Giffords Circus

Giffords Big Top. Photo:  Jack Bal l

Giffords Big Top. Photo: Jack Ball

Giffords Circus is a was founded in 2000 by Nell and Toti Gifford and it travels between village greens in the Cotswolds and London between May and September every year. It’s one of those rare treats in life where you take the children when they are young and then end up still going but without them when they’re older. I love that it’s a slice of magic that pops up in the middle of nowhere - the big top, the performances, the decor, the caravans, the food - and then disappears again after a few days, almost overnight, as if it were never there! Proper Enid Blyton stuff (if you’re not too young to remember her!)


Circuses like Giffords also illustrate my interest in the boundaries that, traditionally, have existed between the designs of different spaces - between inside and outside spaces, between hotels and domestic interiors, between restaurants and homes. In recent years, it seems to me that the boundaries between them have come tumbling down - now restaurants are designed to make you feel like you’re eating at home and everyone wants their bedroom to look like a boutique hotel!

Artists Residence Hotel - is it a hotel, home or dining room? Hard to tell.

Artists Residence Hotel - is it a hotel, home or dining room? Hard to tell.

When it comes to outdoor living I’ve noticed that people (well, me anyway!) are drawing on festivals such as Glastonbury for inspiration. Luxury camping with all the mod cons, aka glamping, has exploded as a new holiday option and tree houses are now being built that look better than some homes! Bringing the outside in with biophillic design and the inside out with garden rooms and verandas and this is not just a trend - it’s the new way of life.

The best treehouse I’ve ever seen! Blackberry Woods, Sussex

The best treehouse I’ve ever seen! Blackberry Woods, Sussex

This is all partly I think why I love Giffords Circus as it’s a great example of the joy of blurring boundaries. They mix the outside and inside to the extreme - a huge tent erected in the countryside and strewn with sawdust yet decorated with velvet drapes. A whole troupe of travelling performers who spend their summer in liveried caravans And Circus Sauce, Giffords travelling restaurant produces exquisite food in a caravan kitchen and serves it up in a magical tented restaurant. What could be more magical than capturing some circus magic in the home? The colours, passion and escapism of a circus, especially an authentic one like Giffords, are all key ingredients in a mix that make a happy and personal home where you escape from the harsh realities of life.

Circus Sauce . Image: Emma Bradshaw.

Circus Sauce. Image: Emma Bradshaw.

Everything about Giffords it is rooted in traditional skills and crafts.

All of the costumes are made by hand and the seamstresses travel with the circus all summer.

Costumes being made by hand. Photo:  Jack Ball.

Costumes being made by hand. Photo: Jack Ball.

Giffords Wardrobe Department. Photo: Jack Ball

Giffords Wardrobe Department. Photo:Jack Ball

All of the sign writing - on the wagons, the caravans and the signage - is done by hand.

Giffords hand painted sign writing. Photo:  Jack Ball .

Giffords hand painted sign writing. Photo: Jack Ball.

The circus caravans and trailers are all built by hand using traditional carpentry skills and recycled vehicles where possible. The new accommodation wagon was a a furniture delivery lorry in a previous life!

Giffords caravan - hand built and hand painted. Photo:  Jack Ball

Giffords caravan - hand built and hand painted. Photo: Jack Ball

Every year the circus has a theme and this year is ‘Xanadu’ - ‘It’s midsummer 1973 in Hyde Park and the flower power movement is at its height. Hippies, hipsters, rock stars, musicians, wild women and global nomads with shamanic horses gather to play, sing, dance, protest and perform. Policemen and a family of out-of-towners get caught up in the celebrations. Will they get in the groove?’

Xanadu poster girl Lily - star of this years show.

Xanadu poster girl Lily - star of this years show.

I popped up to the circus a few weeks ago, just before rehearsals began, for a behind - the -scenes tour and to have a play with styling up one of the caravans in a Xanadu theme!

The Big Top - styling:  The Wild Girls.  Photo:  Jack Ball.

The Big Top - styling: The Wild Girls. Photo: Jack Ball.

Photo:  Jack Ball

Photo: Jack Ball

Photo:  Jack Ball

Photo: Jack Ball

Photo:  Jack Ball.

Photo: Jack Ball.

