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

Preparing Your Home For Selling

For Sale/Sold Sign by Zazzle

How long will it take to sell your home?

Spring is a popular time to market and hopefully sell properties, and once that decision has been made, you contact your local agent for a valuation. Agents valuations are based on similar properties to yours currently sold or for sale in the area.

Now, if you’ve lived in your home for many years maybe it  has become a little ‘tired’ or dated’, but would rather sell ‘as is’. Possibly at a lower selling price and taking longer to sell, rather than face doing any work, spending money, in the hope that a DIY enthusiast will see the potential and relish the challenge, some do, many people don’t see the potential or want to undertake the work.

You can ask your agent (if your home is tired or dated) for two valuations – ‘as is’ and ‘tidied up’. Depending on the individual agent, they may advise that it’s not worth spending any money or the effort, as the return will not out weigh the costs involved. Or they may be happy to advise on both scenarios. If the agent offers both marketing prices, you can work out your parameters of what you would be prepared or need to spend for the ‘added value’ and make an informed decision on whether you should implement the improvements or not.

Kitchens and bathrooms are two of the biggest influences on a sale. The view often being, don’t change it, as whoever moves in will rip it out and put in new. Possibly, either straight away, in time, or just don’t want the expense and hassle. Again, compare the ‘added’ value’ and costs, this will help you make your decision. Think about your target market: who is likely to want to buy your home? What will they be looking for?

Front path and door of Victorian house

Ensure the front of your home looks promising.

Whether or not you intend to carry out any updating, your home should still be prepared and ready to market for great photographs for the internet, brochures and actual viewings. Cleaning, especially bathrooms and kitchens, de clutter, windows should sparkle. De-personalise by packing away personal items (well you’re moving aren’t you?) so prospective purchasers can see how their belongings will fit in or not. Don’t be precious, be objective and try to see the house as a commodity rather than your home. If you find this difficult, ask friends ( however they may not be totally honest with you) Estate Agent or Home Staging Professional for their view and recommendations. Refresh garden containers with seasonal plants to brighten up dull corners of your outside space.

Case Study – Before and After of a ground floor flat which I completed last year for marketing and selling. The flat had become outdated and ‘tired’. This was the hardest job I think I’ve ever carried out, the flat had belonged to my dear mother.

The target market was an older individual or couple, perhaps downsizing or retiring, who would probably want to move straight in and not have any or very much to do.

Living Room

Working with a neutral palette to create a cohesive look in a small flat, all the rooms, including the paint work was painted the same colour. A new cream carpet was laid throughout. In the living room the 1960’s fire-place and surround was replaced with a smaller contemporary model. Although excess furniture and personal effects have been removed, we re-used some of the existing furniture and rearranged its layout.


Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the ‘before’, of the kitchen, but the units were dark brown wood, beige work top and beige speckled tiles with an occasional fruit or vegetable tile – a 1980’s throwback. The units were in good condition and the design layout worked ergonomically, it was just that it looked dated.  Painting the cabinets an off white, replacing the work top and changing the tiled splash back to white metro in brick style made the kitchen much brighter, more contemporary and up to date.

Guest Bedroom

The guest bedroom was originally very cramped and cluttered. By removing the shelves, wash basin and tiled splash back and a single bed more space was created. Freshly decorated walls and cupboards which were fitted with new knobs, and a new fitted carpet laid. Again,  some of the original furniture and accessories were re used during the bedroom re-design.

Main Bedroom

Main Bedroom. The textured wall paper was removed, and the walls and woodwork were repaired and freshly painted in the same colour as the rest of the flat. The curtains and track were removed, leaving just the blind. The  furniture layout was rearranged, excess furniture was removed, and some items from other rooms were introduced. A new carpet was laid.

Shower Room

Small shower room

Shower Room

Although this work was done prior to the staging of the flat, it would have been necessary to include refurbishing the bathroom. The original pink bathroom suite was replaced with a large 1200 mm walk in shower, with room for a stool if required. The walls were tiled to full height on all walls. A vanity basin provides storage.  Extra storage ( not seen) was provided by a tall cabinet. The adjacent toilet has the same wall tiles and an extra high toilet was installed.

By investing time and money the property increased in marketing value by £35,000 and sold very quickly. But do your own sums, it’s all in the numbers!

