Friday, 4 March 2016

A Guest Room Makeover

Hello Readers.  Thank you for your lovely response to my last post and to those of you who are coming to stay at Lilac Cottage, we can't wait to welcome you!

I thought it was time to play catch up on all that has been going on here at The Old Vicarage.  We've been working hard to put our own HenHouse-style stamp on our new home and we're gradually working our magic.  One of the first rooms we tackled was the guest room.  We then wasted no time into moving into it ourselves so we could decorate the master bedroom!  Now we have a pretty and peaceful room to welcome our guests to Smiling Somerset.

Before we started, it was a sad little room.  Although it was decorated in neutral colours, it was only once the room was empty of the previous owners' belongings that we could see just how dirty and shabby it had become.  Living in the country, everything does seem to get a lot dirtier and dusty more quickly and this room was long overdue for some TLC.

As with the rest of our fine Victorian home, though, this room had good bones.  A fair size, nice and quiet being on the back of the house and with some original features such as the corner cupboard, cast iron fireplace, doors and architraving.

Somebody had added a nasty turquoise stencil to one wall and a "distressed" light fitting.  The carpet was dirty and moth eaten, the interior of the cupboard neglected and unloved!

The door was home to a strange selection of hooks.

The original fireplace had been painted over.  The previous owners of the house have painted absolutely everything in the one shade of cream.  I'm all for neutrals as a good base but it was just too bland.

The room has good sized Victorian sash windows but they needed overhauling and the room was made unnecessarily dark by a couple of trees outside the window, one of them an enormous ugly conifer.

We pondered whether to strip the Victorian pine boards back to their former glory but it took the Mr a very long time to refurbish the floor in the downstairs sitting room which we weren't that keen to repeat and we decided that we quite liked the cosy feel of carpet in the bedrooms.  It was a no to the wooden floorboards then.

A painstaking job was removing the paint from the fireplace.  We didn't feel the cream paint did justice to the casting and in any case, it had been badly applied and was peeling off.  Hats off to Mr HenHouse who undertook the donkey work in this room.

Me?  I'm not much help when it comes to the heavy work because of my joints but of course, there was a whole decorative scheme to plan.   I was in my element, of course.

We settled on a wool carpet from a British company which would act as a warm but neutral background.  I chose a pretty Cabbages and Roses fabric, Constance Rose, for the window treatment and some fresh paints from Farrow & Ball for the walls and woodwork.  Wimborne White is a perennial favourite and my go-to colour for walls.

Of course, we all know that the key to a successful decorating scheme is in the finishing touches.  This is where I like to put my crafty skills to good use and give our home a look that is individual to us.  It meant I had to go out and find fabrics and pretty trims, of course, which was such a hardship!

After a few months of hard work (we're slow but thorough these days), we were really pleased with the results of our labours.  Our pretty faded floral country house-style guest room emerged.  Our style  these days is a little different from our house in London but we feel it suits The Old Vicarage and its surroundings.  It's nice to have a bit of a change too, of course.

We didn't need to source much in the way of furniture for this room, as we already had the bed (though we did get a fabulous new mattress in the sale).  The old chippy painted chest of drawers with the porcelain knobs we rescued cheaply from a tumbledown old unit of a place selling furniture and bric-a-brac near to our home.  I just gave it a good scrub, lined the drawers with scented paper and left it as it is.  The mirror, lamp and radio we already had.  I've re-homed the lovely tapestry-covered stool at the foot of the bed from the cottage (as we have put something sturdier in there) and was pleased to see it fitted in here rather nicely.  The gorgeous old chandelier was a bargain from a little shop in Bridport.  I was not short of eidys of course, when it came to choosing one for the foot of the bed.

The French bedside tables came from the Shepton Antiques Fair, the lamps from the "bric-a-brac" unit (I made the shades using old frames and vintage fabric from my stash) and of course, I was responsible for the soft furnishings.

I loved making the patchwork cushions from old scraps of precious old French and English floral fabrics and I made the little quilt, too.

I whiled away many an evening most enjoyably with a little English Paper Piecing (hand sewing) these hexagons from my stash of pretty vintage fabrics.  I bought the old frame for £10, had new glass fitted and it was perfect for my little piece of stitchyness to go above the bed.