Phoro:  Jack Ball

Phoro: Jack Ball

‘Xanadu’ kicks off on May 3rd at Fennells Farm in Stroud and here are the tour locations and dates.


I urge you to visit if you get the chance. It’s a feast for all of the senses and I guarantee that you’ll take some magic home to recreate in your home. And I guarantee you will be going back the following year for more!

PS there are 2 ‘Relaxed’ performances this year on Monday 13th May at 1pm, at Fennells Farm near Stroud and 1pm on Monday 12th August at Barrington. House lights will be left on, exits will be open, there will be a reduced capacity of seats, the artists will introduce themselves at the beginning of the performance and sound levels will be reduced to provide a more ‘relaxed’ environment. Circus goers will also be able to ‘chill-out’ in a separate space should they need a break.



In Praise of the White, Washed Linen Sofa

My name is Dee and I’m addicted to white, washed linen sofas’ is my confession. The epitome of French interior chic, I love how they effortlessly ooze the welcoming, lived in, ‘just left the room’ look that we all aspire to these days. They don’t even try to look good, they just do and are as comfortable and comforting as wearing your favourite jeans. They are the chic messy bun of interiors, the Levi’s cut offs of lounging and the Veja trainers of sofas - they go with anything and add effortless chic to any look.

The crumpled nature of washed linen also adds texture to a room. White schemes can sometimes look sterile and unwelcoming but the addition of texture always reverses this. There is no colour in the picture below but the crumpled linen, the vintage books and the various woods are enough.

Be still my beating heart …the perfect crumpled linen sofa. Image from Pinterest.

Be still my beating heart …the perfect crumpled linen sofa. Image from Pinterest.

White sofas have the benefit too of making any space look bigger. They appear to take up less room and if you get one on legs, it will make the room look airier still. Solid sofas with no legs can tend to look bulkier and monolithic, especially in darker colours.

I have not, however, dared own a white linen sofa for the obvious reason that they will show up any and every mark and with three adolescents and a perpetually muddy dog in the house it’s an absolute recipe for disaster. Or is it? I did have a white cotton sofa in the front room for years and years until it wore out. The covers were removable and washable and, although we didn’t wash them enough (they were always covered in mud, orange juice, chocolate, red wine etc), when they WERE washed the sofa always looked like new. Even more importantly, if the stains didn’t come out then because the covers were white I was able to bleach them and you can’t do that with any other colour except for white obviously. I’d actually forgotten this important detail until recently and when I recalled it it was the light bulb moment to start the hunt for the perfect white crumpled linen sofa.

  1. Maison Du Monde ‘Louvre’ Sofa

The Louvre Sofa

The Louvre Sofa

Maison Du Monde always seem to come up with a chic, affordable version of anything. This 2 metre long sofa is only £949 and the covers are removable and washable.

2. Merci 3 Seater Sofa

Everything Merci does makes me swoon.

Everything Merci does makes me swoon.

Merci Paris opened ten years ago and is always a must visit for me when I’m in Paris. Merci champions emerging designers and everything they do is of exceptional quality. This sofa is not cheap at £2720 but the quality will doubtless be excellent.

Andrew Martin Truman Sofa in White Linen


The Truman sofa is one of the ultimate sofas I think - you buy it in sections so you can make it fit into any room size. It’s design and proportions are such that it will go with absolutely any look and it’s delivered in 3 to 5 days - a rarity in the sofa world where six weeks lead time is pretty standard.

4. Att Pynta Luca Sofa


Att Pynta are a new interiors brand in Peckham and the shape of their Luca sofa is to die for. It costs from £2695 and the fabric in this case is dry clean only. This blog is about white linen sofas but Att Pynta also this sofa in velvet I’ve noticed and it’s totally swoonworthy - look! All the look of the relaxed crumpled linen sofa but in velvet! Anyway, I digress….


Maison Du Monde are the only brand I’ve found who are totally on it with washed linen sofas. They actually have seven styles of sofa on offer with washed linen covers, including this one called Francisco and Louvre mentioned above. Affordably priced at £973 the style and shape of this sofa make it look more expensive and the fact it’s on legs make it look more elegant and space saving, as discussed before.