Images by Sarah Maidment Interiors, Sign by Zazzle, Front door by Pots by

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. But with property that goes out the window.

You’ve all heard about creating ‘kerb appeal’ to your home for selling purposes. In a tough, competitive market, how you present your property for sale can win or lose a prospective purchaser. A badly maintained exterior can deter prospective buyers and often reflects on the expectations of the interior.

Delightful frontage

I want to see more!

First impressions count. Here’s a few things to bear in mind;

  1. Make your home’s exterior appealing so viewers are eager to come through the door to see more.
  2. Ensure there is no peeling paint, and that UVPC is clean, as well as the windows. Clean and polish your front door, add a new door mat.
  3. Clear away all junk, broken pots etc. Push wheelie bins into an unobtrusive space, if possible.
  4. Tidy up borders, weed, cut back any over grown shrubs and trim hedges. Fill any gaps with inexpensive evergreen shrubs. Place a planter by the front door filled with seasonal plants.
  5. The same can be done with a rear garden, replacing or repairing any broken paving or fencing.
  6. Look at your garden as an outside room, an extension to your home. Place seating and a table to show how a garden can work for entertaining and enjoyment.
A place to sit and enjoy your outside space

A place to sit and enjoy your garden

Did you know that a well-presented garden can add up to 20% to your home’s value?

But a garden is not all about selling and adding value – a garden is for the enjoyment of the occupants.

Which garden to you think is the most amazing? Wales Online has recently run a property and garden awards competition in association with Waterstone Homes,  The Welsh Garden of the Year  criteria was to be an outside space that’s unique, one we would admire and enjoy. The garden category was all about making something special from the outdoor space available, whatever its size.

Create a mood board for your exterior

A mood board for your garden and homes exterior by

The NGS (National Garden Scheme) is an organisation which encourages people to open their gardens to the public, of which the proceeds from the entrance fee goes to charity. Some gardens also offer tea and cake – a bonus! It’s an opportunity to ask the owners about their gardens, and glean inspiration. Not everyone of course is brave enough to open their garden for public scrutiny, especially if a ‘Monty Don’ from Gardeners World type expert is among the visitors. Personally, I’m relieved when I spot ‘defects’ like couch grass or ground elder, it makes me feel better about my own gardening capabilities.

I spent one (yes, there was one) sunny June afternoon visiting open gardens in the small village where I live. The Old Rectory was the first stop; a flat lawn (for croquet perhaps?) was flanked one side with an old wall and a beautiful herbaceous border. Paths meandered into the kitchen garden with large greenhouse. Another path led to a large pond and tennis court. A Wisteria in full bloom, hung to the south facing Georgian façade of the house. There was a timeless, classic elegance to both the house and garden.

An herbaceous border blends with the house

An herbaceous border blends with the house image pinterest

Another garden was hidden behind a 1980’s home. My goodness me, I felt I was in a Chelsea Flower Show garden (and very relieved I hadn’t opened my own garden). It was beautifully designed in every conceivable way, from the layout to the planting schemes. The grass was a manicured, weedless perfection, and even the hostas were completely holeless! The winding path led to a wild flower meadow, awash with bees and butterflies, and continued to a super duper wooden gazebo.

A small cottage, whose garden was hidden behind a neatly clipped beech hedge was complete with climbing roses, clematis and small fish pond. A small gated access led to a raised vegetable plot and chicken coup. It was charming – the quintessential English cottage garden, who were serving cucumber sandwiches. Of course.

Raised veg beds and chicken coup

Raised beds and chicken coup image This Old House

In another garden there were bird tables, a fish pond – complete with fishing gnomes, with lots of places to sit and enjoy. It was a very ‘busy’ garden. I loved it, although not for me.

A delight was that each garden was an extension of the home it belonged to – a reflection of the style of the house, they went together. What I also observed, was how the gardens also reflected the personalities of the owners, much in the same way a pet or dress sense can.

But don’t just see gardening as an end goal or as a finished product to serve a purpose, it’s also about the journey. Last year the Chicago Tribune published an article on how a garden can teach you creativity, spirituality and more. You can read it here;

It’s not only at Glastonbury that Jo Whiley, (presenter on BBC Radio 2 and Glastonbury) tackles mud in her wellies. Jo is as passionate about her garden as she is music. “Gardening is my sanity” Jo said in an article in an article in The Sunday Times

Hopefully this has encouraged you to dust off the trowel and unearth your creativity which has been lying deep beneath the soil. After all, gardens are a space to be enjoyed by you, your friends and family. A place of peace, reflection or ‘just to be’.

