The Art of French Dressing

Collection of French fan mirrors displayed on wall Anthropologie

A collection of French fan mirrors from Anthropologie is an interesting display

French Country-style evokes memories of holidays in rural France and the lifestyle many hanker after, simpler and pared back. French linens on beds, sack cloth cushions, delicate lace panels, shutters and sturdy, functional wooden furniture. However, you need not be a slave to replicate every detail to reproduce this style. Add some modern paintings and lighting as successfully married together at La Souqueto  Chambres D’ Hotes

This style is in stark contrast to excesses of King Louis X1V and the ‘Versailles’ heavily gilded ornate furniture and lavish furnishings (with a lifestyle to match!). French Baroque with grand chandeliers, heavy drapes embellished with brocades hung at large windows and around beds in grand palaces.

Ornate French bedroom

Heavily adorned French bedroom

This of course is different to Parisian homes, where space is generally at a premium. Chic, pared down, with a considered use of available square footage. Think of the famous words of Coco Chanel ‘Less is more’ which is true for interiors as well as fashion.

Then, of course, there is the French Chateau, which can be a mix of ornate furniture, chandeliers, Toile de Jouy fabric and wallpaper, distressed painted wall treatments all add to the atmosphere, to simple lime washed walls.

Before investing in gallons of white paint as a starting point, what about colour? Homes in warmer climates use white to brighten their dark shuttered rooms, but can appear ‘cold’ in more northern homes. Think of the fields of sunflowers and lavender, Monet’s use of colour at his home in Girverny.

Perhaps there are elements from the traditional French interior styles you like and dislike. Try mixing the items you like together, oversized chandeliers with rustic wooden furniture. Simple Roman blinds made from French linen edged with a brocade, picking out colours within the room for a cohesive scheme. Do you want to create a romantic French feel to your bedroom (boudoir!) with lace, Toile in greys and blues or French country kitchen?

Chateau La Lartigolle has beautifully and successfully transformed into a chic boutique country house hotel using a mixture of dark and ‘sludgy’ colours on their interior walls as well as wallpaper. They’ve mixed traditional French style with antique, modern and vintage pieces from 1930’s armchairs to 1950’s side tables, wall art from the 1960’s, including Jimmy Hendrix and modern contemporary pieces. The Chateau creates a surprising eclectic mix which is warm, comfortable and very easy to live with. Ideas to inspire and perhaps steal?

Dark red walls old leather armchair with interesting accessories makes a cosy corner

A cosy corner for a quiet read.

Blue Bedroom at Chateau Latigolle

The Blue Bedroom at Chateau Latigolle is calming and understated.

Mixed Vintage furniture in Chateau Latigolle

Mixed vintage pieces create a comfortable eclectic interior

White wall clock modern and contemporary art pop out against a dark grey wall

Mixed styles work well together

Modern art with pearlescent paint refllects light on a dark wall

Pearlescent paint reflects light in a dark corner.

A glass vignette on a table

A glass vignette

A mantle Piece styled with blue glass ornaments books and bust

A beautifully styled mantle piece

Hearth and fireplace style with Venician mirror bust blue glass and Chinese vases

A mixture of styles and arrangements makes a stunning focal point.

Jimmy Hendrix hangs on wall in Chateau Latigolle

Jimmy Hendrix hung on a sitting room wall at Chateau Latigolle

A glass window vignette at Chateau Latigolle

Window Vignette

Grand staircase dressed with chandelier and modern prints

A grand staircase with chandelier and modern prints

Adding Character to Your Home


Inject your personality, style and soul into your home and garden, not by sourcing everything from one high street shop. Your home will end up looking like a show home, far too contrived and bland. Whether you’re preferred taste is Retro, Shabby Chic, Vintage, Industrial, contemporary or even a mixture of styles creating an eclectic, individual home. By mixing it up a bit you’re creating a home which reflects you, and enhances your home. Take time to enjoy gathering ‘loved’ items. Homes and gardens evolve over time.