So, these are the top 5 white washed linen sofas that jumped out at me. In an ideal world of course I would rather not buy new and would love to take one of my existing sofas or a second hand sofa and get re-covered in crumpled white linen. This service, sadly, seems rare and the recovering services I did find did not offer white linen as an option. I plan to explore this subject soon for a whole blog post of it’s own and perhaps I should learn to sew my own!

Note: Linen should be washed in lukewarm or cold water to avoid shrinkage.

Further adventures with Aviva investments

A few weeks ago, I spent some time with Alistair McQueen from Aviva where I learned about investing. 

During our chat I realised that investing for the future was not only doable, it was actually extremely easy with Wealthify at Aviva. And as someone who has not always been the best at dealing with finance and administration this was music to my ears! 


 So, after chatting to Rob we decided to take our first step and invest. When you enter the website you’re first step is to input your investment goals – what do you want to aim for? We’ve decided that money for home improvements is the goal for our investment as we want to convert our garage into a studio (well I do anyway, Rob is less keen to give to the beloved workshop space he uses twice a year 😑🙄😂). 


You’re then asked to decide how much to invest upfront and how much to pay in monthly. As we’re new to this we settled on £300 upfront and £50 per month to start with. You can change any of this at any time just by using the slider on the website.

We then had to decide how long to invest for. We decided on 10 years. Again, you just use the slider to select the number of years - and you can change this at any time as well. 

It was a very simple decision to choose ‘Ethical’ as our investment theme and there was plenty of information at our fingertips about the blend of environmentally and socially responsible companies that Wealthify work with. 

Our final decision was around how adventurous our investment style is - from ‘Cautious’ through to ‘Adventurous’. There is a questionnaire that really helps you decide between the five optionsWe settled on ‘Cautious’, again because we’re new to this and Al explained that there is always some risk when it comes to investing. Investments can go down as well as up in value so we could get back less than we put in.

I have to say that I can’t actually believe that I’m talking about investing as it’s something I normally shy away from! The website made it so easy.

You then see several whizzy graphs showing you where your money will be invested and there’s lots of further information available at the click of an ‘i’ button should you want it. I felt that the information given was very clear and honest without being too detailed or overwhelming. 

Anyway, our investment journey has started! Whether I get my new studio space or not, I now feel much better equipped to work out what I need to do to achieve my financial goals in the future. 

To find out more about starting your own investment journey click here 

This is a Paid Partnership with Aviva UK.

Investing with Aviva.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not very grown up when it comes to money. I leave all the boring stuff such as investments, savings, pensions and ISAs for my husband Rob to deal with and instead apply my brain to creating, talking about and writing about home interiors. I rarely even open the finance-related post as I assume it will be a) boring and b) difficult to understand and I don’t have time in my already complicated life to try and understand more things!

This spring, however, Rob sold some shares to fund a particularly special summer holiday. And guess what, it turns out that reaping the benefits of an investment can be a pretty good incentive for doing it again!

We became expert paddle boarders on holiday.

We became expert paddle boarders on holiday.

All of a sudden, as well as holidays, I had my eyes set on all the home improvements we could do. I’m after a new kitchen as our current one is 15 years old. Even more exciting though is the potential of converting our garage into a design studio. When Aviva then asked me if I was interested in learning more about their investment options, for once I was all ears!

The outside space of my potential studio.

The outside space of my potential studio.

Aviva offer a wide range of investment options including Wealthify, a Robo investment tool which simplifies investments for you. As a self confessed finance-phobic I was very happy to have a good chat with Al from Aviva who helped me to answer my initial questions about it.

The big issue for me of course, as I said earlier, is that I don’t have any experience and I think it’s bound to be complicated. But Al assured me that with Wealthify at Aviva no experience is necessary. All you have to do is answer a few simple questions to start with (such as how much you want to invest and how often) and your investments will then be managed for you by a team of experienced and qualified investment managers. Al reminded though that I should check it myself from time to time as investments can go down as well as up so you could end up with less than you started with.

Al liked to gesticulate quite a lot.

Al liked to gesticulate quite a lot.

It was all sounding good so far, and investing for my home improvements was starting to look more and more achievable. My other main question to Al was - if I’m saving already though (well, hopefully Rob is 😊😂 ) why do I need an investment too? There was another good answer from Al here - while savings are vital for unexpected expenses, investments have the potential to grow, so having both savings and investments makes good financial sense to me.

