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A Swoonworthy Mini Makeover

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Happy 2014 one and all! It’s been rather low round here on the blog-post front, but I have an ace excuse, honest….

….drumroll….

…I’ve been writing a book! It’s on interiors (as I don’t really know about anything else) and it will be published this Spring. I won’t say anything more right now as there’s still a few tiny odds and ends to tie up and I want to do a proper post on it, but now I’m not working 90-hour-weeks back to back, and having redressed the work/life balance (and eaten copious amounts of cheese) during the festive break, I’m ready to say a bit more for myself again! Starting with this.

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I was recently approached by Swoon Editions, an innovative online furniture company who specialise in limited-batch runs of furniture, ensuring prices are kept low without compromising on design or craftsmanship, and asked if they could tempt me with an armchair from their lovely collection, in exchange for taking a few pics of it in situ at home. As I STILL hadn’t managed to solve my living room armchair dilemma, the words ‘gifthorse’, ‘don’t knock’ and ‘mouth’ sprung to mind. Having failed thus far to find a loveseat or bench the right size (and price) to fit the rather bijou space I had available for said seat, when I clapped eyes on the Milly, I knew she could be the answer: with her diminutive proportions, she would easily fit the gap whilst still leaving space for a small side table, and if in the future I did find the bench/loveseat of my dreams (which after 18 months searching I think only exists in my head), she could comfortably be relocated to the dining room, bedroom or study. I plumped for the grey colourway (natch) to tie her in with the rest of the room, and I think she looks resplendent in her new abode. For me, legs always seem to be an issue when looking at not-a-million-pounds seating: the standard seems to be cheap, clunky veneer-clad ones which screw on rather than being integral to the furniture, and is one of the reasons I’ve struggled with my search for so long. Luckily, the Milly (for she’s a somewhat leggy creature) has legs to die for, created from turned solid oak in a pleasingly matt, weathered finish, and with a mid-century style taper.

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I’d been waiting to source a chair before hanging any artwork on this wall, so the arrival of Milly also spurred a picture hanging frenzy. After finally relocating the lovely pieces I picked up last August at the Lille Braderie (rolled up at the back of my dining room food cupboard, obviously – no, me neither), frame sourcing commenced, before a final hanging spree.

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Top: Vintage 1940’s exam papers, from Lille Braderie, framed in 20x25cm Black wood block photo frames, £9.60 each, Debenhams. Middle left: Papercut artwork, from a vintage market (which I think is sadly no longer there) just outside the main Greenwich Market , framed in 24x30cm Bacall floating picture frame, £16, Habitat. Middle right: Vintage sheet music cover art (I think), from Lille Braderie, framed in 50x70cm Ribba picture frame, £12, Ikea and painted in some leftover Light Gray emulsion, Farrow & Ball. Bottom: Vintage Paris map, from Lille Braderie, framed in Ikea Ribba frame, as before.

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In all the excitement, I also added a little pimp-up to my hyacinth plant pot – having excitedly purchased the plant just before Christmas, I failed to check if I had a suitable outer pot to house it in, and this white one was the best I could find knocking about in the shed. As the plastic inner pot protruded slightly, I sloshed a bit of Farrow & Ball’s Light Gray on it (yes, a bit posh like, but I was actually painting some props in it previously for a client and got a bit carried away with using up the leftovers – see also picture frame, above), then decided to add a few stripes with Washi tape. I decided to go with my little 50’s footstool as a ‘side table’ for Milly (for some reason, despite having zero chairs, I seem to own about five side tables, most of which live in the loft, waiting for their moment to shine downstairs). Its small scale sits well with Milly, and it can also easily be cleared off to double as an additional seating perch when we have more than, um, three people come to visit. I’m now on the lookout for a small square tray to sit on its top to make the table-to-seat transition slightly easier and more robust.

So what do you think? Potentially I’d like to add in a couple more prints, but for now, I think I’m done. Phew! Back soon with book info…

{Images} All copyright Joanna Thornhill. If you wish to use them elsewhere, please include a credit and a link back here.

Disclaimer: Swoon Editions supplied me with the Milly free of charge, but all words and opinions are my own, and trust me, I wouldn’t put anything in my house that I didn’t genuinely love, as I am a total fusspot with a poor poker face.

