Kitchen/Diner Dreaming: My Makeover Plans

Foxgrove Road Kitchen

High time I popped back over now my Christmas shoot bonanza has (I think!) drawn to a close (July-Sep are usually completely swamped with festive image production, leaving me very confused at this time of year as in my head it feels like approximately February). Between that and focusing attention on enjoying (and maintaining) the garden throughout the last of the warm weather, we’ve been neglecting the interior of our house for quite some time now.

Line Kay Kitchen

Now, like many interiors folk on the Interweb, I must confess to finding myself presenting a somewhat curated version of my home – I definitely think it’s good to share a few comedy look-how-disgusting-my-living-room-is-right-now shots when things get REALLY bad (usually directly after a busy shoot which involved crafting) and I also think it can be a bit soulless to only show perfectly styled vignettes without a bit of real life sneaking in around the edges sometimes, but on the whole I do tend to avoid snapping the rooms I’m not so keen on (i.e. half the house still).

Alison Allen Kitchen

However, as the nights are drawing in and hanging out in the garden becomes distinctly less appealing, my nesting instinct has been reawakened and I’m determined to finally finish off the half-done bathroom, study and bedroom this side of Christmas, so that in January we can fully focus on the biggie: our proposed kitchen/dining room side return extension! When we moved into this house, I had anticipated it being something of a stop-gap before moving on to something bigger and better, and was planning on doing a Home-for-Now-style makeover on the two rooms – paint the dining room, change the handles on the kitchen cupboards, remove all the top cupboard doors to give a more open look, make a curtain to cover the washing machine – you get the gist. However, as property prices in our area have gone up by over a third since we bought in 2012 (!) it soon became apparent we weren’t going to be heading further up that ladder anytime soon. And the current kitchen just doesn’t work for us. At all. No, not these gorgeous ones above (they were just to lure you in) – this is mine, plus the dining room:

Dining Room Before Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own Kitchen Before Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

You might not think it looks too bad in these pics (and I appreciate things could be much worse and I am incredibly lucky to have a functioning kitchen in a home of my own at all) but trust me, in Real Life, it leaves a lot to be desired. Apart from the lengthy list of things wrong with it (rising damp, leaking door, bodge-job window, every appliance not working properly, stupidly configured cupboards, a crumbly bit of wall currently held together with some gaffa tape and a paper plate, etc etc) it’s just too goddam small for our needs (we’re big fans of cooking – and eating – and unsurprisingly I have a rather hefty collection of food tins, kilner jars and general kitchenalia) and we’ve already given over half the dining room to additional kitchen supplies. I’m totally an advocate of making do where you can, but the time has come to move onwards and outwards in this space. So I very much hope to be back with you in the new year with posts showing building progress (scheduled to start early Spring depending on the weather).

Kitchen Dining Moodboard Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

1. Blue Bird fabric by Mark Hearld at The Natural Curtain Company. 2. Stellar Blue fabric by St Jude’s at The Natural Curtain Company. 3. British Army lights, Trainspotters. 4. Kitchen in the New York townhouse of Ali Cayne (lust!) as seen at My Design Chic. 5. The living room of Holly Tucker, CEO of notonthehighstreet.com, as featured in LivingEtc magazine, February 2013 (I’m hoping my dining room chimneybreast will scrub up like this!) 6. Arcadian brick tile in Porcelain, Winchester Tiles. 7. Epoque Old London tile (for floor), Original Style. 8. Traditional copper mixer tap, Taps UK

We’re currently waiting for proper plans to be finalised before we can go and actually start designing the space properly, so above is a mini inspiration board of vaguely what I want to achieve. I’m keeping my current eBay score dining table and chairs, and the 1950’s kitchen unit in the corner (to be given some sort of makeover) but pretty much everything else is out. The plan is to make the space semi-open plan, turning the dining room window into a second open walkway into the new kitchen space, install some grey units (going for a mix of solid, glass-fronted and simple shelving), remove the plaster from the chimneybreast in the dining room and open it up, add some industrial-style lighting, then decorate throughout to tie the two rooms together. Cannot. Wait!