So, it’s amazing how experiencing or visualising the benefits of an investment can focus your mind on what needs to be done to achieve that goal. And then using Wealthify to help you to do this. I’m certainly keen to get going 😊.

My first chat with Al here

My second chat with Al here

For more information about Aviva and Wealthify click here.

This blog is part of a paid partnership with Aviva UK but, as always, all opinions are my own.

Woodchip & Magnolia X Pearl Lowe

A couple of years ago, when Lisa Dawson and I were launching our ‘No Rules Interior Cool’ workshops, we were looking for a few cool, quirky interior brands to sponsor our goody bags. One of those brands was Woodchip and Magnolia, a wallpaper and textile company founded by uber talented and experienced designer Nina Marika Tarnowsk. We instantly loved Woodchip and Magnolia’s vibe and their mantra ‘we like to do things differently. We don’t follow trends or have a signature style. We do what we want when we feel like it, together with creatives who share the same passion and ethos'. it resonated hugely with us and our belief that there are no rules with interior design either.

We are also longtime admirers of Pearl Lowe who - although she needs no introduction - is a one time pop singer, a fashion designer and an interior designer with an effortless signature style that encompasses all things vintage and chic faded glamour. Her clothes and interiors and instantly recognisable and her kitchen is one of the most liked on Instagram.


So, imagine our delight when we learned that Pearl had designed a range of wallpapers and textiles for Woodchip and Magnolia - definitely a meeting of like minded creatives - and that they were launching the wallpapers at London Design Fair.

Moi, Pearl Lowe, Lisa Dawson at Truman Brewery.

Moi, Pearl Lowe, Lisa Dawson at Truman Brewery.

We met Pearl at London Design Fair for a good old chinwag about all things interiors and discuss Pearl’s excitement at launching her own textile range. ‘I’ve been designing these prints in my head for years, drawing on the many influences in my life. It’s really a dream come true for me!’ We also couldn’t help but meander into other topics - she was so easy to talk to about anything. We talked about how you often only work out how your career path has evolved by joining the dots backwards and about the difficulties of balancing an often unpredictable career in a creative world with the equally unpredictable demands of motherhood - and loads more! We recorded the chat as a podcast here. if you fancy a listen.

The wallpapers and textiles are all absolutely gorgeous and unmistakeably ‘Pearl’ in style. They reflect her lifelong passion for vintage, faded glamour and country house opulance, a;ll mixed in with a splash of rock ‘n’ roll.. The designs are an eclectic mix of vintage inspired florals and geometric prints and come in a variety of colourways. So inspiring and beautiful and make me want to redecorate my house immediately!

Va Va Frome

Va Va Frome - a modern take on lushness of palms and ferns.

Va Va Frome - a modern take on lushness of palms and ferns.


Wisteria - Pearl couldn’t find a wisteria wallpaper to buy so she designed her own!

Wisteria - Pearl couldn’t find a wisteria wallpaper to buy so she designed her own!

Dawn Chorus

Dawn Chorus - the design was based on some old vintage fabric stored in an old suitcase.

Dawn Chorus - the design was based on some old vintage fabric stored in an old suitcase.


Ditsy - very feminine and similar to Pearl’s dress designs

Ditsy - very feminine and similar to Pearl’s dress designs

To read more about Pearls wallpapers and textiles, and order samples, click on the Woodchip and Magnolia website. To check out Pearl’s designs in beautiful velvet fabrics click here.

It was great to meet Pearl - her collaboration with Woodchip and Magnolia really is the perfect match and I can’t wait to see what else they come up with!

The Homeplace Holiday Let - Ramsgate

One of the first people I got to know via Instagram (when I started posting regularly about three years ago) was Wendy Aldridge from Homeplace. Homeplace sells a beautifully edited mix of contemporary and vintage homeware and Wendy’s taste in interior styling, especially mid-century, is impeccable. As well as the shop, Wendy also has an apartment in Ramsgate that she lets out for holidays. The apartment ‘The Homeplace Holiday Let’ has been decorated throughout using Wendy’s eye for design and examples of many of the items that she stocks in her shop.