It feels apt to end with the final line from the film adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden;

“The garden is always open now. Open, and awake, and alive. If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden”.

Now open up your secret garden.

Design Tips by

Design tips to help you by


Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House (18) House & Garden


Colour Palate Mood Board

Colour Palate Mood Board

The first floor has now been finished, apart from the wardrobes waiting to be fitted, and carpets laid. Laying the carpets will be the final job, as most of the ground floor is laid with concrete, which creates copious amounts of dust, which is walked everywhere.

The main building contractors have finished their work, and moved onto other jobs. It was very quiet at the house most days, unless the electrician, tilers or plumbers arrived to work on smaller outstanding jobs.

My mother, sadly passed away in August. Although expected, it  is a very sad and difficult time, with lots to do and sort out. Hence, work on the house has been intermittent.

The garden continued to grow, the lawn and lots of weeds in the beds. We managed to keep the grass down, but the weeds not. We should have laid black plastic over the borders when freshly dug with the digger weeks ago, to keep the weeds at bay. This would’ve saved hours of back breaking digging later. Someone told me their story when faced with an over grown garden, they decided to save on the digging and sprayed the whole area with weed killer. They didn’t realize that weed killer also kills plants and takes a long time for the ground to recover. They now have to dig out the existing earth and replace with new top soil.

I had a master plan for the border planting, lots of clipped bay and box trees, lavender, alliums and white hydrangers. This idea changed dramatically when I saw the price of plants and shrubs at local Nurseries and garden centres. Having two large borders measuring 3 m x  6.5 m in the rear and a front boarder to fill, and the cost of purchasing the more mature specimens to add impact, was not an option. I did consider more turf and less border, however, this was too much of a compromise to the design. This problem could have been eleviated had the garden clearance people not been so earnest, and cut back mature specimens instead of removing them!

I chanced upon end of season plant sales in local DIY and garden centres, some of which were half price or less, so spent several days filling my car with bargain perennial plants and shrubs. I selected plants which were complimentary or toning in colour, and offered different textures ( a mood board for the garden) and bought several of the same plants to group together, again to add impact. I also chose according to the aspect the plant preferred, shady, full sun etc. but did not buy a soil sample testing kit to find out if the soil was acidic or alkali as advised by a nurseryman. I guessed it was more acidic due to the Azelia and Rhododendron which had once been prolific in the garden, but alas now gone. The images below, I have used as inspiration, unfortunately this is not what my present garden looks like- but am working on it.

The terrace is now full of plants waiting to be planted, but was faced with two big borders to clear of weeds first. It was a daunting prospect. We covered one border with black plastic, which we hoped would begin to kill some of the weeds, whilst  we worked on the other bed. New top soil had been put down, but underneath lurked bricks, stones and various builders rubbish and deep rooted weeds. It was back breaking work, and could only be done in stages. Well rotted compost should have been added and then dug well in, prior to planting, and Gardener’s World would’ve  been disappointed in us, but they have a team of strong people to do this for them! As a compromise I put compost at the roots of the plants whilst planting and watered in. In such a large garden, the plants look a little lost, with large gaps in between them. This is to allow for growing space. I have to be patient. Gardens mature and evolve over time. The electrician has laid armoured cable to lights which will high-light some of the retained mature trees and focal points in one bed (achieved by a large pot with a tall shrub for impact). These lights have yet to be connected, but will add another dimension to the garden.

The front border had to be attacked with a pick axe (not by me I hasten to add) because it was so dry and compacted. This needless to say was also full of bricks, blocks and stones needing to be removed. A retaining border was made from sleepers and bolted together. Some daffodil bulbs have been put in between the newly planted shrubs and plants.

Tiles have now been laid of the floor on the entrance hall with an area left for a sunken foot mat. The cloakroom floor has also been tiled, which enables us to finish installing the basin and loo. The original cast iron cistern has been stripped and spray painted and placed in situ. I think it looks great.