Selection of elecltic Interiors for every room

Eclectic interior ideas

If you’re looking for an unusual or particular item of furniture, lighting or accessories to add personality to your home or garden, the Three Wise Monkeys a vintage and arts emporium at The Saddlery, Woodcock Hill, St Albans AL4 9HJ is the place to visit. Open Tuesday to Saturday 10 am to 4 pm and Sunday 11am to 4 pm. Enjoy a morning coffee, a light lunch or afternoon tea in the newly opened vintage tea room and have a wander around two floors, packed with unusual items. Some will revoke memories of childhood ( scary, as some of us realize that we, too are vintage!), and some made by local artisans and crafts people, and a florist too, Flowers by Catherine.


A few pieces of furniture have been ‘upcycled’ into bespoke one-off  items, which could transform a room. Images show pieces by Carmel of Piece Unique and by me Sarah Maidment Interiors. We both take commissions  if you have your own item of furniture which you’d like customising.


You will also find Kelim rugs, cushions, and  stools and chairs upholstered in gorgeous Kelim rugs from Rug Addiction . Other chairs re-upholstered, homemade cushions and artwork to grace your walls.

Kelim rugs, cushions and upholstered furniture

An array of Kelim rugs, cushions and upholstered furniture by Rug Addiction

If vintage clothing is your passion, Little Viking have an array of dresses, jackets, shoes and bags for all. ‘Oh Sew Vintage’ for handmade dresses for all occasions.


You will also find every conceivable Doc Martin design boot you could ever wish for.

Selection of Doc Martin Boots, vintage heaters and lamp

Doc Martin boots, vintage heaters and lighting

Vintage books, comics, and  postcards can be found for collectors and unusual hand-made jewellery by local artisans.


Modern works of art and photography adorn the walls. This stunning picture of Nelson Mandela (below) taken by the photographer Greg Bartley would look amazing gracing the wall of a large room.


Limited edition framed photograph of Nelson Mandela by Greg Bartley

Visually stunning photograph of Nelson Mandela by Greg Bartley

IMG_6804Come and say ‘hello’ and meet Colin the resident ‘horse’ .

Fake horse called Colin

Colin, a reminder of the barns former life as a saddlery and stables

Design a Home and Garden that means Something to you

What does your home and garden mean to you? A place to relax, entertain and spend time with families. How do they make you feel? Our homes and gardens should create a feeling of happiness and well being – a haven of peace in a busy world, and reflect your personality and chosen lifestyle. Ha! in a perfect world I hear you say.

How often have you visited either a National Trust garden,,  The Chelsea Flower Show  or an open garden as part of the National Garden Scheme charity fundraising, and become inspired to create a lovely garden of your own, only to become despondent on returning home, faced with your own small patch of turf? We’ve also been guilty on the first of the warm, sunny days of rushing out to the local nursery or garden centre and purchasing seasonal plants for instant display, only to find that you don’t actually know where to plant them? Like all home and garden projects it’s down to good planning, you are, after all, creating an outside ‘room’ extension to your home.

Create a Mood board, after all many interior mood boards are inspired by nature’s colours’, textures and movement. Ensure that your outside space compliments your interior space, a cohesive, seamless boundary between the two.