I was lucky enough to host a ‘No Rules Interior Cool’ workshop there with Lisa Dawson back in the Spring and instantly fell in love with the apartment and Ramsgate. In fact, all of us on the workshop fell in love with the apartment so much that when Wendy mentioned that she’d had a cancellation for Easter, I snapped it up for my family’s Easter holiday.

The apartment is a basement flat of Victoria Mansions, a huge Victorian villa on the promenade in Ramsgate, The view from the front door is of the sea front and a quick trot across the road and you’re on the beach.

The apartment itself is huge and sleeps 6 across 3 double rooms.

Huge Front Room - we held a workshop for 20 in here!

Huge Front Room - we held a workshop for 20 in here!

The front room and kitchen are knocked through to provide maximum light from the front bay windows and large sash windows at the back. Wendy has cleverly joined the colour scheme together by using the main colour from the front room - Farrow and Ball ‘Downpipe’ - as the accent colour in the kitchen on the window frames, door frames and skirting boards. Wendy has also made the most of the remaining original features in the apartment - the floorboards and the windows - by making them focal points in the room.


The kitchen is large and airy and big enough to house a dining table for 8. The kitchen was made from the existing carcass, updated with new doors and a stainless steel workshop. There’s a dash of 80s geometry in here too with the grid patterned square tiles and stainless steel hood but, as ever, Wendy blends this effortlessly with the Victorian architecture and mid century furniture.

One of the two beautiful Homeplace Holiday Let bathrooms - this got over 6000 likes on Instagram when I posted it.

One of the two beautiful Homeplace Holiday Let bathrooms - this got over 6000 likes on Instagram when I posted it.


This is the main bedroom at the back of the apartment - all of the furniture, accessories and art is a mixture of new and vintage and all is sourced by Wendy herself. I especially love how she gives a nod to the apartment’s seaside location using quirkier than usual motifs - the vintage toy yacht here is an example, along with the seagull taxidermy in the kitchen!

Ramsgate itself is up and coming and, if I were to consider a job move to London, I think I’d seriously consider living here and commuting the hour to London. Ramsgate is awash with huge Victorian villas, some beautiful, some tired and in need of refurbishment, (LOADS of doer-uppers) but all still intact and authentic. We especially loved the houses built into the cliff, the cinema, the beach, the harbour and the flea markets.

My family and i also fell for Margate with it’s cool restaurants, Turner Contemporay gallery, flea markets, boutiques, the newly restored Dreamland amusement park and our absolute favourite - The Shell Grotto.

We also checked out Broadstairs and Whitstable - both well worth at least a day trip each with their beautiful beaches, cool architecture and quirky boutiques. And oysters of course!

We absolutely loved our trip to the this corner of Kent and the Homeplace Holiday Let in Ramsgate and we’d definitely go back to explore it all more deeply. For more info and to book the Ramsgate apartment click here.

Wendy now has a second holiday let in Porto which she’s decorated beautifully and I can’t wait to visit - For more info and to book the Porto apartment click here.

Christmas Decorating with Sainsbury's Home.

Do you use the same Christmas decorations, year in year out, or do you like to upgrade every Christmas? If you’re anything like me then you’ll like the best of both worlds - to keep all of your old favourites and then add a few new pieces each year.

This Christmas, Sainsbury’s Home have come up with three exciting new ranges - Winter’s Mist, Santa’s Town & Very Merry and Woodland Christmas - so you’re bound to find something that will fit right in with your existing favourites.

Winter’s Mist

The Winters Mist range is all about whites and silvers. It’s a paired back, fresh and natural look with hints of green. It’s a timeless look but it never dates or looks old fashioned and, as it’s so natural and simple, it’s easy to mix and match pieces of Winters Mist with other looks.

Winters Mist.jpg

My favourites from the Winters Mist range are the Star Candles. I absolutely love the silvered glass container which both reflects the candle light and allows the glow of the candle to show through - the best of both worlds and perfect for creating a grown up sparkle on your Christmas table. The star shape too is an absolute classic and will add interest to any existing glass or star shaped decorations you already have.


A also particularly love the faux eucalyptus garland and wreath which are a great way of decorating your table or draping around the house. It goes with the Winter’s Mist look but can be used to add greenery to any Christmas look. The benefit of faux of course is that it last all Christmas without wilting, as real foliage would, and you can use it year after year.