Mr HenHouse having worked his magic, the fireplace was restored to its former glory.  We bought the mirror rather thriftily in Bridport and touched up the frame a little with some gold paint.  The fender was a cheap flea market find made pretty again by the Mr.  He's a handy chap to have around, I can tell you!  The old hat boxes are vintage finds, the handmade velvet cushion houses some of my growing collection of old paste brooches (I am a self-confessed magpie), the pretty antique chair with its handprinted rose design was £15 from the bric-a-brac unit and I made the cushion.  There's a lot of the Mr and of me invested in this here room!

Ove in the far corner, my beautiful Cabbages and Roses curtains are just framing the shot.  I had these made by a local company as I am not keen on curtain making!  I found the gorgeous vintage velvet tiebacks in a local vintage shop, the little wall shelf unit came from the "bric-a-brac" barn for a song and had a little chalk paint treatment before becoming home to some of my little thrifty treasures.  One day in Frome, I spotted the French iron cot and having wanted one for quite some time, home it came.  I made a little mattress for it with ticking fabric (stuffed with old duvets!) and hand-tufted it.  It's the perfect spot for my handmade cushions and quilts and vintage floral eidys, of course.

I made little snowy rabbit by hand and she is quite happy there, in her cosy cot bed.  I LOVE that vintage eidy.  It was a recent flea market find.  How could I leave it behind for a measly £10?  Reader,  you'll be relieved to hear I rescued it immediately!

Let me show you another of my little bargains.  As you know, I am partial to a bit of pink.  One day after visiting a vintage textiles fair in Dorset, we found our way to an antiques centre.  Well, that is what it called itself but it was possibly the worst of its type I had ever been to!  Rescue came in the form of this old chair I found hidden away in one of the aisles.  It has a gorgeous original chippy paint finish and at a measly £7, into the boot it went.  Love!  I made the little cushion from a vintage quilt block.

I've collected all sorts of pretty bits and pieces for this room from the many vintage fairs and flea markets we go to.  I love that all the items are inexpensive but all unique and that they tell a story; both hints of their past life and the story of how and where we acquired them.  For example, the crystal beaded necklace I have had for many years and once belonged to my grandmother.  The dinky beaded bag came from Bridport's street market one Saturday morning.

The real crowning glory of this room?  It's the view.  From the back of The Old Vicarage, it's fair to say we have views to-die-for of the stunning surrounding countryside.  Our village is situated quite high up and beyond us, we can see right out across the Levels.

It wasn't a particularly fine day weatherise today when I took these shots but on any day, it's still mesmerising.  It is lovely to watch the landscape change with the seasons.  Nature is so amazing.  You can see what a difference it has made, having that whopping great ugly conifer taken down.  It has been sawn into logs and is seasoning nicely for burning on the fires next Winter so that's a winning story all round.

In the other direction, there's a view across our paddock and of the HenHouse girls, of course.  They're always busy going about their run and are such fun to watch.  We don't have a cockerel so lie-ins are still on the agenda but the girls do like to make a bit of a racket to let you know when they've laid their egg each morning!

I hope you've enjoyed a little peak around our first renovation project. X

Note: Please make sure you properly credit any pinned images back to this blog.  Thank you very much.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Some Exciting News!

Hello there!   Thank you so much to those lovely readers who have got in touch wondering where I am.  Here I am!  It's been an unfeasibly busy few months here behind the scenes at the HenHouse and I can barely believe how time has flown  but I've lots to share with you and some really exciting news.  Let's catch up then.

This blog has traditionally featured a lot of the crafty things I have been making but admittedly, there has not been an awful lot of free time for my favourite hobbies round here so not a lot to report to you on that front.  I did in the Summer, have a rather lovely time making this pretty quilt.  It's made from a mix of my favourite things: Liberty Tana Lawn cottons, old shirting and both vintage and modern florals to boot.  You might spot there's a loose red and green colour theme going on.  There was a reason for that.

In fact, I made not one but a pair of these pretty quilts.  They were destined not for my home, not for anyone elses' home either this time, but for a special place I haven't mentioned for a while.  

I made those cute green gingham curtains, too.  This room has had something of a makeover, it has to be said.

The reason I made two quilts is fairly obviously, because there are two beds, of course.  Vintage wooden ones to be precise, dressed with candy striped sheets, embroidered pillowcases and the prettiest cotton floral bedlinen.  Dreamy.  The red and green colour theme was to tie in with some existing furniture this room had which was being reused.  Do you remember this room now?  It looked a lot more yee-haw-cowboy-themed the last time you saw it!

