Monday, 29 September 2014

Take Me Away: 3 Days in Historic Bath

I was lucky enough to be able to fill last year with a number of different visits to some cool destinations - Barcelona, Amsterdam, Stockholm and closer to home, Lincolnshire and Shropshire. This year? Aside from a trip to London to visit friends a couple of months ago, I feel like we have barely left the house, never mind go anywhere that involved passports.

You may recall from my post about my new coffee table back in January that we'd originally planned on going to the gorgeous historic city of Bath for my birthday but apocalyptic forecasts of rain, hail, storm clouds and 50mph winds meant we had to cancel. We bought a coffee table instead so it wasn't all bad but I still really wanted to go.

Well, last week, we finally made the journey and the weather was just perfect for Autumn! Hurrah! A balmy 17-19 degrees C, sunny and lovely. The perfect season to see this absolutely stunning city.

I'll apologise now for the many many photos that lay ahead but it's just so damn picturesque a city, it was difficult to keep our phones in our pockets (and yes all photos are from my phone so apologies if the quality could be better.)

If you haven't been to Bath before or you are visiting England for the first time, then do make sure it's on your list of cities to see. Yes, I know that everyone has to go to London but it is well worth it to see some of the most gorgeous Georgian architecture you have ever seen.

We stayed at Villa Magdala, a 5* Luxury B&B in the heart of the city. Yes, that's my little yellow Mini you see below marked out front! It's a rather beautiful building with Victorian architecture and as you can see they had a car park which in this city is a rarity! This meant, we could park up on Sunday evening upon our arrival and not have to worry about the car again for the duration of the stay.  

The rooms, while small, are nicely decorated and spotlessly clean. To be totally honest, I was expecting a little more in terms of room quality for the price (bigger? more luxurious?) but then, Bath is not an inexpensive city so it's probably relative. The staff were wonderfully attentive, however, really friendly and helpful and the common areas were beautiful. The bathroom had Missoni soaps which was a nice touch. (Pic below was of our room but from their website).

On Sunday evening, we had dinner and drinks at a nearby restaurant/bar called The Boater. We ended up back at the Boater every night of our stay because it was on the way back from town to the B&B and I liked the industrial look of the place. They also had a rather gorgeous Chenin Blanc from New Zealand that I loved and quite a few independent beers on tap for Wayne. I'd recommend it for quiet after dinner drinks.

On Monday, we decided it would be the day to explore the city by foot. 

We walked everywhere around the city itself and ventured as far as the beautiful Victoria Park which was just stunning. The sun was shining and we took lots of pictures!

On Monday night, we had dinner at Cafe du Globe, a Moroccan restaurant in town. We both had different dishes served in a tagine and both were absolutely phenomenal. Highly recommended if you like your food with lots of flavour.

On Tuesday, it was our 'Tourist Day' so we decided to hit the Roman Baths first, then the Abbey, then the Victoria Art Museum and finally we took a boat trip down the River Avon.

As the biggest tourist attraction in Bath, I have to admit the Roman Baths are a must-see and there's an audio tour to follow for all the historic background. It's amazing what is underground and it appears to just go on and on with various rooms to explore.

If you missed it on Instagram, this is us doing our 'Gangsta' pose at the Roman Baths. Yes, posing inappropriately at history landmarks is funny to us. Also we are as far from 'gangsta' as you can possibly get. Which we find even funnier.

The Abbey is an amazing building. I mean, just look at it! I will shut up and just let the pictures do the talking.

We stopped for a quick drink at The Pig and Fiddle but despite friendly bar staff, it was pretty much a dive in comparison to the stunning surroundings. If you head to Bath, this is not on my recommended list of establishments to visit ;)

The Victoria Art Gallery Museum was also a little disappointing. It wasn't bad and it was nice way to kill an hour (it's rather small) but if you are only visiting Bath for a very short time, then you won't really lose anything skipping this one out. I've been to much better in other cities. There are actually a whole host of museums in Bath and I kind of wish we had time to explore a couple of others.

The little boat tour, however was a lovely jaunt. An hour heading down the Avon was just a lovely way to relax and enjoy the scenery float by.

After our leisurely float, we stopped off for cocktails after a recommendation from the hotel staff to The Porter, a stunning little bar on the 2nd floor gazing on to the streets below. The interior is quite pretty and the drinks were lovely. (Image directly below is courtesy of The Porter's website.)