No Christmas is complete without christmas crackers of course and these silver and white dinner crackers will complete the Winters Mist look perfectly.

Santa’s Town and Very Merry
The Santa’s Town and Very Merry range is great fun and perfect for adding to your collection if you have children or are a dog lover. The colours are a bright and playful take on the traditional Christmas colours of red, green and white with a splash of turquoise.


The decorations can be used to hang on your Christmas tree of course or you could put a twist on tradition by using them as napkin rings,

Pug Table.png

To add to your Santa’s Town & Very Merry look you could use traditional candles or you could use these gorgeous and fun light up cloches which are obviously safer than candles.


I’ve used Bingo Christmas Crackers to style my grown up Very Merry look or you could use these Selfie Game Crackers if you’re entertaining children instead.

Woodland Christmas

The Woodland Christmas range is all about my favourite Christmas look - a rustic, foraged Christmas. There are lots of use of different wooden textures, dried and woody foliage and greenery. It’s the easiest Christmas look to achieve as lots of the accessories can be obtained simply by foraging in your local park or woods. Colours are muted greens, browns and rusts and it’s a very soothing, grown up look.


To help you to achieve this look use rustic accessories such as the Sainsbury’s Home mini Christmas tree, Woodland wreath and Woodland baubles.

Complete your look candles in your Christmas wreath with these tartan Christmas crackers.


So whatever your taste, Sainsbury’s Home has Christmas accessories to suit or to add to your existing collection.

Christmas Decorating Trends with Barbour

One of our favourite Christmas traditions is the annual watching of Raymond Briggs The Snowman. The book is 40 years old this year, I have been watching the animation of it every year from childhood and now I continue to watch it with my parents and my own children.

This Christmas, Barbour – glorious British outerwear brand and veritable institution of rural life, - have partnered again with The Snowman and created a campaign with a twist on the original story. 

I was inspired by this partnership to look outside to rural life this Christmas season and bring some of the outdoors indoors. Natural colours, such as greens, rusts and taupes, and wooden textures have been a huge trend recently, along with plants and botanicals, It’s been all about bringing the outside inside and making the home feel at one with nature.

Foraging for Decorations.

There’s nothing I like more than gathering ivy, logs, pine cones, berried branches and leafy twigs on a long walk in the countryside and then decorating my home with the foraged foliage. Another beauty of this trend of course is that most of it costs very little - or even nothing - as long as you know where to look - and remember take a set of secateurs with you!

Foraged foliage wreath.

Foraged wreath by The Wildgirls.

Foraged wreath by The Wildgirls.

Pine Cone Wall Hanging


Christmas Florals

Another popular trend that is also in keeping with the ‘outside inside’ theme is the move towards using flowers all year round. Florals have been big news in fashion in recent years and this, together with the improved quality of faux and dried flowers, has meant that flowers are not just a summer theme any more. Bedecking a Christmas tree with faux flowers and using floral embellishments for wrapping is a growing trend and a refreshing change from baubles and tinsel.

Floral Christmas Tree


Dried Flower Wrapping Embellishments


Tartan Christmas Table.

Tartan, of course, is a Christmas trend that will never go out of fashion. It’s timeless and traditional and also lends itself well to the ‘outside inside’ theme. Foliage, berries and greenery always look very handsome and majestic when styled with tartan. Use tartan as bows in your tree, ribbon for your wrapped Christmas gifts or as a tablecloth for your Christmas dinner table.


Whichever theme or trend you decide on for styling your Christmas, it’s always more fun to create it with family and friends and make it part of your family tradition, just like watching The Snowman with your family every year.

This is blog post is part of a paid partnership with Barbour. As always, all views are my own.

Christmas Wrapping with Primark

Christmas is rolling around again with it’s parties, meals and gifts and all the expense that goes with it!

However, wrapping your gifts and making them look wow really doesn’t have to be expensive! Primark recently asked me to try out their Christmas gift wrap range so I popped into my local Primark in Cheltenham for a lovely browse and picked up all of this delicious wrapping for under a tenner. I tried to pick a good mix in order to suit all tastes.

Primark Wrapping Paper - 10 metre rolls - £1.50 - £2 per roll.