Epoque Old London floor tiles

As we’re still not at unit-choosing stage, my initial thoughts have turned to floor tiles and fabrics. I recently fell in love with these gorgeous encaustic-style tiles from Original Style, called – appropriately – Old London, and am using these as my initial starting point for the space. The encaustic-style tiles I installed in my bathroom are still pretty much my favourite thing in the house, and I find that by adding pattern to floors whilst keeping the walls neutral, I’m free to fill up shelving with a whole range of trinkets and accessories without fear of a clash.

Fabrics by The Natural Curtain Company by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

I’m also keen to introduce some patterned window blinds and curtains (to go across the new door) – it might seem like I’m getting somewhat ahead of myself here, but I think it’s important to hone in on any main patterns you want to introduce to a space first, then decide on any plain elements to tie it all together. In a rather timely manner, The Natural Curtain Company got in touch to ask me to check out their made to measure curtains range (I can actually sew myself but as it took me almost two years to finish off my bedroom blinds I might outsource this time!) I was aware that they stock a range of stylish, simple linens which I’m quite tempted by, but was also pleasantly surprised to see them stocking fabrics from Emily Burningham, Ian Mankin and – one of my favourite design labels – St Jude’s, too. Looking at everything together, I’m tempted to include the two designs shown in my moodboard (perhaps one in ready-made curtains plus a blind for the door/window, then the second design by-the-metre to create a curtain over the washing machine?)

Anyway, expect to hear from me again A LOT about all of this – and if I’ve not FINALLY posted up finished pics of the upstairs rooms by New Year’s Eve, come and give me a poke, OK?!

{Images: Top image – the kitchen of photographer Malcolm Menzies, as seen at Light Locations. Second image – the kitchen of photographer Line Kays, as seen at What Kenny Hearts. Third image – the kitchen of Alison Allen, as seen at Design*Sponge. Tiled flooring lifestyle shot via Original Style. All other images taken by me. This post was produced in collaboration with The Natural Curtain Company, but everything shown/mentioned and all my general witterings were entirely my choice}

Top Ten Rental Buys: My Curated Sale with Joss & Main

-The+Stylish+Rental

…Just popping in quickly (I’ve been busy with back-to-back festive shoots these past couple of months!) as I wanted to share this rather exciting collection with you. Joss and Main, the American flash-sales site, set up shop on our fair isle several months back now (with Germany and France to follow any day now), sharing their buys from throughout the globe and organising them as curated three-day themed sales (often with discounted prices). The team invited me to guest-curate my own sale and I’m happy to report it’s now live! The sale is themed around the idea of The Stylish Rental and includes clever ideas for both decorative and practical homewares, with the temporary home in mind (yes, I may have been a teensy bit inspired by my book, Home for Now). I pulled together a number of product and theme ideas and presented them to the team of in-house buyers, who then sourced a fantastically eclectic collection of over 90 products to fit the brief. I have mentally purchased most of them myself already, but in the interest of giving an edited selection, here are my favourite ten from the sale below:

Joss & Main Curated Sale by Joanna Thornhill picks 1-5

1. Chevron Tempaper removable wallpaper in teal : 2. 1000 Ships by Richard Peacock wall art : 3. Two-piece Octa glass planter set : 4. Riba storage box set : 5. Ridgeley Etagere

Joss & Main Curated Sale by Joanna Thornhill picks 6-10

6. Rainforest candle holder set : 7. Antiqua wall mirror : 8. Bobbin drawer knob : 9. Langton wire shelf : 10. Indigo pedestal table

To snap up any of these goodies for yourself, head over to the homepage and sign up using this link (disclaimer: if you use this actual link, I get a few credits in the bank, allowing me to buy some stuff of my own, so if you’re signing up anyway it’d be marvellous if you could use it!) The sale ends Thursday lunchtime (25th Sep) – now go forth and shop! And do let me know what you buy…

Oh and psst – there’s also an interview with me on their blog, Plume. Think of it as some bonus content.