Garden Moodboard for inspiration

Garden Mood board by

Ten Guidelines on Planning your Outside Space

  1. Budget – How much are you prepared to spend?
  2. Measure your site.
  3. Note the aspect, is it North, south, East or West? This has an influence over choice of plants, and where you want your seating and entertaining area to be.
  4. Hard Landscaping – Hedges, fences, decking paths etc. working within fixed boundaries. Do you want a water feature? Do you want outside lighting? These should be incorporated into you plan now to allow for electrical wiring requirements.
  5. Soil. Unless you’re exceptionally lucky most of us have ‘rubbish’ soil – clay, chalk, sand, silt, loams and peat. (It maybe full of stones and builders debris too). To identify your soil type go to  which offer great information other than purchasing a soil acid test kit. It’s important to choose the right plants for your soil if they’re to thrive ( not just the pretty ones).
  6. Collect ideas together you like from gardens, magazines etc. and think how you could incorporate some of these in your own garden. Also think about the transition from your interior to your garden. These should compliment each other and could be linked by either colour in the planting, fence or decking, or style of seating furniture and containers.  The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has an amazing website full of advice
  7. Prepare the planting border. Dig over at least fork deep, remove bricks, flints and anything else you may find and remove weeds. Then dig in well rotted manure. This is hard work, so not recommended on a hot day!
  8. Plan your planting scheme. Based on the aspect, space, soil type and desired final design and colour. Do you want a wildlife garden, attracting butterflies, birds and bees, a minimalist with maintenance to match? How much time, realistically are you’re going to spend gardening?

9. Now Buy your plants according to your list.

10. Compromise You maybe horrified by the price of your chosen plants, especially if selecting larger plants and shrubs for instant impact. Buy smaller specimens instead and be patient. Alternatively, consider scouring the clearance section for reductions, especially in the Autumn. O.K. they maybe going over for this season, but shrubs and perennials will come back next year to enhance your garden at a lower cost.

Be patient, gardens like homes evolve and grow over time. Below, are before, during and after picture’s of an overgrown and neglected garden, taken over two years.


The garden now, two years on. Just wondering how many beers had been consumed prior to cutting the lawn, judging by the stripes!

Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House Before and After Pictures

I have now compiled ‘before and after’ pictures, with the occasional ‘during’ photo (remember it always gets worse before it gets better) which I hope you’ll enjoy and give you momentum to commence or  finish your projects.

The renovation and restoration of a 1930’s house is finished! Are you ever finished in a home? Probably not.

Front Elevation

Before – Sad and neglected                                        After – Restored and extended


Before - The original 1930s' entrance hall prior to renovations.

Before – The original front entrance hall prior to renovations.

Original 1930's entrance hall

Before – The original hall was dark and poky.

Acro props before steel beam is installed

During an internal hall wall removal.


After - The finished entrance hall in a 1930's house

After – The completed entrance hall

Sitting Room

Before - The sitting room with the original 1930's brick fireplace.

Before – The sitting room with the original 1930s’ brick fireplace.

After - The original 1930's brick fireplace cleaned up

After – The original 1930’s brick fireplace was retained, so too were the original Crittal French doors.

Before Original 1930's sitting room complete with Crittal French doors and brick fireplace

Before – A 1930’s sitting room with original Crittal French doors and brick fireplace.


Before - The original 1930's dining room

Before – The original 1930’s dining room

During - The wall dividing the kitchen and dining room has been removed.

The dividing wall between the kitchen and dining room has been removed, to be re-positioned.

After - the completed new kitchen

After – The completed kitchen

After - Kitchen with island and glass partition wall and door to hall.

After – Kitchen with glass partition and door to hall. Original servants bell box is re-hung – shame no staff though!

Open plan kitchen/diner/day room with bi-fold doors onto garden.

View into dining/ day room area from kitchen

Before- original 1930s' dining room

Before- the original dining room prior extension and renovation work – damp wall is now where clock is hung.

Living Room

Rear Footings 3rd feb 2015

Before – Laying the foundations

Painted Stove and Fireplace

During – Marking the wall for the multi-fuel stove

Trescotte Sitting Room Afer 073

After – The finished sitting room

Family Bathroom

Before- A tired and dated bedroom                         After – A family bathroom

Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom during construction

The first fix electrics in the master bedroom

After - Large master bedroom with Heals four poster bed

After – The finished master bedroom

master bedroom with four poster bed from Heals

After – The large master bedroom complete with a four-poster bed from Heals.

The Loo

Before with original cistern          After – Re-sited and restored cistern

Guest Bedroom

Originally a landing with airing cupboard, bathroom with separate loo. Now a guest bedroom, painted in ‘Setting Plaster’ Farrow and Ball

Rear Elevation

Before – An overgrown garden                           Waiting to mature!