Primark Wrapping Paper - 10 metre rolls - £1.50 - £2 per roll.


The Elf wrapping paper is perfect for wrapping gifts for kids (young and old!) and is £2 for a 10 metre roll. I wrapped my gift, added red ribbon and then, picking up on the Elf theme and colour scheme, added red, yellow and green Pom Poms to the gift tag. These poms poms are available from any craft store and you just simply glue them in with PVA glue. In the film ‘Elf’, the elves love to eat candy canes so I used this motif to add something extra to the gift wrap too. The candy cane Christmas tree ornament featured here is from Primark, it you can buy the sweet versions inexpensively online. The added bonus of these of course is that the recipient of the gift receives extra gifts as part of the wrapping.



Gold wrapping paper is always a classy statement and you can make it even classier by adding ribbon and evergreen embellishments.


Simply snip some evergreen from your hedge or the local park - it will last for ages. I also used a tag and gold stickers from the Primark range to make a personalised label - Mums always love that sort of thing.

 Fir Tree.

I love the Nordic look and bringing the outdoors indoors and Primark’s Fir Tree wrapping paper is a great one if you like this too. For this wrap, I used inexpensive garden twine instead of ribbon for a rustic look. I then popped out and snipped some dried cow parsley and grasses that grow abundantly on roadside verges. I tied a few bits of the dried foliage together with the garden twine and taped it to the gift.



Silver is another timeless classic that can be brought up bang to date with monochrome embellishments. For this gift I added black photo corners to the wrapped parcel and inserted a photo of myself to my mum, but you could add a picture of you and the recipient enjoying a happy moment together during the year. The photos can be in black and white to keep with the monochrome scheme, or have it printed in colour if you prefer. It’s a great way of using some of this photos on your phone camera roll and again the wrapping becomes part of the gift.


The camera bauble is also from Primark.

So, it’s pretty easy and inexpensive to make your Christmas gift wrap look more expensive than it actually is - get crafty with additional stationary or get outside with your secateurs - it’s fun!

This blog post is part of a paid partnership with Primark but, as always, all views are my own.

How I Chose my Love Your Home Sofa

Love Your Home Ottilie Sofa in Dove Stain Resistant Velvet.

Love Your Home Ottilie Sofa in Dove Stain Resistant Velvet.

Everyone thinks that choosing a new sofa is one of the more fun things about styling your home. We all have our own ideas of a ‘dream sofa’ and getting to that stage of a home or room renovation where it’s time to choose the sofa often marks the end of the stressful (and often boring bit) where it’s been all about getting the electrics right and deciding on the height of the skirting boards (yawn).

However, choosing that sofa can also be pretty tricky. There’s so much on offer and there’s so many boxes to tick. Where to start? Well, I think the best place to start is with this question - is it going to be a 5, 10 or 20 year sofa? In other words, how long do you want this sofa to last? This will depend on your current circumstances of course - are you a student or a space starved millennial? Are you planning on having kids in the near future or are you in a rental that you’re not allowed to decorate? This will help you to define the colour (trendy or timeless), fabric (washable or more luxurious), style (trendy or traditional) and price range that you go for.

I’m not a 5 year sofa girl and never have been. I like my furniture to work hard for my money plus, with recycling and zero waste on everyone’s agenda, I don’t want to buy anything that I’ll be chucking out in 5 years time. Even when I bought my first (tiny) house I didn’t buy a new sofa - I bought a second hand one from a friend.

So my natural frugality, together with the fact that I needed a sofa that’s going last at least 10 years anyway, was my guiding force. I needed it to be practical as I have three adolescent children at home and - guess what, folks? - they’re any less messy than they were as toddlers! OK they’re not smearing rusks into the furniture any more but they are still spilling their drinks and dropping ketchup soaked chips all over the place. And the dog isn’t much better!

I was so ready for a bit of luxury though and have lusted after a velvet sofa for years. Obviously velvet is not compatible with the lifestyle of my household as described above but I’d been really excited to read about Stain Resistant Velvets at Love Your Home. Not only does it not bruise or show water marks, you can wash the seat cushions covers in the washing machine at 40%. As Love Your Home say themselves ‘The Stain Resistant Velvet really is perfect for families with children and pets, who want that luxurious look while remaining practical’. Hellooooo - it has my name all over it. It also has a very high Martindale rub test of 100,000 of you’re into statistics like that.