On Tuesday night, we had dinner at Turtle Bay, which we later realised was a chain restaurant that serves Caribbean food (and there's actually one in Manchester - whoops). To be honest, the food was great and the Island Ice Teas went down rather nicely (this may have played a part in why we loved the food so much so take that on board).

And then of course, we finished our night at our 'local' - The Boater.

Charming, isn't he?

In the morning, we made our way back home! It was a really lovely couple of days in a beautiful historic city.

Have you been to Bath? Is it in your list of places to visit?

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Friday, 26 September 2014

Let's talk about that one time I blew the budget...

Wayne sometimes teases me when I dreamily gaze at bigger ticket items that I'm going to have to remove the 'pretty on the cheap' line in my blog header. He's joking of course and I laugh but at the same time I have to think, "Am I being dishonest to my readers by not always going the cheapest route?"

So I thought I'd open up the discussion here because I want to be transparent with you guys and open and honest. Yes, I will often will look for the best price on something and I will often go the DIY route if I think I can but truthfully, I don't always. Why not?

Well, let's start off by talking about my recent dressing room makeover mostly because I totally went over budget. Yep, totally.

Initially, I had decided I would spend around £500. So let's start there.

Here's a breakdown of costs -

Oil-based Dulux Satin Finish Wood Paint £25
Marble Sticky Back Plastic (3 rolls): £21
Wood/Coving for Bookcases: £60
House of Hackney Wallpaper: £70
Lighting: £80
Fabric for Pelmet & Vanity Skirt: £20
Custom Wood Blind: £47
Brass & Acrylic toggles for Blind: £12
Cow Skin Rug: £200
Full Length Wall Mirror: £200
Vanity Mirror: £35
Custom Print Framing: Free (courtesy of
MDF for Marble Tops on Vanity and Chest of Drawers: Free (made from old doors)
Primer, Paint brushes, Spraypaint, Adhesive, misc fixings: Free (already had)
Acrylic Bracelet Display: £12
Desk clock £25

Total Cost: £807

Yep, a whopping £300 over my original budget.

Hmm... so why did I go so far over budget? Quite simply, this allowed me to get the room exactly as I wanted rather than wait and revisit the room again in the near future. What pushed me over budget was essentially down to the new full length mirror and the cowskin rug (costing me £400 just for those two items) both of which were later additions to my original plans.

Now, I am fully aware that £800 for a 'mini-makeover' probably isn't what many people would consider "pretty on the cheap" - it's not a huge amount of money but it's nothing to be sneezed at either. Perhaps I should have called it a 'medium-makeover'? Again, 'budget' is relative, right? Perhaps £800 is not much at all to you or perhaps it's a huge amount that would involve months of careful budgeting and saving. It's all relative really and I'm fully aware that you guys may be at all different stages of your financial lives so one person's 'bargain buy' may be another person's 'splurge' item.

Anyway, in the spirit of openness and honesty and all those happy fuzzy things we can talk about amongst our friends, there are a few things I think are worth mentioning.

1. Everything was bought with cash. I really feel quite strongly about not going into debt when it comes to prettying up a room and so any disposable income I have goes into a savings account I call 'House Fund'. I dipped into it a bit more than I was going to for this one but the money was there to spend and yes, we will still eat this month and we won't have bailiffs at the door.

2. I DIY'd as much as what I felt I could.  The chest of drawers really just got a lick of paint and a new top, the Billy bookcases were hacked, the pelmet and vanity were also DIY'd. Sure I could have spent more on these things but it didn't seem sensible when I knew I could get a look that I would still be happy with even though I went a cheaper route.

3. I'm no longer flat broke. When I first started this blog, money was REALLY tight. I mean, I wasn't up to my eyeballs in debt or anything but we'd just purchased a house (which is scarily expensive with all the fees and costs tied up in that, never mind a mortgage payment), I didn't have any freelance work at that time and money was being spent on stuff like floorboards and insulation and appliances. Not necessarily the pretty stuff. We've moved on now, the biggest work is (mostly) done and there is more disposable income for 'pretties', ya know?