However carefully one plans either a renovation or restoration project, it rarely comes in on budget – it’s usually over budget. This is not just because of unforeseen problems like discovering structural problems once the work has commenced, it can due to adding a few extra plug sockets here and there (it all adds up) or choosing high specification kitchen, bathrooms and fittings. Usually it’s because we’ve under estimated the basic build/renovation costs – raw materials labour plus VAT.  Comparing your projected budget spread sheet to the actual costs spreadsheet, helps analyse where you under budgeted or over spent.

Did we go over budget? Yes, we knew we’d go over budget when we decided to install the Sonas system. However, the original quote was less than the final invoice due to the time-lapse between the first fix and completion – the labour and equipment had increased in price. The quote was valid for 30 days only, lesson learned.  The building material costs were higher too, despite having a breakdown of these costs from the supplier which our budget spreadsheet was based upon. Generally, the majority of people under-estimate their expenditure.

With the uncertainty of property the market, and the impact Brexit may have, many home owners are opting to improve their current home instead of moving. Having had nearly forty years experience in renovating properties, although home values may dip from time to time, they always go up, and on the whole a good investment.

If you think I can be of benefit to you and your project, whether big or small just contact me.

Floor tiles on cloakroom floor and entrance floor

Artwork by Kim Major George



Renovation of a 1930’s House – Planning the Design – Kitchen

Kitchen design mood board for Modern Contrystyle from pinterest

Kitchen design mood board for Modern Countrystyle. Image from Pinterest

The old adage “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is true. Careful planning is the key to a successful and required outcome. However, another saying ” The best laid plans of mice and men” means that despite careful planning things can still go awry! This said, planning a home layout which incorporates your desired layout, accommodation and budget takes time and input.

Prior to our meeting with our architects who had sketched out a few different ideas for discussion, we sketched out a few layouts and ideas of our own, which if possible we would like to include in the design. One plan presented to us by the architect left very little of the original house – a few walls in fact, and the remainder  re-built. Not only were we not keen on the design layout, but if so much of the original house was demolished we may as well flatten the lot, build a new house and save ourselves 20% VAT in the process. Having bought a structurally sound house, we thought it unnecessary to take such drastic measures, we don’t think the existing house is that bad!

It is interesting the way in which different people have such different ideas on the use of space in design layouts. Some of which we had not thought of or considered, which is why you need an architect. Some of these ideas have been incorporated into a master drawing plan, ‘a fusion of ideas’ and not a mish-match as described by my husband. The main constraint in the design was the roof pitch. The extension design needs to work with the existing roof.

Having now decided on the layout, I needed to be sure that the proposed kitchen was going to be sufficient in terms of space and layout,it needs to be workable. It is no good re-siting walls etc. only to find that the space doesn’t work for the way you like to live and what you want from your kitchen.It is easier to move the door or window position now on paper, than when they have been built.

Armed with a scale ruler, sharp pencils and an eraser I plotted the available space. Kitchens have different zones in them, cooking, wet (sinks and dishwashers) food prep area, storage for groceries and china, fridges and freezers, plus ideally, somewhere to sit. How this is plotted also depends on individual work style preferences and the space available. The zones need to flow for ease of use and not too far apart to avoid unnecessary leg work. Regardless of your budget the key is in the planning of the design. Make yourself a checklist by asking yourself questions and answers.

How much you cook will dictate your needs.

What type of cooker? Range, wall mounted ovens and counter top hob or Aga? Will the hob be gas or electric? Consider the cooker hood extractor, how will it be vented?

Which fridges and freezers do you need to suit your cooking requirements? Do you want a free standing statement piece or fully integrated appliances?

Do you want a tap that provides instant boiling water to replace the kettle?

What is your preferred sink? under mounted, Belfast, single or double drainer?

Your choice of sink will dictate the choice of work top materials. Natural granite, silestone, a composite stone, wood or Laminate. You can’t have an under mounted sink with formica.