Massive range of colours and fabrics at Love Your Home

Massive range of colours and fabrics at Love Your Home

So that was the fabric chosen. Now for colour. I’m really into naturals and neutrals as you may have noticed from my Instagram account. This not because I dislike colour, quite the opposite actually, I love all colour and find it difficult to settle on one. I would very happily choose a pink or yellow sofa, or the gorgeous rust colour that’s on trend at the moment, but I KNOW I’d get bored with it in a few months. This is why I go for neutrals - I know myself and will simply add coloured cushions and accessories to accent the sofa rather than going for a solid colour block.

Ottilie Sofa in Turmeric Mohair Velvet.

Ottilie Sofa in Turmeric Mohair Velvet.

Neutral colours comprise of whites, blacks, taupes and greys and I chose Dove a pale warm grey. My thinking was that it was just dark enough to disguise any marks but light enough not to dominate the room. Dark colours are obviously very practical but also make a piece of furniture seem bigger and more dominant. I wanted to keep the room airy. I also chose grey, as opposed to taupe, to contrast with the old pine floorboards we have in the house. This contrast shows the floorboards off to their best advantage whereas a taupe sofa next to the floorboards would have looked wishy washy. Lisa Dawson and I always say on our Styling Your Home workshops to make the most of what you house offers you first, i.e. original features, natural light and proportions. In my case the original Victorian pine floorboards and the high ceilings are a much loved feature of my house and I wanted a sofa that would compliment them.

Grey is a brilliant foil for natural wood tones.

Grey is a brilliant foil for natural wood tones.

The next choice to make was the style of sofa. We wanted something that all 5 of us can snuggle up on and we also know we loved the chaise style sofa. Love Your Home has many styles on offer and I genuinely love them all. I opted for the Ottilie Chaise Corner Sofa because it was large enough for all the family but the proportions are relatively dainty - the arms are slim, for instance - which makes it look less dominant and keeps the airy look I was looking for. Also is allows for more lounging room! The airy feeling is also helped by the colour choice and the tall legs (rather than a solid base) which makes the sofa look like it’s floating.

So those are the reasons I chose the Ottilie in Dove Stain Resistant Velvet. And I chose Love Your Home to work with after a long search for a sofa company that ticked off all of my following requirements:

- Superb quality sofas - all of the elements of the sofa structure look and feel top quality. Fabrics are sourced directly from third-and-fourth generation European mills, and the method for making them stain resistant occurs in the dying and not afterwards.

- Large choice of styles and fabrics - the choice is varied but not overwhelming and you can choose up to ten free fabric samples ahead of making your choice.

- Sustainability - the frames are made with sustainably-produced beechwood.

- Beautiful designs - there simply isn’t a single unstylish design in the whole range.

- Reasonable prices - nothing eye watering here!

- Excellent customer service - from start to finish the service is friendly, helpful and reliable and you get a no quibble 14 day return guarantee if you’re not completely happy.

But Love Your Home also do another pretty unique thing - they let you tweak the dimensions of their standard sofa designs. We tweaked the length of our Ottilie sofa - standard sizes are 250cm and 310cm but we had it made to 280cm to perfectly fit the available space in our front room. As well as tweaking dimensions, you can also have it made in a fabric supplied by you, and you can also tweak things like finish, stitching, piping, cushion pads, fabric mixes or upholstery.  Being able to specify a personalised sofa this way is also a brilliant thing as an interior designer and would usually cost a lot more than the 10% that Love Your Home charge.

So, even though sofa shopping can be tricky, my sofa journey with Love Your Home was nothing but a pleasure. Their showroom in Godalming is a beautiful hidden gem but if you can’t make it there, then their website is brilliantly easy to navigate.

Finally, although our sofa was #gifted, I did loads of research on sofa brands before I approached Love Your Home. Their brand was the only one that really offered the personal service I was looking for as well as quality furniture. The owners Leigh and Abi are passionate about their business and have had long careers steeped in style and design. I honestly wouldn’t recommend their products and service if I wasn’t convinced of it’s high quality. If you’re looking for a new sofa then check them out - I won’t be looking anywhere else for sofas for the forseeable!