash for the new sofas.

The pom pom garland strung across the fireplace was an Etsy buy and I love it because it trims the fireplace perfectly. It lends a little Scandi chic to the room, too. The large wall-mounted letter ‘D’ is the first letter of our family’s surname and the two white stars either side of it are battery-powered LED lights that emit a beautiful soft glow.

Dunelm, Dunelm, Dunelm…

Dunelm came to the rescue, offering many gorgeous items at surprisingly low prices. And no, I promise this post isn’t sponsored by Dunelm (or anyone else, for that matter)! The cushion pads from our old scatter cushions were still in decent condition, so I snapped up four leaping hare print cushion covers for £5 each. The grey candlestick holders and glass heart-shaped tealight holders were also just a few pounds apiece from Dunelm. The grey hare-print roller blinds were £28 each and they blend with the scheme perfectly. How cute is the grey ceramic rabbit on the edge of the mantlepiece? At only £14 I couldn’t resist him. The grey teddy bear rug, also from Dunelm, is seriously the softest and most gorgeously luxurious rug I’ve ever had the joy of stepping on. The round, beaded silver mirrors were great value at £22 each.

sittingrm new1

And buys from other places…

Naturally, I did cast my net wider afield and purchase a few things elsewhere. The silver bevelled edge mirror was sourced preloved from a local selling site. The few scratches on the frame didn’t bother us; if anything I think they add to the patina of the mirror. It was a bargain at £30 as it is so huge. The white wooden hearts either side of the fireplace were actually Poundland buys, would you believe it? The white rows of houses on the mantlepiece are tea light holders and look ever so pretty on cosy evenings with flickering lights behind them.

Finished in the nick of time

It became a bit of a mission to finish the room before Christmas and my poor husband was spending most of his weekend time on the decorating in December. However, we are really pleased with the finished effect. Sitting in there of an evening feels blissfully peaceful. We explained clearly to the kids that the new room is a calm, quiet room and they can’t take toys into it or eat in there. So far, they have followed the rules and in fact seem to enjoy retreating to what we have named the ‘sitting room’ to sit quietly with a book or just to slip away by themselves for a little peace for a short while.

What do you think of it, reader? Perhaps you have been decorating your home recently? If so, I’d love it if you dropped me a comment to tell me about it and even better if you can add a pic, or link to your own blog with images?

 

 

 

 

Decorating for Christmas (while also redecorating the living room…)

When do you feel the urge to deck the halls in your home? As an unspoken rule, the Christmas decorations make an appearance in our house on the last weekend in November. My husband and I have generally found ourselves unable to resist sneaking them out at that point most years even pre-kids, but in recent years we inevitably resign ourselves to an early date to end the incessant tree requests from our three young, seasonally excited children!

This year, something has got a little in the way of festive trimming feeling like the carefree and straightforward event it usually is, though. On a whim, my husband and I decided to redecorate our living room a few weeks ago. I know, I know: who would make such a crazy decision at the end of November?!

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The living room is the main space that gets prettied up for Christmas in our house. Our six-foot tall tree is always positioned in the corner living room (as this is about the only space it will fit). As the decorating won’t be completed for another couple of weeks, we mulled over the options before deciding to buy a second tree, (just a small 3 foot one) to rest on a coffee table in our family snug in the extension. As you can see in the pic, it is one of those snowy branch effect trees, which I have always hankered after. We soon faced a hurdle: to figure out how to wind the cumbersome lights around it. Ok, I should admit that they were only cumbersome because I accidentally ordered the twenty-metre light string instead of the two-metre string, oops. Still, once we (well in truth, it was mostly my husband) sorted it, the lights looked great switched on.

tree whole-48AB-9C15-63B45940B11D

Obviously, there is limited space to hang ornaments on a little three foot tall tree. So we just selected a few favourites and I indulged in buying a few new ones this year. There is a set of four whitewashed Scandi style woodland animals (a fox, rabbit, squirrel and hedgehog). I couldn’t resist the two fluffy penguins which were a steal at 69p each. Then when I returned some library books at the weekend, it just so happened that a Christmas fair was in full swing and I spotted these adorable knitted characters, a toy soldier and a Santa. Only a pound each for something handmade is a bargain in my book.

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All in all, I’m pretty happy with the way our tiny tree is bringing plenty of Christmas cheer to the room we are spending the most time in at the moment.

We also have our traditional musical animated fairground set on display. The kids are all mesmerised by this, even though it is the third Christmas running that we have had it. They sit and watch the coloured lights and moving rides for ages.

