I personally love my simple posy of cream gerberas, ranunculus and mini pom-pom blossoms with gorgeous green foliage. The simple overall look appears effortless (it was really) but stylish, especially when combined with my retro charity shop jug
I picked up this wooden antelope ages ago for 50p and, while I love it, this guy was looking a bit tatty and old. Then I saw a great craft project idea from Handsome Vintage who upcycles retro wooden creatures and pimps them up to make them ‘hipster’. Handsome Vintage has a wonderful collection of hand-painted pieces with intricate patterns and bright colours – it’s such a bright and original revamp idea so I thought I’d give it a go with my little guy.
I sanded old Andy the Antelope down (there’s another Ella’s Menagerie back story post due soon – Andy has an amazing tale to tell) and gave him a paint with bright yellow acrylic paint. Then I used a white posca pen to give the leotard a 1980s-inspired pattern. I gave him a spray of varnish too so his ‘tard stays in place.
Unlike Handsome Vintage, I have no intention of selling Andy. He has now become a firm favourite in our house, beloved particularly by Dr B of all people. I’m now obviously on the hunt for other charity shop animals (wooden or ceramic) that I can give similar treatments to. And, once she’s back from maternity leave, may purchase some brothers and sisters from HV.
It’s mid November so I feel it’s a respectable time to start getting set for Christmas. I thought I’d just do a really image-led post featuring some key festive looks that I like for home, gifting and decoration.
This look brings out the little girl in me. I would imagine the six year old me would have loved a shimmery, glittery tree in pinks, golds, turquoises, silvers and purples. When I was that age, the shinier the better and, while I try to be a grown up, this look still shouts “Christmas” to me.
Now it if was up to Dr B, this is what Christmas would look like at our place.
When it comes to wrapping, I go classy with kraft paper and twine or black/white iridescent wrap with contrasting ribbon and tags, Dr B goes all out with robins, trees, snowmen, santas and Christmas puds. His go-to colours are red, green and white because it is “proper”. He likes the fun of this look, the playfulness and, like my retro shimmer look, it reminds him of childhood. I like it too but I’m not sure if it would suit my gaff.
Love this. The sumptuous textures teamed with the plaid, plus the traditional motifs and colour ways combined with twinkly lights and little finishes such as berry and fir wreaths and centre pieces create a warm, cosy feel that immediately references this time of year.
The totes trad look feels both festive and grown up. You kinda feel Christmassy as soon as you see it and just looking at these pictures makes me want to reach for the hot chocolate and my slippers.
This metallic style is a kind of grown up version of the retro shimmer look.
I like the way you can be playful with this look – you can do glitter, you can adorn gifts and decorations with baubles and frosting – but the overall effect is quite chic. I love the art deco references of this and think it really comes together through the coordinating colour way of pinks, navies, silvers and gold/bronze metallics.
You can do two versions of the frosted Christmas – the one above (trad touches, cosy finishes etc) or the one below (minimal styling, subtle references). Whatever your style the look shares the same cool colour suite teamed with pretty metallic accents and snowflake and wreath motifs.
I know everyone has been talking about ‘hygge’ of late and I suppose this look reflects this.
This graphic style is perfect for me but I know that some find this look a little too austere and maybe too stark. However you can soften it up by being more playful with your decorative elements and use of pattern like the examples below…
This is my wildcard but I can’t resist showcasing this range from Paperchase. The colours are warm and vibrant while the motifs are so playful and fun. It’s a great alternative for those who aren’t keen on snowflakes.
What inspired my retro flower drawings of the week I hear you ask? Well, a couple of weeks ago I was looking at moody botanics and loved the idea of beautiful blooms set against deep dark backgrounds. This also coincided with me becoming obsessed with vintage floral duvet cover designs. And I’m not talking about those pretty ditzy Cath Kidston inspired numbers, no I’m thinking of the type of things I had as a small child in the early 1980s (that were practically 1970s).
So I’d thought I’d combine the two themes and create this set of retro floral illustrations and pattern design. I think these would look great on home project and I’m thinking of using them on some cushions and lampshades for a real cosy feel in the bedroom – a little nod to the bedrooms of my childhood.
The flowers I’ve illustrated here are ranunculus, dahlia, peony, rose, hydrangea, anemone, rose and succulent, I deliberately choose round shapes that fit together nicely in a kind of clockwork fashion.
As an obsessive of iconic, classic design and illustration I regard a Liberty print with admiration and awe. But as I don’t live in a particularly girlie gaff, I’m sometimes at a loss as to where to put them in my home. In fact it would be fair to say that Ella’s place is quite gender neutral so, while I like a floral print (I mean, I draw enough flowers and like to display a bloom in practically every room), I restrict more ornate, flowery designs to accents rather than a full on floral fest, which is why I made these handmade clocks.
Creating a bespoke time piece is super simple. As clock fittings are so easy to come across these days (seriously, google it and you’ll be faced with a wealth of cost-effective options) you can make clocks in any shape or size with the minimum of effort all you need is the fitting and a suitable surface to attach it to.
I took a cheat’s choice and used a needcraft clock kit for ease, as everything was pre-cut and measured. All I needed to do was add fabric – a total timesaver. But you can always cover an area of mdf or stiff card with material or paper with a hole made for the clock piece. It really is that simple – easy crafting if there ever was.
I got the Liberty fabric from Sewbox who has an extensive collection of designs by the brand – Sue from Sewbox is lovely too, I worked with her a lot on Homemaker and she was super helpful.