What style do you prefer? Modern gloss, contemporary, country?

Do you want splash backs? Will these be tiled,  glass or another material?

What is your flooring preferences? Tiled, wood, vinyl, or another material?

Once you are happy with your layout, if it’s an open plan kitchen, consider how the space integrates and one area to another especially the flooring. When you have decided what you want from your kitchen visit a kitchen showroom, and speak to kitchen planners, they may have ideas which you had not thought of or knew existed which can be included into your design. Prior planning helps you and the kitchen designer.

I would like to include an island with bar stools or chairs on one side or end, for breakfast and entertaining whilst cooking. The other side of the island will be used as a preparation zone with appliances below. Islands are a great way to maximize the available space. Consider ‘traffic flow’ too. People walking through to other rooms, does a door need to be moved to create better use of space, or a door need hanging the other way. Our kitchen will open out onto a garden room designed to be the dining room/ family area with glass doors opening directly onto the garden. Although the kitchen will not be huge, it will be very easy to work in and incorporate my key zones.

A galley plan layout

A galley plan layout

Lighting is a key element in design and very important in a kitchen. Task lighting so you can see what you are doing and lighting to create different moods and activities. The controls should be flexible, controllable and dimmerble. I will do a detailed lighting plan at a later date which will be for the whole house for the electricians to quote on and work from. LED’s work well under wall mounted cabinets as they won’t heat up the contents in the above cupboard.Consider hanging directional spot or inset lights in line with the edge of your counter top. Angle the light to bounce  off the wall to avoid casting a shadow. If you have more than 12″ or 30 cm of space above a wall cupboard install a warm white fluorescent, a linear low voltage or Linear LED to create a diffused light to bounce off the ceiling. A light at kick board height is dramatic when dark. Statement pendant lights, whether you want one or more over the island adds atmosphere and helps break up the solid line of cabinets.Layer the lighting for multifunctions in the room.

Plug sockets for appliances from the kettle, toaster, coffee machine and food processor. Have plug sockets put in your island too, and perhaps a drawer or cupboard for charging mobile appliances such as phones. Where these are sited depends on how you like to work in your kitchen.Plugs for dishwashers, electrics for the hob and oven need to be planned also.

Pull up sockets when required.

Pull up sockets when required.

Special Appliance Storage

Special Appliance Storage

Whether your budget  is a for a  flat pack or bespoke kitchen, the layout will be the same, the design is the key to it’s success. I haven’t decided on cabinets, sinks and specific appliances yet, although have a style in mind. At this stage I’m content with the design layout, the rest will follow more easily now.

Seaside Rendevous

Coastal or seaside, although is a key trend this season, is always popular, especially in bathrooms, it must be all the water!  Our love affair of glorious summer days spent by the coast. Blue skies and sea, sandy beaches, stripped check chairs and wind breaks (if you’re on the East coast). Fishing, hunting for crabs and collecting shells. Whether your idea of coastal is the pared down natural look, nautical, or  bright deck chair stripes reminding you of Brighton beach, there are products for you.


The coastal style can be introduced successfully into your home ( other than the bathroom) even if most of us aren’t lucky enough to live by the sea. The trick is not to be overly themed, keep it subtle.  Obvious accessories like wooden fish and  boats should be kept to a minimum.  Blue is the first colour which generally springs to mind, sometimes with a dash of red used as an accent colour, on furniture or fabric. Vibrant cobalt and inky indigo give a fresh feel.

Fabrics  Striped, plain  natural linens and clever designs for curtains, cushions and bedding.

Blue is not the only choice of colour. Try using the colour of coral, sea shells, or sand.

Team with grey striped fabric (to echo a cloudy sky).

Ticking fabric from Ian Mankin

Ticking fabric from Ian Mankin

Flooring – Any natural flooring looks great, whether painted in an off white or natural wood. Natural  seagrass carpets or a textured rug all add to the tactile elements required.