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We have two rustic wreaths hung up inside, too. They look great in place of our usual pictures and the more traditional feel of them holds huge appeal for me at the moment. I don’t change our Christmas colour scheme or style much from year to year, as fast trends just don’t hold much appeal. There is a real nostalgic value in unpacking old favourite ornaments that haven’t been seen for almost a year and I would miss that if we simply bought all new decorations each year. Not to mention the wasteful aspect of doing so.

I will post pics of our refreshed living room as soon as it is completed. I can’t wait to get the full-size tree up in there, too.

Do please share pics of your Christmas decorations or tell me about them by adding a comment below. What sort of colour scheme and style do you favour? How early (or late!) do you tend to decorate. I would love to hear about it.

Bringing Paris into my life (without actually visiting…)

One of the things I love best about living in England is the close proximity to mainland Europe and the diverse range of cultures on offer. The option of hopping onto the Eurostar train under the English Channel (thus avoiding the hassle of airports) further increases the appeal of nearby nations such as France, Belgium and the Netherlands as potential destinations. Major cities such as Brussels, Bruges and Amsterdam have proven to make ideal minibreak locations.

Yet as far as cities go, Paris calls me back more than anywhere else. She will always hold a special charm and magnetism all of its own for me, and I know scores of others feel the same way. My first visit was in my early teens and even then I recall feeling wowed by iconic sights such as the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe that until then had only been theoretical places featuring in textbooks in French classes at school.

Since then, I have been drawn back several times. Anyone who has been will know that the beauty of Paris extends way beyond the architectural feats of the main tourist attractions. The authentic spirit of the middle ages lives on in her medieval streets, the whole city steeped in history and I can just imagine Bastille day and other events taking place in days gone by…

white concrete building
Photo by Adrienn on Pexels.com

We prefer to stay in the 11th- by Canal St Martin. Popularised after being featured as a filming location in the hit movie Amelie, it feels like a real residential neighbourhood with Parisians going about their everyday lives rather than simply swarming with tourists in the way that some of the central areas tend to be. Bustling local markets abound with discerning shoppers examining the profusion of fresh produce and interacting with loud, enthusiastic stall holders. Previously working-class neighbourhoods on the banks of the canal have been transformed into more bohemian areas, yet maintaining its status as a home for people of many races, religions and different types of employment.

On our last visit, I loved to idle away time sitting on a bench on the bank of the canal, or standing on one of the pretty green Venetian metal bridges, just people-watching and admiring the oh-so-chic French dames as they purposefully stride along the pavements, heels click-clacking away.

top view of paris city and eiffel tower
Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

Ah, yes. There is so much j’adore about Paris and France in general. My husband and I had begun making tentative plans to revisit Paris next Spring. For various reasons, the trip is not looking likely any more, le sigh. Yet rather than get downcast about the change of plans, I’ve chosen instead to fix my focus on weaving the essence of Paris into my everyday life. After all, a mini break, although wonderful, lasts a fleeting few days. But if I can successfully spritz my lifestyle with a Parisian influence then I can savour the pleasures as often as I wish.

Here are a few of the ways I intend to infuse my life a la Francais:

  • Browse through my ‘Paris 1001 photos’ book- this is kept permanently on my windowsill to pore over when the mood takes me.
  • Play my French cafe music CD and the Amelie soundtrack in my car.
  • Watch French-language films from the library especially ones that were filmed in Paris.
  • Wear scarves tied in different ways and my Breton striped top.
  • Eat French food- There is so much delicious French food. Baguettes are one of my favourites, with the crusty bread paired with Brie and a salad making a tasty lunchtime meal.

Do you aim to infuse your own life with a particular influence in a similar way? If so, I would love to hear about it. Make my day and leave a comment below 😊

Why You Should Do the Thing You Feel Least Like Doing

When the evenings draw in and there’s an absence of light filtering through my bedroom window in the mornings, I must admit that my energy and motivation levels can start to flag. Maybe in a former life, I was a hedgehog who was lucky enough to curl up and hibernate over the winter, blissfully aware of any gloomy weather conditions. It is so tempting to slack off doing things that take a little bit more effort, things that I don’t generally think twice about doing in spring and summer. Perhaps you feel the same?

Some things feel like too much effort…

Some days I can’t be bothered to style my hair properly, just wash it, have a quick comb through and leave the house with it still a bit damp. Other days applying makeup feels like a chore, especially if one of the kids has woken during the night and my bleary eyes don’t want to focus on anything. Or rather than fixing myself a proper breakfast that will energise and nourish me, I’ll grab a couple of sugary biscuits that leave me flagging after the sugar high wears off. All of these examples do occur in my life sometimes, plus more. It’s part of the nature of being an ordinary, flawed human.

Yet if I make a different choice, exert more of an effort and do the thing I feel least like doing, I never regret it later. Never. Pushing myself to do the thing I least feel like doing tends to make me feel heaps better almost instantly after doing it.