Pull Up a Seat

Darlings of Chelsea Conran Chair by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own Blog1

I have moaned before about my lack of seating in the living room – for a glorious few hours this time last year, I got a loaner-chair as the space featured in a magazine shoot, and I was far too frantic dealing with festive baubles and mince pies to genuinely select and buy myself an armchair in time. (Yes, that’s a Christmas shoot during the August Bank Holiday – that’s how we roll in my biz…)

So the chair was duly returned and my confusion over seating choices remained. It’s a rather awkward space, you see – slightly too tight for a two-seater sofa or even really a love seat (or snuggler, if you will), yet the armchair I’d been loaned seemed rather an under-use of the space. Luckily, my PR chums at Darlings of Chelsea kindly offered me a month-long loan to see if they had something that might work for me, in exchange for popping up a couple of pics on here.

Darlings of Chelsea Sofas and Chairs by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own Blog

As the room has dark grey walls and a light grey sofa already, I was taken with the idea of going for a coloured chair, to add contrast, and pick up on one of the various bright tones in my curtains. Above were a few of my favourites

1. Viola, 2. Duke by Conran, 3. Washington, 4. Rosaline, 5. Titania, all Darlings of Chelsea. 

Still uncertain what size to go for, I thought I’d try a large armchair instead – not quite a loveseat, but more substantial than a small tub. So after much deliberation, this rather special little beauty came to live with us for a while:

Darlings of Chelsea Conran Chair by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own Blog2

Ain’t she lovely? She’s the Matador armchair by Conran (which figures) and her rich, cobalt blue tones looked amazing against said grey walls (and by happy co-incidence, she got on splendidly with my Crush Cube cushion). When the time came to return her, I did quickly dust off the cobwebs on my wallet to see if I could make her a permanent addition, but then sadly the washing machine decided to blow up unannounced so funding had to be channelled that way instead (bore-ing!) However, she shall always hold a special place in my heart, and perhaps one day I’ll get her back into my life – for now, we’re back to using a temporary footstool in place of a chair and hoping that no one over 5’4″ comes to visit…

{Images: Lifestyle shots taken by me; cut-out shots all via Darlings of Chelsea. With thanks again to Darlings of Chelsea for the loan of this chair}

Stairway to Heaven: my Loft Storage Room!

Steps to new loft storage by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

So after ten months and a mini-freak-out-session all over the long-suffering boyf, we finally came to the conclusion that we were NEVER going to have the time/skills/patience to clear out and board up the loft if left to our own devices, and I was beginning to go slowly insane surrounded by work props, suitcases that didn’t fit anywhere and multitudes of DIY equipment (having already totally filled the shed, natch) to the point where I could bear it no more. The OH also has what I lovingly refer to as Sensitive Nose Syndrome, too – namely, any encounters with dust send him off into big, irritating man-sneeeze fits. And as the loft was Mary Poppins/Victorian Chimneysweep-style black with inches of soot, he was in even less of a rush to clamber up through the tiny hatch and sort it out than I was.

So we got Men in to do it. Like storage saviours, they duly arrived, supped on tea, accidentally stuck a foot through the bedroom ceiling and swore a lot, to provide us with this:

New attic storage space1 by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

New attic storage space2 by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

New attic storage space3 by Joanna Thornhill for Stylist's Own

Storage. SO MUCH storage. More storage than my little mind could ever even have dreamed of. OK, on the grand scheme of storage space, it ain’t that big. But for someone who has lived in over ten flat/houseshares and two teeny-tiny one-bed “love nests” with barely enough room to swing a cat, this is pretty much a gift from the Gods (of Excess Stuff). I like to think of it as my own little world: there is Painting Corner over on the left, Side Table Ghost Town on the right, and up against the crumbly brickwork at the back, the place I’ve always dreamed of  – my very own (prop)House of Love. (I remind you that we live in E17. Geddit?) We’re still filling her up with stuff but I figured it’s never going to actually look NICE, so I may as well share her as is. And she’s now got proper access via our very swanky pull-down wooden ladder and extra-wide hatch (Oh, and – it goes without saying – ignore every single other visual element of the landing area, pictured up top. Banishing its horridness is very much on the To Do list, I assure you. Just look at the Clever Ladder and avert your eyes from the rest, please thank-you.)

Aside from getting Handy Dad to pop in a proper spotlight, that’s all we’re doing up there for now, and to be honest I don’t know if we’ll ever have the funds to turn it into a “proper” conversion. But a small (OK, massive) part of me is hankering to do a sneaky half-conversion to turn it into my office/craft studio (cue long, lengthy sigh). Here’s a few of my thoughts to get me on my way:

Loft Ideas - Velux Windows, blogged on Stylist's Own by Joanna Thornhill

1. A couple of centre-pivot roof windows from VELUXScreen Shot 2013-04-27 at 17.18.40 up there. Back when we had our roof replaced the week we moved in, when I naively thought we might have more than tuppence ha’penny left in the coffers once that little job was done, I did enquire about this with the builder, and was given a rough quote of around £1,200 for two of these said windows plus labour. It remains fairly high on the wish list, especially since we inherited a telescope and I’ve told the boyf we can keep it in the loft and, with windows installed, it can be his very own East London Planetary Observatorium… (love the splash of wallpaper in this alcove and clever built-in shelves, too).