{Images: All product images taken from Joss & Main. Image used in The Stylish Rental banner taken from my book, Home for Now (Cico Books 2014)

Dwell for a Moment: New High Street Buys

Dwell press image1

It’s a sad truth that (in my limited experience), when doing up an old house, pretty much all the budget seems to go on the boring stuff (grout, MDF, ummm windows that don’t allow rain to drip onto your computer when it’s stormy) and the pot is fairly empty when it comes to getting anything pretty. Now, I’m rather lucky in that I do manage to get the odd freebie here and there due to my line of work, be it props leftover from a shoot or goodie bag gifts from a press show, so I can’t exactly complain about a lack of trinkets and baubles (I can actually hear the boyf laughing in my head at the mere thought). But point being, despite the above, it’s somewhat rare for me to go into a shop and just buy stuff for my house which I don’t really need, just cos I kinda like it. With over half the space still to renovate and a LOT more money to be chucked at it, frankly it feels somewhat frivolous. So when Dwell offered me some gift vouchers recently to try out some of their products at home, all entirely my choice, it was a lovely excuse to do just that.

Dwell press image2

I’ve featured Dwell products in editorial photoshoots on various occasions and they’re often amongst the top of my recommendations for friends who are setting up a new home and are after design-led pieces on a low budget. The chairs in the picture up top are a perfect case in point – contemporary with a mid-century lilt, they’re the perfect balance of giving a nod to classic Eames styling, yet different enough not to be considered a replica. Were I in need of chairs, these would be pretty high on the wish list, but right now I’m not, so here’s what I spent my vouchers on instead:

Dwell buys at home by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own blog pt1

Top: Cake stand with dome – I’ve always wanted one of these (and I’m sure it’ll come in handy as a shoot prop on occasion, too) so now seemed like the perfect time to buy. As I don’t exactly need encouragement to buy cake, however, I’m thinking that once the bedroom’s decorated I’ll move it up there to display something-or-other instead. For now, it’s popped on top of my tall dining room cabinet (excuse the actual cabinet, he’s waiting for a makeover) and is housing – what else? – a, um, small vintage ceramic gorilla.

Bottom: I’m a big neon fan (more so since living near the amazing God’s Own Junkyard) but, as much as one day I’d love to commission my own bespoke neon artwork, I think it’s fair to say it won’t be happening anytime soon. So this fab fairground-style arrow light (which sadly seems to have gone out of stock, but here’s a link to the general lighting section in case it comes back) was a very happy compromise. It’s currently sitting on a little side table in the corner of my study. I’d been looking for a light to go in that corner for a while and this one has the added bonus of kicking out a fair bit of heat, too (well that’s not such a bonus right now in the height of Summer, but in a few months I’m sure I’ll be cosying up round this like it’s a log fire in an alpine cabin). I was planning to hang it on the wall but I’ve since noticed a large crack appearing and am now too scared to, so let’s just pretend I intended it to stay here all along.

Dwell buys at home by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own blog pt2

Top: Magazine bag – this is also in the study (which I will do a proper reveal of soon once I’ve fixed up a blind and finishing-touched it). I’m actually using it to store all the lookbooks, press releases and general post I get sent in, as a sort of holding pen before I then look through them properly and file them away, in an attempt to improve upon my current filing system for such items, which consists of piling them on any available surface until I get overrun and have to stop work for several hours to have a cull.

Bottom: Giant bottle vase – this lovely creature is actually doing a rather special job in the bedroom, hiding a rather unfortunate missing bit of fireplace, which I had to stuff with bubblewrap and cover with a black cloth to minimise the uglyness/draughts. This pretty much hides the whole thing, unless you look *really* hard, and also gives me an excuse to store a Miss Havisham collection of dried (AKA dead) flowers once more, after having to throw loads away in the house move (due to them disintegrating on contact with humans/air).