Why it’s worth doing them anyway…

Let’s return to the examples in the paragraphs above. When I’ve washed my hair in the morning and just get straight on with styling it, either blow drying and straightening it or trying out a different style, it looks so much better which gives me an instant lift. The same thing goes for applying my makeup. Although I go for a pretty understated, natural makeup look it evens out my skin tone and helps emphasise certain features. This makes me feel so much more positive about getting out there and facing the world, even if it only involves the school run. A tasty, healthy breakfast of eggs, muesli or fruit and yoghurt provides slow-release energy throughout the morning. A few weeks after I’d had my youngest child by C-section as well as having fought off sepsis contracted through the surgery, I had to resume the school runs again when my husband returned to work and left the house early. On reflection, I still wasn’t feeling very well at all but even so, when I took the time to apply makeup and fix my hair I felt infinitely more human and functional (even if I’d only snatched 4 hours sleep…). Taking the time to do that was a very worthwhile investment for me personally.

The same can be said of so many other things in life, too. Some have far more significant and wide-reaching impacts, also. Making the effort to exercise when you really don’t feel like it. Making the effort to separate your recyclable packaging from non-recyclables. Walking instead of driving for short distances.

How about you?

What do you think, reader? Which things do you do, either small or large, that you sometimes don’t feel like and have to muster up the motivation but are always glad you did afterwards? Please do drop a comment below to let me know 😊.

The reason why so few women are as stylish as they desire to be…

What is the reason for the lack of style of many women in the UK? While flicking through a local free magazine* recently, one article discussing just this caught my attention. Ruth Essex, a stylist and style writer, pondered the reasons why so many women are not the stylish, elegant dressers that if asked, they claim they desire to be.

Lack of cash?

Despite money or lack thereof being the obvious barrier, lack of cash is actually not the real problem. Money does not always equate to good taste in attire, as endless red carpet faux-pas can attest to.

A less than perfect Figure?

Dissatisfaction with one’s figure doesn’t cut it as an explanation, either. You only have to look to countries such as France or Italy, where the majority of plus-sized ladies make the best of themselves and present an elegant image out and about.

Nope. Two little words are the culprits…

Nope. Ruth rightly pinpoints the problem down to two little words: “only” and “just”. How many times have we all discounted the need to make an effort with our choice of clothing, hair and make up because we are “only” doing the school run, or “just” going to the shops for a pint of milk, or “only” meeting a friend in an informal cafe for lunch. Hands up who has succumbed to this way of thinking? I know I certainly have and can easily slip back into it if I’m not careful. Why do we diminish the importance of these singularly small events, that when pieced together form the bulk of our days and actual lives?

woman holding disposable cup
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

How to break the habit?

Why not challenge yourself to remove those “just” and “only’ words? See how the sentence becomes reframed? I am doing the school run. I am going to the shops. Now, these events sound worthy of making a little more effort for, don’t they?

Ruth Essex explains that the “just” and “only” type thinking is called “faulty” thinking by psychoanalysts but we can re-learn it. It is about reminding ourselves that spending a little extra time on coordinating an outfit each morning, applying a little makeup and styling our hair is something that we deserve to do and that because it makes us feel good about ourselves, it contributes towards our wellbeing. Don’t you notice a huge difference on those days when you have invested a little more time than usual on getting yourself ready to go out, in terms of what a boost it gives you, even if no one else notices the outward difference?  A glance around the centre of any Italian or French city will certify that the donne and femmes of the respective lands have cultivated this mentality and strive to present themselves at their best on a daily basis. In fact, the grandmother of the boy I was an au pair for in Italy dressed and made herself up beautifully every single day, even though she rarely chose to leave her home. Taking pride in her appearance was second nature given that she was in her seventies.

So Remember…

The old adage “life is not a dress rehearsal” is an apt reminder that the seemingly ordinary everydays are what make up the bulk of our existence. So: pull out those lovely items in your wardrobe that you save for best, remove the sealed wrapping from that eyeshadow you purchased months ago and give yourself permission to use them and enjoy them.

*The article was called ‘”Only” and “Just”: The Death of Style’ by Ruth Essex in Eastlife magazine

Decorating the House for Autumn

I hope those of you in the northern hemisphere are enjoying autumn so far? Or the arrival of spring, for any southern hemisphere readers! Even though recent years have seen me gain an increasing appreciation for the beauty of autumn in all her colourful splendour, this year I have striven to bring some of the colour into my home. I have taken a lot of enjoyment from both researching decorative ideas and then setting them up in our home.