Accessories –  Cleverly displays of collections will add impact. Seascape paintings hung on the walls, fisherman’s lamps hung over the dining table. Glass hurricane lamps filled with pebbles to secure a candle, placed on a table. Seashells used as ornaments or displayed in a glass jar. Mismatched tableware add style, using the same colour theme. Lobster pots as ornaments. All major high street stores and supermarkets have a range of goods emanating the trend, to suit all budgets. I was impressed with Matalan’s range for a great selection at great prices. Team up with items found in different shops, to avoid looking contrived.


Furniture – Rough textured wood for furniture to echo driftwood. Reclaimed wooden furniture is perfect for adding a relaxed seaside vibe. Paint dining chairs different shades of blue, or cover with a stripped fabric.



White Room

‘White Room’ by Cream, The White Album by The Beatles or  ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ by Pocal Harum were popular songs and album in the 60’s. Indeed decorating with white (along with more psychedelia) was also popular in the 60’s. The songs are still played on the radio, and white is still a perennial favourite used in our homes. White is very versatile, sitting well in contemporary, modern or traditional schemes. As summer approaches we often long for a new freshness in our homes. Throw open doors and windows and let the light in. We long for a brighter (if not sunnier) interior. If lots of bright colour on your walls is not to your taste, or  you are feeling bold enough to splash on a  coat of orange emulsion,  you opt for the safe ‘I’m just going to paint all the walls white’ option. Which white  would that be? Brilliant white, off white, barley white? The list of names and shades of white run into the hundreds.

Choosing the right white White like all other colour changes with natural and artificial light. White also takes on different hues, depending what it sits next to. Think about the aspect of the room, if facing north it will have a colder light, so choose a shade of white with red or yellow based undertones  like Farrow and Balls ‘Pointing’ or ‘White Tie’   Or try Little Greene Paint Company, they have a plethora of whites in all shades. Likewise a sunnier southern aspect will receive a warmer light, so a white with greens and grey tones in it will not make the room appear cold. Farrow and Balls  ‘Strong White’ or ‘Wevet’.  You can paint the walls in one white and choose toning shades of white for the ceiling, cornices and woodwork creating a calm graduated colour scheme.

The secret of decorating with white so as not to look too clinical, bland or cold is to add texture into the scheme. Instead of heavy, lined curtains at the windows, try hanging a sheer fabric like voile or muslin to filter the light. Many materials have delicate designs woven into the fabric. This may have to be accompanied with a black out blind in a bedroom if you you want to block out street lighting and very early morning sunshine pouring in (if you window faces east).

Fresh, white bedding always brightens a bedroom and looks smart. Team it with a contrasting colour for the bedhead or a white headboard with texture such as a distressed limed wood in white.

White carpets are not a practical choice if you have children,  teenagers or a dog  living in your home. These must be saved for master bedrooms or guest rooms, unless you want to be constantly cleaning the carpet and getting stressed. White ceramic, porcelain or granite floor tiles are easier to keep clean, but will of course show the dirt. White floor paint is another option on floor boards or ‘lime wash’ them to add texture and interest. How to lime wash floors yourself –

White wall tiles in a bathroom, kitchen or utility room do not need to look clinical, if arranged in different patterns or different shapes and sizes. There is something luxurious about a pile of  white, clean, fluffy towels folded neatly in a bathroom. The opposite effect is of course when they have been discarded in a wet heap on the floor!

The living room decorated in white can take on many guises. It can be accompanied  with glass chandeliers, mirrors, an off white textured rug and formal furniture to create a classic, sophisticated room, or a more relaxed country vibe with rough painted distressed wooden furniture and knitted throws. Or create a Gustavian ambiance with grey based whites of painted furniture.

A dining table set with white china, lit by candle light looks special. White china also displays food well. Collections of white china and ornaments displayed on dressers or shelves look stunning in a ‘white room’, especially if  well lit with directional lighting or lamps.

So opting for white need not be boring, clinical or safe, if used well. All pictures from Pinterest