So there we have it! Some lovely reinvigorated corners. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to pull back and show you the rest of the rooms too, sigh…

{Images: top two images courtesy of Dwell. All other images taken by me.}

The Great Garden Fakeover: (final) Grand Reveal!

Garden Fakeover feature by Joanna Thornhill p25, Heart Home July14 You might have noticed my makeover posts of late have very much been focused on my garden, rather than anything actually going on inside. The interior’s something I’ve been beavering away with, honest, but as anything to do with renovating a Victorian property (especially when someone – OK, me – insisted on painstakingly stripping 100+ years of woodwork paint just to get a slightly neater finish) seems to take forever, the garden has very much become my ‘happy place’ now the weather’s on our side. Garden Fakeover feature by Joanna Thornhill p30-31, Heart Home July14 As I’ve mentioned previously, the garden was utterly barren when we moved in, so it’s by far the biggest transformation we’ve made to our house and as I know bugger all about gardening, am really rather proud of it all. When I was setting it all up, I had a hunch others might be interested in seeing some of the ‘makeover’ tricks I’ve used to transform the space, so I set about shooting it at the end of last Summer before it all faded away again, ably photographed by the wonderful Rita Platts, whom I worked with during my Home for Now shoot extravaganzas. Finally, after the best part of a year’s wait, the images we created are in this month’s Heart Home magazine! Garden Fakeover feature by Joanna Thornhill p32-33, Heart Home July14 I’m really pleased with how the feature turned out, and hope it inspires both renters and inexperienced gardeners to have a go at transforming their own space into something special with a few outside-the-box tricks. Above (and the first one below) are a few layout pages from the feature, but do take a look at the full article over at Heart Home (it’s in the July 2014 issue currently on their homepage, but from early August onwards you’ll still be able to access it via their past issues section – page 25 onwards). Garden Fakeover feature by Joanna Thornhill p38-39, Heart Home July14 Of course, come the dawn of spring this year and six months after this shoot, it certainly wasn’t looking like this – you might recall a few months ago, I shared a few ‘real reveal‘ shots of it post-winter in rather a sorry state. Since then, I’ve been trying to restore it to its former glory and more so, with the addition of some new plants and seeds. Clever online gardening site Plant Me Now helped me on the way with this, so I thought it only fair to reveal how it’s really looking today, now it’s in full bloom! And here’s a quick reminder too of how truly awful it was when we started in the Summer of 2012: Garden Makeover Before & After by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own - back Garden Makeover Before & After by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own - decking Garden Makeover Before & After by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own - seating area Garden Makeover Before & After by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own - decking detail Not bad, huh? Garden Makeover New Plants by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own pic one Here’s a few close-ups of my Plant Me Now babies – I was pleasantly surprised to find pretty much everything’s survived my black thumb thus far, and most things are currently flowering beautifully. The lupins have actually finished now, as have the foxgloves (though it looks like a few new shoots are appearing on the latter – anyone know if I can expect the same for the lupins?!) and I’ve also grown some sweet pea from seed which still haven’t actually flowered for some reason, but otherwise seem to be happily growing so hopefully they’ll pop out soon, and the dahlia’s are also just starting to appear – I’m hoping they will see me through to the Autumn. Garden Makeover New Plants by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own pic two Garden Makeover New Plants by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own pic three Next on the list is to try and be clever and start planning for next two season’s soon: I’m thinking of filling in some of the pots with some winter bedding plants once the Summer seasonals have died off (most likely involving some Pansies and Violas though I’m also loving the look of their pretty Myosotis flowers and Sedum plant), as well as planting out some spring bulbs (am desperate to try some alliums), so hopefully it’ll be less of a mess come Spring 2015 than it was earlier this year. Right, best go and get back in it – it’s Pimms O’Clock, after all… {Images: Heart Home layout pages: photography Rita Platts, styling and text Joanna Thornhill. All subsequent photography, Joanna Thornhill.}

Working Girl: Setting up a (fantasy) Office Space

The Grounds of Alexandria coffee shop

With my Art Trail, book-flogging debut out of the way, it’s been a busy time at Stylist HQ of late – and with Christmas(-in-July – when us media folk have to put our festive hats on in order to file Crimbo features in time for the big day) just around the corner, I’ve been chasing my tail somewhat in order to get ready for all the press shows that are fast filling my diary.