Loft Ideas - pink spiral staircase, blogged on Stylist's Own by Joanna Thornhill

2. A fixed staircase. Obviously the grown-up thing to do would be to install a ‘proper’ staircase , starting where the tallboy  sits, just to the right of the bedroom door (next to the inexplicable tap head sticking out from the exposed piping) and run it parallel to the existing stairs. But a silly part of me would love to install a spiral staircase in the space instead. And with that mindset, it may as well be bright pink, right?

Loft Ideas - white workspace, blogged on Stylist's Own by Joanna Thornhill

3. Tuck a little office area into the eaves with freestanding furniture and built-in shelving, to while away the working day tucked up amongst the rooftops of Walthamstow…

Loft Ideas - rustic window nook, blogged on Stylist's Own by Joanna Thornhill

… or leave it a little more Rough Luxe, quit work altogether and just make a secret cosy den up there, vintage-stylee, to spend my days reclining on. But for the time being, I’ll think she’ll do just fine as she is.

{Image Credits: 1. via VELUX – and with special thanks to them for supporting this post. 2. via Paumes – book featuring this image, available from Bodie & Fou. 3. Via House to Home (photograph by Mel Yates). 4. Via Pinterest – original source unknown and I’ve spent over an hour trying to track it down, but it was too lovely a shot not to include so if anyone knows who it’s by, do let me know}

Hold the Front Page

As those of you who follow me on Twitter may know, there’s something rather special on the newsagents shelves this month (well for the next few days at least), nestled away in the Homes & Lifestyle section. It’s, um, my FACE! And the rest of me. Standing in our finished* living room! (*OK it’s a tiny bit pretend-finished – more on that later…) Let me explain…

Having worked on several issues of budget-savvy, real-home-loving interiors mag Style at Home last year (and luncheoned with the lovely editorial team many a time), when I heard way back in June that they were looking for a living room makeover to feature for their Christmas issue, up shot my (virtual) hand to volunteer my own blank canvas of a room. They were keen to feature a space that had a fireplace and bay window that we could decorate in one of this year’s top festive trends. At this point, the room was still white and empty bar one solitary sofa, but I knew I wanted to paint it dark grey and had fallen madly in love with the gorgeous Harlequin Zosa fabric which I was desperate to make into curtains. I figured the bright pops of colour within its lovely botanical print would work brilliantly against dark walls and, having seen lots of rich, bright festive decs at the Christmas press shows (yep, these happen in the middle of Summer) I could see a way to tie the whole thing together. Luckily the Style at Home team thought so too, and wanted to know if I could turn it all round by the end of August ready to shoot. I agreed, then promptly spent the remainder of the Summer in a decorating frenzy (you may have noticed a rather lengthy lull on the blogging front…)

… until the shoot day arrived and we made it all look like this!

The shoot itself wasn’t without its difficulties (including having no Christmas tree for the bulk of the morning due to a courier blunder) and as we were facing a small room/big sofa/nowhere to put the camera situation, poor photographer Jamie Mason spent much of the time squashed into a corner barely able to fit his head behind the lens. Not to mention quizzical looks from neighbours wondering why the new girl on the street was putting up her Christmas tree on the August Bank Holiday weekend. But in the end, we managed to pull it out of the bag, aided along with a few festive nibbles.

And here’s a little glimpse into the organised chaos of the day:

Far be it from me to burst the bubble here, but I think I’m not giving away any spoilers when I say the festive decs duly came down straight after the shoot, and due to my severe lack of furniture some of the items in the room were borrowed from PR’s. So like a whirlwind from the future giving a tantalising glimpse of a finished, cosy space, some CitySprint couriers promptly came and whisked much of it away again, leaving the room as it stands today looking much like this:

The coloured table nest (the Kilo, from Habitat) is doing a sterling job, though ultimately I’m hoping to source a circular coffee table to better fit the space so that these can pop back into the corner next to my as-yet-non-existent armchair (I’m on the lookout for a snuggler or loveseat as this would be a great fit for the back wall). And much as I love my wooden floors, it sure was nice having a rug for a few days so I’m also keeping eyes peeled to find something similar to the Dunelm Mill rug I borrowed to shoot. The blanket box in the window (just seen) is actually a vintage Ikea piece that’s been gracing my parents garage for the past few years. I’ve had some foam cut to fit the top and thrown this Next blanket over it all, but ultimately I want to paint it (possibly the same colour as the walls to vaguely make it look built in) and fit some fabric properly on the top. Still, it makes a handy perch for those times when we have multiple guests. The tall lamp is also an old piece from Next which was being chucked out from a Next Directory photoshoot – not only did we manage to fix it, but I used an old pompom trimmed pelmet picked up at a sample sale to recover it. Oh, and that newspaper bunting? There’s a little story to go with that too – all will be revealed in Dec!