Some of you might even remember this magazine?  In fact, quite a few people on Instagram say they still own a copy!  This was the magazine in which a certain cute little thatched hamstone cottage featured, a few years back now, in the special vintage issue.

There I am, stitching away on the infamous rosy print sofa.

We're talking about Lilac Cottage, of course, our special little holiday home here in the West Country.  You may have been wondering what has happened to it.

We don't have any reason, sadly, to use the cottage as our own holiday home now as it's not a million miles away from where we live (however, it is sometimes quite tempting!)  We were loathe to part with the place, though and we couldn't help thinking that just as we had enjoyed so many brilliant holidays within its old walls, there might be other folk out there who would feel the same.

So we've had a little project on our hands, which as they have a habit of doing, turned into a much bigger project than we anticipated!

As the cottage was empty, we felt it was a good opportunity to show her a little TLC and give the place a fresh new look; redecorating both inside and out, a few building works and a new boiler so that when she did finally open her door to special visitors, Lilac Cottage would be at her very best.

After a bit of a wait, we've worked our magic and once more, these four hundred year old walls are ready to welcome new visitors from near and far.

In the background, we've also had to grapple with the frankly less thrilling task of embracing new fangled technology!  So a website has been built so that in a virtual fashion, we can share the delights of Lilac Cottage with anyone who might be enticed to stay in her.

We've been researching hard; it's only fair that the website should contain information on the best places to sample cider, partake of a cream tea and shop for thrifty vintage goodies, I'm sure you will agree. So as well as telling you all about the cottage herself, you can read (and see oodles of pictures) about the surrounding location (which is pretty special, we must say) and what's going on in the area in terms of the best vintage fairs and the loveliest places to visit.  There's a list of dates on our News page so you can plan your stay to coincide with the fabulous Shepton Mallet Flea Market or the Bridport Vintage Sundays, for example.

The master bedroom has had a mini makeover, too.  The dark beams have been painted in more soothing shades and the whole cottage feels much lighter and fresher.  There's pretty Cath Kinston bedding and of course, a vintage eidy and growling teddy bear awaiting our first guests.  I think you probably understand what I mean when I say we are tempted to stay there ourselves!

So, if you've ever hankered after a fabulous vintage-style break in the wonderful West Country, Lilac Cottage is ready to open her arms and welcome you.

You can read all about her charms and those of wonderful Somerset and neighbouring Dorset and Devon on our brand spanking new website HERE.  We also have a new email address if there's anything you want to contact us about directly:

It goes without saying that we'd love to welcome you to Lilac Cottage with a basket of freshly laid eggs from our hens, home-baked scones (which will be coming courtesy of my new Aga very soon) and my prize-winning jam!

I promise it won't be so long until next time because while all this has been going on at Lilac Cottage, there's much to report from the HenHouse, too!

Thank you for stopping by. Xxx

Friday, 18 December 2015

A Festive Flurry 

Hello readers and thank you for receiving my last post so enthusiastically.  I'm here again already!

So the boxes are down from the loft and the decorations are finding their way around the house.  There's a smattering here in the Den, in appropriate colours, of course.

I've still found the odd hour here and there to spend in my Den.  A little peg doll fairy has appeared (though I don't think I'm going to get many/any more done now!)

It's a busy time of year for us all, isn't it?  The problem, is I don't seem to have many helpers.  Just ones who sleep on the job.

There seems to be a lot planned between now and the big day, just one week to go!  We already have had a few events going on.  The Master finished school a week ago and we enjoyed a lovely carol concert in Sherborne Abbey and a more intimate and cute Christingle service in the village where the youngest visitor was just nine weeks old and the oldest...well I wouldn't say.

There's something lovely about being out and about at dusk at this time of year.  The best bit is coming home, of course.

I am still waiting on my dream kitchen which I thought would have been here by now but never mind, that gives us something to look forward to in the New Year and for now, we're good and cosy indoors.

In the evenings in front of the fire, there's been a little hand stitching going on.

As promised, a final stocking has squeezed out of the Den just in time.

If you have been a good girl or boy and need a stocking to hang by the fireside for Father Christmas to fill on Christmas night, you've still got time and shall find this one magically waiting in my Etsy shop!

I hope to be back and see you all again before the big day and show you the festive HenHouse.