Back in March, I cleared out my study at home as Men were coming to replace my super-leaky, mega-rotten back window. I thought I’d use it as an opportune moment to completely empty out the room and actually finish decorating it, having only really been camping in there up to this point. I assured the boyf that I MUST be back in there within the week, two at most, so we’d have to work extra-hard to get the space sorted to minimise my camping-in-a-corner-of-the-dining-room-using-chairs-as-in-trays hell.

Yes, needless to say, four months on I’m still shoved in a corner downstairs at my makeshift workstation. Between having no free time and various technical malfunctions (my actual computer, plus issues with all the furniture I’m painstakingly customising prior to moving back in) it’s all I can do not to daydream of sacking it all off and moving into a Proper Office Space. But on my own terms, obvs. I’m thinking some sort of former industrial unit with crittall windows and exposed brickwork, like the space above (OK, technically that’s a coffee shop, but you get my drift.) I’m lucky to live in London anyway so a quick dash on the tube to one of my favourite spots (I’m thinking Clerkenwell, though this one just down the road in the City looks pretty tasty from the outside, too) would be do-able. There’s no shortage of hot desks and communal studios dotted about the capital but there’s also plenty of serviced offices too – definitely something to think about in the future, even if for the time being it’s still just a bit of a fantasy. Of course, the extra space would allow me to take on some staff (an assistant, 24/7 IT support and a Chief Coffee Maker/Biscuit Provider would do for starters) and I could actually catch up with clients in my meeting area (which currently consists of a half-metre corner of said home-study, where I’ve plonked a footstool). Here’s how it might look:

Dream Office Workspace by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own blog

A self-contained, freestanding unit would offer loads of flexibility within a large space, so this clever Shesk freestanding shelf and desk, soon to launch at Habitat, would be a great place to start (1). I do love a pegboard and a few of these large ones in light blue, £60 from Block (2) would provide the perfect versatile display without requiring holes-in-walls – great for a rented space. I often feel I’d benefit from horse blinkers at work to stop me getting distracted – having them built into my chair (ID Trim Cap chair, price on application, Vitra) certainly seems an appealing prospect. For flexibility in an open-plan space, these chunky drawers are ideal thanks to their industrial wheels, and cound happily house all my samples and swatches. House Doctor wooden side table, £495, Bodie and Fou (4).

 

Dream Office Workspace - Communal Areas by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own blog

Looking at the wider space generally, a splash of colour to shelf brackets on an open-backed unit would work well to zone off an open-plan space, without feeling corporate. This example – believe it or not – is actually an Ikea hack (5). In-keeping with the industrial style yet with a touch of muted pastel to soften things up, this gorgeous Eikon basic ash lamp, £200 from Furnie (6), would look striking clustered together in a group or hung low over a meeting table, for which the Scrumpy, £645 from Loaf (9), would do a grand job of providing. A chill-out zone is a must, and I’m partial to a bit of button-back as so splendidly showcased on this Ritchie two-seat sofa, a mere £499 from Made.com (7). And if you’re going to have your own little hive of industry, why not realise that childhood dream and commission your very own name in lights from Goodwin & Goodwin (8)?!