{Images} All the well shot ones are copyright Jamie Mason for Style at Home magazine. The dodgy iPhone ones are all copyright Joanna Thornhill. If you’d like to blog or pin any of them, please include full links back

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Phew – January certainly kicked off apace for me, how about you?! Several rather monumental occurances all seemed to hit within the first 48 working hours of the year. Firstly, my humble abode was featured, in glorious technicolour, in the wonderful Style at Home magazine! Heart Home readers will recognise it from the magazine’s debut issue last September, but it’s well worth a separate peek as the SatH team chose different shots, plus I was mighty flattered by their follow-on features inspired by the place – as well as a mini Get the Look, there was a spread on colourful storage tins inspired by my kitchen shelving, a feature on adding colour without decorating (perfect for fellow no-painty-allowed renters) and even a series of three DIY crafts to try using maps, as inspired by my filing cabinet which is covered in a giant oversized map to hide its corporate-ness.Even I felt inspired by me – if only there were more hours in the day for crafty fun!

For those not familiar with the magazine, do pop to the shops and get a copy – my feature will still be on sale in its Feb issue for another week or so. I was fortunate enough to do some freelance work on the first few issues (hard to believe it launched a year ago now) and it’s pretty much the only interiors mag on the UK market to fully embrace craft projects as a standalone feature rather than just an element of a decorating shoot, and is packed full of practical advice for making the most of any space.

Co-incidentally, lovely Kate Baxter from Fabric of my Life also ran an interview with me in Heart Home magazine’s blog on 4th Jan (it was originally meant to go in pre-Crimbo but ended up getting pushed back). Read it here – some very kind opening commentary from Kate, whose work in our Christmas decorating shoot for Heart Home pretty much single-handedly kick-started my current obsession with neon brights.

Here’s a few of my portfolio shots cropped into Heart Home’s favoured square format that accompanied the piece – an interesting exercise in itself to go through my work and see what did and didn’t work in a different format.

Then finally, something of a wild card:

Some time ago, I worked on a Dulux trend shoot with super-talented stylist Hannah Simmons, who created a series of inspirational trend stories set to launch in 2012. One of the trends for said shoot, Living Scrapbook, was planned to be shot slightly later and would feature a stylish desk space propped with a selection of black and white photographs lying on its surface. The art director spent some time on our shoot photographing people and places which could work on said desk, including, amongst many other things, a portrait shot of little ol’ me. Cut to over a year later, me sitting in a press briefing for Dulux’s said range of trends, and what should pop up as part of a Powerpoint slideshow?! My mug, centre stage! Something of a shock to say the least. Still, it’s nice to know my face is on-trend, particularly in light of all the recent exposure its been getting.

I mentioned several monumental occurences – so the fourth was that, about an hour after I received my copy of Style at Home with my beautiful little flat inside, I received a phone call from my landlord: he’s decided he wants to sell up and we’ve got just over three months to get out. The cruel mistress that is Lady Irony. So after a shell-shocked few days, the boyf and I decided to investigate and see if any banking types might be crazy enough to lend a couple of freelancing kids a few Big G’s mid-recession. Astoundingly, it seems that (touch wood) the answer appears to be yes! So spare time is going to be rather taken up these next few weeks/months visiting a selection of dank and dingy properties in various far-flung corners of London’s outback in the hope we can find one under budget and not too repulsive to live in! It’s very early days so far and am trying to keep my ‘look beyond the woodchip/cheap laminate/mould/smell of wet socks’ glasses firmly on, but so far I’ll just say – it’s amazing how very little a whacking great chunk of money will get you in this fine city. But I hope to be back here soon with some more positive tales and ultimately, many more positive stories of house purchases and ensuing Home Makeover Joy (is it wrong I’ve already picked out my sofa before we’ve even honed down an area we’d be happy to live in?!) Anyway I’d best be off – wouldn’t want you getting sick of me…

{Image Credits: Style at Home photography by Sarah Hogan. Party and egg shots, by Mike Daines for Essential Kitchen Bedroom Bathroom magazine. Carrot cake and chocolate cherry cupcake shots, by Max Attenborough for The Velvet Bakery. ‘Living Scrapbook’ desk shot, courtesy of Dulux