4. I wanted a room fit for a grown up considering, at 41, I am no longer allowed to call myself a 'young adult'. It's definitely a more 'grown up' space which was my aim from the beginning. I thought it was time I made a few 'adult purchases' to go with that. Both the rug and the mirror, while more expensive than your normal Ikea fare, will hopefully be with me for a very long time and can easily be used in other rooms or more likely, in our next home. In fact, I have plenty of leftover wallpaper for future projects. Plus? Those Ikea bookcases are looking rather smart, I have to say. I wouldn't object to keeping them for a good while too. The room was originally done on a really tiny budget and I thought it was time to give it a proper finish.

5. I didn't actually go crazy with the spendiness. I'm so happy with this space and every penny in my mind was worth it to get a luxurious finish. However, I would have loved to have purchased the House of Hackney Wildcard silk fabric to make the skirt and pelmet from but again, those aren't things I would really be able to take with me (unless I had a room and window in these exact measurements in the future which is probably unlikely). I could have also purchased new shelving or a new chest of drawers or actually put in built-ins instead of hacking the Billy bookcases. I did make some conscious decisions of where to spend the money and where not to.

So in conclusion... I think when it comes to decorating, it's down to choices in terms of your individual budget. Where to splurge (on things you can take with you if you move or use in other rooms in the future) and where to save (on the things that will stay with the house if it's not your 'forever home'). Everyone will have a different take on this.

I hope this doesn't come across as making excuses because that isn't the intention - I just wanted to explain my thought process, thinking it may help you with deciding what's appropriate for your own circumstances. It's a delicate balance and no one can judge you for making up your own mind.

Except for Meisha because she's a judgemental cow.

And finally, do you think I should change my tag line from 'Inspiration, DIY and the Quest for Pretty on the Cheap'? If so, what do you think it should be? If not, why not? Have you ever gone way over budget on a project? Perhaps you have your own reasons why? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this! Weigh in in the comments...

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Oh and don't forget, there's still time to vote for my little splodge on the interwebs in Amara's Interior Blog Awards 2014 in the DIY category! Thank you to everyone who's already voted, it truly does mean so much to me!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

How to Make a Pelmet with Nailhead Trim

As promised, I thought I'd show you how I made the pelmet for above the vanity table in my dressing room. It is SO EASY honestly. I've never made one before and I'd seen a few tutorials online for very simple foam core ones but I wanted this to be a little more 'permanent'.

Since I showed you the dressing room, I did make one change to the pelmet...

Yes, I decided it needed a little zhushing up and so I added some simple brass nailhead trim (I ordered it from Amazon). It just gives it a little more glam I think!

Anyway, if you are interested in making your own read on...

So we started off first by using the same old doors we'd pulled out of the guest bedroom that I made the chest of drawers faux marble top as well as the vanity top from. They've come in handy those things!

I started off with this little amazing drawing - you guys are just getting spoiled with my skills in the drawing department, aren't you?

Anyway, we cut three pieces to size and then Wayne drilled pilot holes for the screws. We included wood glue between each piece just to hold everything in place securely and then countersunk the screws.

Once the glue was dried I cut my batting (or wadding as its called in the UK - see? 13 years in this country and I'm still learning new words) to size... You want to make sure you have enough to wrap around each side.

And then using a staple gun, start by wrapping it around tightly at each side, pulling the material taught and alternating from side to side as you staple so the material stays straight.

Once it's stapled nice and tight all the way around, you just want to cut off the excess material.

You should end up with something that looks like this...

Now it's the turn of your fabric... it is exactly the same process, alternating your stapling and pulling it taught and keeping the fabric straight as you go. Trim the excess fabric when you are done.

Because I'm a complete weirdo, that weird gap on the sides really bothered me. So if you too are OCD, then you can do what I did which was cut a piece of fabric out and using fabric glue, cover up all those gnarly staples.

Ahhh that's better. Okay, now you should end up with something like this...

So now it's time to add the nailhead trim...

It's rather easy really. Using a straight edge, I just made some light pencil lines where I wanted my trim to go.

And aligned my nailhead to those lines and then hammered in the tacks that hold the strips into place. It's not perfect but it'll do! ;)

And then it was time to hang it! We attached some simple brackets to the back...

And used wall fixings to hold it in place...

And then hung it!

And that's it!

It's so ridiculously easy that I am considering now making another one for the dining room.

Is this something you would try?

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