Dream Office Workspace - Desktop Accessories by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own blog

Desktop organisation is key and pretty things certainly help achieve that visual zen. Get your secretary (ahem) to manage your diary in style with this Letterpress filecard planner, £19.50, Present & Correct (10). A splash of neon livens up any scheme – and as these sunglasses-inducing-in-a-good-way pencils also moonlight as rulers, why not get one of each? Flourescent ruler pencils, £1.25 each, Future & Found (11). Then, to show you’ve really hit the big time, nothing says success quite like some gold desktop goodies (um, OK, they’re not real gold) in the form of a handy Pencil holder, £44 from Anthropologie (12) and snazzy Paper tray, £61 from Another Country (13). And yes, they might not be as practical as an actual filing cabinet, but I doubt unpaid invoices will ever look as good elsewhere as they would in these stunning Plisse archive folders by Hay Studio, £27 each at Really Well Made (14). Finally, a little lamp to light the way will help when burning the midnight oil, especially if it has little golden feet like the Arles, £96 from In-Spaces (15).

Right, so who fancies a job? Yeah? See you there at 9am sharp on Monday. The address is In My Mind, with salary payable in whimsical notions and dreams, sigh… *goes back to finishing off DIY in real-life study in the hopes of actually sharing some After shots soon*

{Images: Opening shot of The Grounds of Alexandria coffee shop, Sydney. All other images as per the companies’ credited. This post was supported by Flexi Offices but all products and images shown were entirely my own choice}

E17 Art Trail 2014 + Home for Now

Home for Now & E17 Art Trail as seen on Stylist's Own

I’ve waxed lyrical quite a few times over on Twitter about my love for my adopted little ‘hometown’, Walthamstow (a far-flung corner of north east London, yet so well connected – thank-you, Victoria Line – that you wouldn’t know it). Since moving here and not knowing a soul, I’ve been amazed at how many artists, designers, media folk and even interiors peeps like myself have also found themselves in this enclave, many of whom I now consider friends (but – shhh – the locals don’t like us talking about it, in case everyone else cottons on, though I fear if recent property price hikes are anything to go by, the cat may already be out of the bag). Anyway I digress: one of the many things I like about this area is the real sense of community – sadly hard to find in much of London Town – and the E17 Art Trail is a perfect case in point. Started in 2005 by two local artists, looking for a way to help motivate and strengthen the local artistic community, it has since turned into a behemoth, with over 3,500 artists and contributors involved in 2014’s three-week extravaganza. And this year, I’m going to be one of them!

Home for Now by Joanna Thornhill Launch Party Pic

Kiln Arts & Sonia Hunt at the E17 Art Trail as seen on Stylist's Own blog

I’ll be ‘popping up’ at the home of local ceramicist Steven Smith, aka Kiln Arts, who is kindly hosting both myself and fellow-local photographer Sonia Hunt within his maisonette (or hopefully in his stunning garden, weather permitting). I’ll be setting up a version of my ‘living book wall’ as featured at last month’s book launch (seen in the above pic) and selling signed copies of Home for Now at a special discounted rate of £15, as well as running a competition to win a goodie bag full of lovely loot (the same bounty as seen in this previous post. Thanks to all who entered that one and if you missed out, here’s your chance for another crack at the whip!) And of course, Steven and Sonia will be offering their own ceramic pieces and photography prints for sale, too, along with fending off my attempts at swapsies, no doubt. I have sort of promised to make flapjacks, but I’m not sure I’ve got time and, given that I once managed to nearly blow up a microwave whilst attempting to cook a jacket potato, I’ll let you judge whether that will be a good or bad thing. But beverages and snacks will be available, one way or another.

Helpfully, the guide this year (pick one up at one of the participating venues or view the PDF here) has been broken down into distinct trails, focusing on the various corners of the ‘Stow (we’re at Venue number 85 (here’s our group page) within the Markhouse Trail), letting you map out your route for the day with ease and allowing you to see at a glance what’s in your vicinity. But to break it all down, here’s the key info you need:

Dates/times: Sat 31st May/Sun 1st June and Sat 7th/Sun 8th June; 11am-6pm each day (note: I *should* be there the whole time but my stall will be manned even if I’m not, though if you did specifically want to see me in person then do tweet me or drop me an email just to make sure)

Venue: 112 Theydon Street, London E17 8EL

How to get there: TUBE: Blackhorse Road or Walthamstow Central (Victoria line) then about a 20-ish minute walk; TRAIN: St James Street or Walthamstow Central (15 minute walk from the former/20ish minutes the latter); BUS: 158 (from Blackhorse Road/St James Street), 58/48 (from Walthamstow Central) or 48/55/56 (from Hackney/Clapton way); CAR: free on-street parking (plenty of room for bikes in the garden, too).