Sourcing suitable engineered wooden flooring has been difficult. Samples, which looked fine on web sites, when arrive, are either too dark or too shiny, so they can resemble laminate. Other considerations are the depth of the top wood veneer, and of course price. Large DIY stores had disappointingly little choice, and in some cases were more expensive than smaller specialist suppliers. We’re still searching.

Engineered wood flooring samples

Engineered wood flooring samples

We are still trying to confirm a date with the multi- fuel  burner installers to return to complete the outside flue. Because they were so busy, they installed the internal flue and stove some months ago so we could continue with building the hearth and internal works. It was agreed to contact them to complete the job when less busy. Clearly, they’re still busy, and despite numerous texts and messages are too busy to reply.

The partitions and doors have arrived, and the carpenter has fitted them. Although needing staining , then glass fitting, they look great.

The wooden partitions in the workshop

The partitions in the workshop


Renovation and Restoration of a 1930’s House (13) Unforeseen Challenges

Front elevation with tiled roof

Front elevation with tiled roof

However well thought out and planned, unforeseen problems can arise during the execution of the works. It wasn’t until we reached roof level, when we had found a carpenter, accepted his quote, booked him in and about to order the joists, that the builders noticed a discrepancy with the architects drawings, that didn’t make sense. They looked at the engineers drawings and calculations and although different to the architects, didn’t work either. The roof structure was quite complicated, breaking into the existing, building around the existing chimney stack and creating gully’s.During a site meeting the builder suggested removing the chimney stack. This would save time and money and make the roof construction easier. The original brick tied fireplace in the small sitting room would probably rarely be lit, if ever, be used as an open fire. We could also remove the chimney breast wall in the bedroom above making it bigger and a less awkward shape.

The chimney breast was removed from the bedroom, which solved twp problems at once.

The chimney breast was removed from the bedroom, which solved twp problems at once.

The builder and carpenter worked out the calculations accordingly. Interesting though, you pay architects and engineers a lot of money for their services, and the experienced builders and trades notice the errors and sort out the problems.

The master bedroom is having a vaulted ceiling, so two steel beams had to be hoisted and maneuvered by a crane over the house into place. It was exciting to watch. I have to say how clever builders and trades people are, they think ahead. Piles of raw materials stacked ready to be made into a home.

The rear external wall from the existing house into the extension (master bedroom)  has been knocked through. However, the floor levels are slightly different. This could not be foreseen as the floor in the exisitng bedroom slopes very slightly. It is not enough to form a step, it’s more of a ‘trip’. Ideas and suggestions have been discussed, from laying more chipboard flooring on the extension floor, to lifting the original bedroom floor which slightly at one end. A decision hasn’t been decided, but needs to be made soon.

The roofers have arrived and we now have a roof! We were lucky with the weather whilst the work was in progress. The roof tiles we salvaged from the garage have been re- used at the front, which seamlessly matches the existing. Reclaimed tiles have been used elsewhere to blend in too. Whilst the roofers were tiling the roof, the rear garden was leveled , a crushed concrete base at the bottom of the garden for a patio area and path was laid half way down the garden.  Indian Sandstone slabs have been laid on top of the crushed concrete. This has been done now as the rear garden is accessible with a digger, prior to the small side mud and plant room being built at the side of the house. Raised vegetable beds constructed from wooden sleepers have been laid and filled with top soil.  Turf has been laid from the bottom of the garden, three quarters of the way to the house. No point in doing any more until the rear work on the house has been completed – it would get ruined. I always think that the transformation of a garden when the turf has been laid is like laying a new carpet in a freshly finished room, it completes it.

We are not in the ‘dry’ yet though, due to the windows. This has been quite a marathon. Architects drawings and sizes were sent to different companies for quotes. Some companies could supply the windows but the roof lanterns and sloping glass would have to be sourced from a different company. Some companies were helpful asking questions we hadn’t considered about ‘openings’ to meet building fire regulations and handle choices. Some companies just returned a quote without asking these important points or offering ideas, a little indifferent. The quotes varied too by several thousand pounds. However, the cost of our preferred  aluminium windows is prohibitively expensive.  One company came to measure the finished apertures, and then asked me which window cills I wanted, tile creasing’s or oak, (£106.00 per metre plus vat for oak). We assumed, as no one had mentioned it before that the cills would be aluminium. This was an extra cost on top of the window quote, and to be honest why have maintenance free windows with wooden cills which require maintenance? Tiles would be more durable, but the materials and labour costs still have to be added to the overall budget for the windows. Spending such a large proportion of the budget on the windows is not an option. The bi-fold doors, roof lantern and sloping roof will be aluminium for strength, but the windows will be UVPC. All windows and doors will be a dark grey RAL ( a universal colour chart chart in the industry) 7016. The window style will be as near as possible to the original Crittal window style to keep the character of the house. We have instructed a local family run company who manufacture and install the windows themselves. This way we have more flexibility in the required design.