What sparked the idea in my mind…

Although I have gradually come around to the notion of decorating the house for Halloween in recent years (heavily influenced by the presence of excitable young children), I must admit that the prospect of decorating the house in a general autumn theme had never really occurred to me. In truth, it was seeing Ann’s beautiful decorations in her home on her blog www.ournewvista.com that sparked the interest in my mind. Since then, I’ve enjoyed taking part in Dee’s ‘Welcoming Fall 5-Day Challenge’ which sparked plenty of ideas.  A number of shops here are also brimming with beautiful rustic items in appealing, rich shades of red, orange, yellow and brown. They reflect the stunning hues that nature begins to bestow upon us at this time of year.

Borrowing a few items from the outdoors

Tempting though the countless shop displays were, with their wares of cushions in autumn-themed prints, animal lamps and ornaments, I decided to attempt a simple homespun decoration in the first instance. Thankfully, the branches of several shrubs in our garden were foisting inspiration upon me, in the form of bright, ripe berries dangling heavily from branches in vivid hues of red and yellow. After snipping off a few small branches I arranged them in a white vase and was pretty pleased with the result. Those of you who follow me on Facebook or Instagram will have seen the images the day that I filled my vase.

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Autumn Bedlinen

I have two main sets of bed linen- a spring/ summer set and an autumn/winter set. With the temperature steadily dropping, the time felt right to switch to the autumn/winter set. Even though we have owned it for at least five years (and it was only a budget buy at a supermarket even then), it raises my spirits each year when I make up the bed with it for the first time. As you can see from the pic here, it depicts deer, rabbits and other winter animals in red on a paler background.

Vignette Displays

Then I wandered onto Pinterest to fuel further decor ideas. There, I fell in love with the idea of using pumpkins and gourds as table centrepieces and sideboard displays.  Alas, I am months too late to have planted my own, but sourced some artificial ones from an eBay supplier. I also bought a pack of artificial leaves in a variety of autumnal shades, which I’ll be able to reuse year after year. What do you think?

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Here is a little mock berry and pinecone candle holder that I couldn’t resist buying:

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How about you?

Have you grown your own pumpkins or gourds before? I’d be interested to know how easy or difficult it is. Perhaps I can add it to my list of things to try next year…

I would love to hear or see pics of any autumn decorations in your home that the moment. Feel free to add a comment. Hearing from readers makes my day 🙂

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Living The Simply Luxurious Life – Making Your Everydays Extraordinary and Discovering Your Best Self

As a long-time subscriber of Shannon Ables’s The Simply Luxurious Life blog, I love the way her regular blog posts provide a steady stream of inspiration on everything from book and film recommendations to recipes and thoughtfully expressed advice for elevating various aspects of our lives.

Having enjoyed Shannon’s first book, Choosing The Simply Luxurious Life a few years ago, I was pleased to hear that a second book was in the pipeline. Naturally, I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of the book to review here on Live Chic and Well.

The blurb of Shannon’s new book, Living The Simply Luxurious Life – Making Your Everydays Extraordinary and Discovering Your Best Self  (see image above) states it will help you learn how to:

  • Recognize your innate strengths
  • Acquire the skills needed to nurture your best self
  • Identify and navigate past societal limitations often placed upon women
  • Strengthen your brand both personally and professionally
  • Build a supportive and healthy community
  • Cultivate effortless style
  • Enhance your everyday meals with seasonal fare
  • Live with less, so that you can live more fully
  • Understand how to make a successful fresh start
  • Establish and mastermind your financial security
  • Experience great pleasure and joy in relationships
  • Always strive for quality over quantity in every arena of your life.

There is a huge amount of content to digest, given that it spans everything from small details to uplevel our everyday lives, to making potentially life-altering decisions such as career changes or relocating. And so, I have spent a number of enjoyable autumn evenings curled up on the sofa poring the almost 400 pages to reap the full benefit of the advice.

I appreciated the ever-practical and easy-to-implement suggestions on ways to improve my own everydays.  The reader is gently probed to examine aspects of their lives that they may be dissatisfied with and to consider how to take steps to make improvements and inch closer to the lives we dream of. When we adopt a different perspective and take positive action, anything seems possible, don’t you think?

I would heartily recommend this book to any woman who is keen to welcome positive changes in her life. Does that sound like you? With Shannon’s seasoned wisdom and gentle guidance, you are likely to unearth a fresh sense of enthusiasm and appreciation for savouring the joys of everyday life. Oh, and a long list of scribbled-down ideas you intend to put into practice from the pages of this book. I know I certainly have!

The book is available now from Amazon UK. However, wouldn’t you prefer a signed copy, a simply luxury gift and a 40% discount off the first book? I thought you’d like the sound of that! Head directly to The Simply Luxurious Life website to take advantage of this great offer.

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