Yes, I know, it’s possibly a little out of the way, but there’s more than enough to see to make a little daytrip out of it, and for the over-30’s, you can also regale your friends and family afterwards with tales of how you visited the hometown of everyone’s favourite 90’s boyband to boot. Aside from that, and visiting the other, um, 3,499 places involved in the Art Trail, might I recommend the following to while away the hours in East 17:

Five things to see and do in Walthamstow as seen on Stylist's Own blog

1. A visit to neon artist Chris Bracey’s masterpiece of a studio-cum-workshop-cum-neon-paradise, God’s Own Junkyard (his work has appeared in Hollywood movies and as a backdrop for dishy Idris Elba in the BBC’s Luther, don’tchaknow), followed by a locally brewed Jack of Clubs in the Wildcard Brewery yard outside.

2. Stroll round the picturesque conservation area that is Walthamstow Village, home to the 15th Century timber Ancient House and all manner of other character cottages which are quite the opposite of what one would expect to find in urban Zone Three; bijou little shops/pubs/cafes on Orford Road; a cat-friendly pub plus the world’s poshest Spar (stockists of infamous local delicacy, Bacon Jam. Get some. Seriously. In fact, get two and drop the other one round to mine, please, I’ve run out.)

3. Pop into the birthplace of none other than William Morris on Forest Road, recently renovated and now an award-winning (free) gallery dedicated to his work. If it’s open, the massive Salvation Army charity shop opposite is a must for vintage fiends.

4. Estate agents enjoy bragging about Walthamstow High Street being home to the longest street market in Britain (or Europe, depending on how hungry they are for your commission) – rumour has it, a certain Lord Sugar even learnt his trade here. Whilst on face value it’s not exactly the most inspiring of streets, there are lots of little gems tucked away along its one-mile route, such as the beautiful Grade II listed Manze’s pie ‘n’ mash shop, amazing (and amazingly cheap) naan bread from the Fresh Nan Bakery and a multitude of fab Indian fabric shops (great for cheap, colourful trimmings for the craft box).

5. Fancy a coffee? Get your caffeine fix from industrial-chic Cafe 56 (a handy ten-minute walk from my pop-up event venue), Scandi new kids Bygga Bo, where you can buy both Scandi home accessories and an amazing cinnamon bun in one hit, or local stalwarts (and the friendliest cafe owners you’ll ever meet) Arts & Crusts. Something stronger? Recently refurbished Victorian boozers The Bell or The Chequers should see you right, or for something a bit more classic, check out the Rose & Crown theatre pub, which often hosts comedy nights – look carefully and you can see big names for cheaps trying out new material, includind Stuart Lee and Alan Carr.

I look forward to seeing you Stow-side!

{Images: 1. Time Out, 2. my Instagram feed, 3.  Friends of the William Morris Gallery (and yes, that is Laurence Llewelyn Bowen lurking on the far left at the grand opening), 4. The Guardian, 5. my Instagram feed again, showing the interior of Cafe 56}

Garden Mini-Makeover Part Two: Plant Me Now

Plant detail, as seen on Stylist's Own Blog by Joanna Thornhill

So as mentioned in my last post, I’ve been slowly tackling the garden over the past couple of months, in-between book shenanigans and driving rain. As we didn’t get the garden set up last year until rather late in the season, along with some perennial plants here and there, we mainly just filled in the gaps with cheap seasonals, so come March when we finally stuck our heads out the back door, it was all looking somewhat barren:

Grubby Garden Before shot, as seen on Stylist's Own Blog by Joanna Thornhill

Just as thoughts turned to restocking supplies, I had a rather timely email from a clever company, Plant Me Now, who sell an array of seeds, bulbs and plug plants (little tiddlers ready for going straight into your soil) along with various gardening supplies – a one-stop gardening shop, if you will, asking if I’d like to test out their service. I’ve always been slightly confused about what to plant in my garden due to its slightly unusual set-up (as it’s wholly concrete – we put down the fake grass and borders last year – everything is grown in pots rather than planted into the (non-existent) ground soil). However, I’m lucky that my garden is south facing and gets the sun all day (on the occasions when it actually shines) so I’ve always had high hopes that she might become a little tropical oasis, spilling over with flora and fauna if I treat her right. Together with their in-house expert, the very helpful Tim, I discussed my grand plans for a wild meadow-style space brimming with pretty country flowers, in the hope that my vision could be translated into my, um, small patch of concrete in  Walthamstow. Luckily, it turns out a lot of my favourite garden flowers were deemed suitable for my setting, so I’m hoping that in a month or so everything will be overflowing with some of this (and if you have a south-facing balcony or small garden and an abundance of pots, these should all work for you, too:)

Ready plants from Plant Me Now, as seen on Stylist's Own Blog by Joanna Thornhill

Ready perennial plants (provided as a 7cm plug plant, already overwintered (grown the previous year) and ready to plant for flowering that season)

{1. Delphinium dalsante; 2. Echinacea double scoop cranberry; 3. Huecherella sweet tea; 4. Phlox cloud of perfume; 5. Penstemon electric blue}

Starter plants from Plant Me Now, as seen on Stylist's Own Blog by Joanna Thornhill

Starter plants (provided as a 5cm plug plant and also overwintered)

{6. Achillea red velvet; 7. Foxglove digitalis dalmation cream; 8. Euphorbia humpty dumpty; 9. Gardilia mesa bicolour; 10. Lupin gallery pink; 11. Monardo marshall’s delight; 12. Rudbeckia goldstrum; 13. Salvia nemorosa caradonna}

Bulbs and seeds from Plant Me Now, as seen on Stylist's Own Blog by Joanna Thornhill

Bulbs (can be removed at the end of the season and replanted the following year) and seeds (lasting one season)

{14. Dahlia collerette; 15. Dahlia maniac; 16. Dahlia nick sr; 17. Sweet Pea singing the blues; Sweet Pea old spice mixed}

Preparing to plant, as seen on Stylist's Own Blog by Joanna Thornhill

So as to avoid last year’s mild disaster of not labelling anything and now having no idea what half the living things actually are, I was determined to be meticulous with my plant organisation. Initially, I cut up the green pots they were all sent in, so each was sat in its own individual labelled container, so to speak.

Plant Me Now label detail, as seen on Stylist's Own Blog by Joanna Thornhill

Then we worked our way around the garden, deciding which pots to place what in and resting each on top until its turn came to be planted (stopping for a bit of tea and cake halfway through, natch).

Coffee and cake in the garden as seen on Stylist's Own Blog by Joanna Thornhill

And finally, I worked my way around, replacing the printed-pot labels with my own hand written ones, scrawled in biro on some bits of bamboo leftover from our fence (in an ideal world, I’d have done this a little more elegantly, but the effects of the earlier coffee and cake had started to wear off by that point and I was getting keen to finish up.) They do the job, nonetheless!

Bamboo plant label, as seen on Stylist's Own Blog by Joanna Thornhill

I dearly hope to be able to come back to you in a month or so with pictures of my overflowing garden, but for now I’m sitting back and letting Mother Nature do her thing…

{Images: all taken by Joanna Thornhill, except for the flowering plant photographs, which were taken from Plant Me Now’s website.}

{Disclaimer: Plant Me Now supplied me with all my lovely foliage in exchange for a blog post, but the items picked are all my own personal selection}

 

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