I selected Liberty Betsy Ann in Rossmore Cord for a lighter, classically floral time-piece and Liberty Cranston in Colourway A from its Lifestyle Stile Collection for a deco-style feel (it looks ever so nice with Henry and Matilda my retro cat ceramics). I’ve got the latter hanging in my hallway and the former is looking rather splendid on the white sideboard in the dining room.
I’ve had this little wooden box for years. It was plain and unloved for ages. I kept pencils in it and every time I retrieved them I thought “I should really do something with this” and then I’d leave it.
Then a couple of weeks ago I was asked if I wanted to do some projects with Uni-ball the makers of Posca pens. Before I started on the projects I thought it best to re-familiarise myself with them and have a little practice. The pens work on a range of surfaces, so after I used them on a set of notebooks I thought I’d give them a try by drawing on that plain old wooden box.
First I painted the box to give it an even white background. Then I used my wood anemone sketch as a basis for my hand-drawn box design. I wanted to make it look quite retro so influenced by sixties and seventies floral patterns I gave the flowers a bright blue colour.
What I like about these pens is that you can layer them without them bleeding and apply lighter shades over darker ones which means I could add depth to the flowers with lovely yellow centres and white pollen.You can set the design by simply spraying some varnish over it.
You can set the design on the box by
I love using fresh flowers to brighten up my spaces. Even when I was a poor student and lived in the worst house in England* I would buy some daffs and irises for a pound a bunch and display them in mugs and tin cans (this gaff did not have vases – in fact I would be being kind if I said the place was basic at best).
My love of fresh flowers grew way after I graduated and I went on a Paula Pryke training course (amazing) and even worked as a Saturday girl in, in my opinion, one of the best florists in London; Rebel Rebel – two kinder, sassier and stylish women you will never meet, they were wonderful to me and I learnt so much from them in terms of floristry but also kindness and generosity.
Every time I arrange blooms for my home I remember my PP training and time spent with RR. The things that have stuck with me is the PP team’s celebration of colour and form. RR taught me to be brave, to enjoy design and look out for classic blooms and unusual receptacles ( I once spent an entire day sticking red glitter to shoes for table centres – it was brilliant).
Below are just a few ideas to spruce up your floral displays – I’ve deliberately kept the arrangements themselves quite easy that don’t take any skill, after-all this is simply to brighten up your spaces not to create something formal.
Go wild with vintage vases
Myself and the good Dr B quite like a ceramic and over the years we’ve amassed lots of vases, jugs and decorative bowls in various styles, all of which are great for displaying flowers. I like to cluster pieces from around the same period when I’m putting flowers in them to great a mini still-life.
This collection of shop-bought irises and home-grown daffodils and rosemary has been very loosely cut to size (always cut stems at an angle as they have greater surface area to drink the water) and very informally placed in some beautiful mid-century jugs. This arrangement now lives on my (very hardworking, aka scruffy) dining room table.
Be bold and punk up charity shop finds
Wherever I am one of my favourite things to do is to spend a day scouring local charity shops. In the mid nineties it used to be for clothes (I may well do a post on my nineties style but then again maybe not) now it’s for homewares that I can either display with pride or customise and up-cycle. When I found this swan vase it was very twee, achingly so and not even in a good way. Initially I sprayed the vase in a beautiful neutral blue and white paint for a Homemaker Magazine project that you can see here.
This time I wanted something brighter and more edgy. So I got this fab Rust-oleum neon spray paint in pink and yellow and went to town on punking this bad boy up! I also wanted it to be rough and ready so I like the little bits of dust that have gathered (if you like it sleek you can avoid this by thoroughly cleaning and dusting your object beforehand). I used the spray in a well ventilated area and you should too.
I didn’t want a big, tight pom-pom style arrangement as I did with the Homemaker one, as I say the brief I set myself was quick and informal. So I simply filled the vase with water and filled with stems of white spray chrysanthemums. These blooms are usually used to fill out a bouquet and I normally avoid at all costs, however their spiky petals look rather apt here.
Embrace easy charm with clear jam jars
One of the first things Dr B did when we moved into this house was to plant hellebores as he wanted something beautiful in the garden in the first few months of the year. I must say he made the right choice. We have beautiful light and dark versions all over our patch in Feb and March and they really are lovely. Because we have so many I’m always snipping a few buds off to display indoors!
I like to show off these garden cuttings in clear glass jam jars to celebrate each individual stem. There’s a good reason why jam jar displats have been so popular in wedding tables, bars and restaurants – they don’t disrupt your eye-line but are elegant and stylish while being super practical. Honestly if I could get away will filling my house with flowers in jam jars I would.
Create a chic up-cycled arrangement
This is inspired by my time with Rebel Rebel. On my first day I helped out on a wedding doing the tables (which were long and thin). I was really worried as I thought this was going to be really complicated but the arrangement was beautifully simple and very effective. We lined the table with clear and cut glass receptacles at various heights (bottles, vases, jars, bowls, tea-light holders etc), filled them with water and placed blooms in shades of burgundy and crimson. It looked stunning. We then illuminated the glass with tea lights all down the table. Class, pure class.
Since then I am always on the look out for bottles and jars with interesting shapes and indentations that I can use for flower display. I admit these Italian fruit juice bottles are a bit fancy (the drink was nice too) but I’ve put flowers in milk and cola bottles before now. The trick is to have more than one and keep to the same colour bloom so they look like a display.
This post was longer than I anticipated and I hope it’s useful to you. It’s actually been really nice to share some of my memories with you from my floristry days.
(*Re the worst house in England. A bit of an exaggeration, but it was a horrible place to live. A monument to all things beige, it had layers of dirt built up over decades and to be honest me and my two flatmates only added to it. The mould made me ill and then the house had a major infestation of mice, then ants. Still, you know, student times.)