The huge steel beam supporting the bi-fold doors and roof glass has been a sticking point. There are no details on the architects drawings showing how this should be finished to take the doors and glass. The architect, when asked for details explained that he had’t been asked for them, and would happily supply them for an extra fee! I have asked our structural engineer instead to provide the details. The builders can then do the necessary works for the window company to measure the apertures and make. As stated before, window companies will only start making the windows when the aperture is finished. This causes problems removing existing windows where the aperture is changing with security and the elements. Whilst the scaffolding is up and before the lower roof is built the soffits and fascias have been put on and the rendering applied. What a difference covering the block work makes. It is beginning to look like one house, at the back at least. Of course the biggest transformation will be when the windows go in.

Secret Garden


Sanuk Shop Front

Sanuk Shop Front

Sanuk (pronounced sanook) means in Thai language, to achieve satisfaction, pleasure and enjoyment from whatever you do. Apparently it is a mindset and rule for the Thai people in whatever they do it has to be ‘Sanuk’. Sanuk is where, on a glorious hot and sunny midsummer afternoon I sat in a delightful garden and ‘took tea’ as they say. (whoever ‘they’ might be) with two girlfriends.

We sat beneath an old grapevine in the shade on old rustic wooden furniture. The table was covered in oil cloth patterned with flowers. We were served individual pots of tea for our varying tastes, Earl Grey, Rooibos and English Breakfast. The bone china cups and saucers were a mismatch of vintage designs. We had chosen our homemade cakes of gluten free carrot and chocolate. As we sat and chatted over our tea and cakes we could feel ourselves relaxing. A sense of calm if you like.

After tea we wondered along the rows of many unusual plants for sale in the nursery garden called ‘Little Heath Nursery’.  One friend chose a delicate white alpine that she wanted to plant in a tea cup with a saucer. My friend explained that she had been invited to a 25th wedding anniversary party and the theme was silver and white. The cup and saucer she had purchased was white with silver 25th Anniversary on the side. I think this is a lovely present, as so much thought had gone into it.


At the end of each row of plants were old wooden tables each with a group display of different coloured plants. Some  being flowers and some with interesting foliage. Grouped together were reds, blues, white and purples, cleverly put together for colour and texture. Mood boards for your garden. It was inspirational and looked amazing.


On one side of the garden is a long wooden barn. One visitor described the barn as reminding her of ‘The Gingerbread House’ tucked in the woods. At one end of the barn there is a room for teas, coffee, cake and light lunches. This room is furnished with an eclectic mix of tables and chairs covered in patterned ‘oil cloths’ and on a table to one side sits the various cakes under glass domes. There are Indian textiles decorating the walls they have the aroma of a souk for some reason.

The centre of the barn houses a shop filled with Indian, Thai furniture and accessories. There are antiqued cupboards in turquoise, carved wooden wall decorations and an Indian four poster bed complete with a heavily embroidered bedspread and cushions. A good place to hunt for unusual items for your home. At the other end of the barn there is another small shop called Deja Vu which sells Antique and vintage lighting ( pendants and lamps)  and mirrors of various sizes. ( This shop only opens on Friday, Saturday and Sunday).  Definitely worth a look.

A separate barn sells a few salvaged and restored fireplaces and bags of logs. The whole place is void of commercialism, that is obviously a business and livelihood for the owners.

Sanuk is quiet and tranquil.  It is open all year round, however it is especially lovely during the warmer months to enjoy the garden. Sanuk is hidden behind trees in a small lane in a village called Potten End just outside Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire. ‘Sanuk’ was an easy mindset to achieve whilst there. I only hope I can achieve the same when carrying out more arduous tasks on a day to day basis.

A delightful garden and barns  -Sanuk

A delightful garden and barns -Sanuk