Laura Ashley: guilty pleasures

When I was little Laura Ashley was the height of decorating sophistication. I will point out that I grew up in the eighties when chintz was big.

Then came Ikea and their minimalist “chuck out your chintz” approach and Laura Ashley was very definitely passé. I still don’t entirely know how they survived those years. But then came along “shabby chic” and Laura Ashley found a new generation of devotees.

I had always written off Laura Ashley as being old-fashioned and more aimed at my mother’s generation but when I saw their teacup lamp being featured in various magazines I decided that maybe they’d moved on from the wallpaper I’d picked out when I was eight…

When I looked through their website I knew I was in trouble. Or rather, my bank balance was in trouble… I’ve written about one of their wallpapers before and there are many more that I would love to have on my walls if only my flat was bigger. But for me it’s the accessories that really hit the mark.

As I said, the teacup lamp really hit a chord with a lot of magazine editors and was one of those items that seemed to be everywhere. And I see why. It is very shabby chic. It ties in very well to the current trend of vintage styling and making over items to change their purpose. And whilst Laura Ashley no longer sells it, there are a number of other versions. Next have a version in their current catalogue and for the crafty ones among you, there is even a tutorial on how to make on on The Thriftress blog. This would also allow you to use patterned teacups or different colours to suit your decor.

laura ashley and next teacup lamps

There are so many other little gems dotted around the Laura Ashley website. Just in terms of accessories, there is a gorgeous set of owl bookends which would go brilliantly in my study. I love both the All A Flutter and Elvedon tea cups and the tea for one sets and with my tea addiction there is no such thing as having too many tea cups or teapots! The white multi-frame photo frame, designed to go on a mantelpiece, would look amazing anywhere, be it mantelpiece or shelf and I already have it earmarked for at least one friend’s birthday present.

laura ashley home accessories

The furniture is equally gorgeous and, whilst most of it is in the shabby chic style, there are some more modern gems in there such as the orange sofa below and the dark wood desk.

laura ashley furniture

Overall, I am having a bit of a love affair with Laura Ashley and there are another 2 reasons why, as if I needed any more. Firstly, they have 25% off everything on their site. Unfortunately that ends tomorrow (Sunday) night. Secondly they have a competition on their facebook page to win your dream upholstered chair. Considering it costs nothing to enter, why not give it a go?

So go on, take a look at Laura Ashley. I guarantee you’ll find something. Let me know your favourite piece in the comments section below.

Average Josephine x

Rockett St George: website wonders

I should be banned from the internet.

No, really, there needs to be a block on my computer that stops me from going to any website that has a function where I can BUY anything. Anything at all. I am that broke and the wonderful thing about the internet is, unlike the current state of the high street, you can find lots and lots of little independent shops that sell all sorts of WONDERFUL things.

Case in point: Rockett St George. I’ve been aware of this site for a very long time, I think I heard of them not long after they opened four and a half years ago. One of the reasons they were mentioned in a lot of magazines is that they were one of the first people to stock wall stickers. Whilst now wall stickers are stocked here, there and everywhere, there was a time when they were actually quite scarce.

Rockett St George still stock wall stickers although I will confess that I far prefer their wallpaper range. Selected from a number of small independent designers, the designs are different and quirky and some of them are worlds away from what you normally think of as “wallpaper”. Personally I love the Barneby Gates All Star wallpaper in gun metal and almost all of the Engineer Collection. The Engineer Collection papers come in a selection of patterns so you can put corrugated iron, wood panelling or even an entire library on your walls without sacrificing any space.

Rockett St George wallpaper

Their lighting collection is also rather amazing as there is something for everyone. For the girly girl there is a fabulous feathered shade for a ceiling pendant, ideal for a teenage girl, or the teenage girl in all of us! For the boys, there is a chandelier that any man can be proud of. It’s made of beer bottles. Alas, they’re empty so you don’t get a ready supply of beer but it will certainly give you a talking point. And if you just love all things a bit quirky there is a range of lights made out of bowler and top hats, lined in either silver or gold metal to reflect the light. Call it an ironic way to light up a dressing room!

Rockett St George lighting

As for everything else, it’s all amazing. There is some wonderful industrial style furniture which is new in this spring, including a bookshelf with a ladder. There are some fantastic pieces of artwork, typically my favourite is one of the most expensive, a heart on a canvas made entirely of badges. And a black decanter with a skull and crossbones on it brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “what’s your poison?”

And how can you not love a website that offers the tiniest, prettiest caravan in the history of the world for sale?

Rockett St George furniture,caravan sunflower clock

All in all, Rockett St George is achingly cool and whilst unfortunately the prices do reflect that a bit, there is something there for everyone. So go on, have a look. I defy you not to find at least one thing to put on the wishlist!

What’s your favourite Rockett St George item? Please let me know, I’m addicted!

Average Josephine x

Mending broken hearts

As I wrote yesterday, I am a big Radley fan. Their classic bags are well made and elegant and will last a lifetime. What I didn’t realise until yesterday when researching my post was they had a blog. Being the fan, and all round nosy parker, that I am I subscribed to the blog and received an update this morning.

What I didn’t realise was that Radley, in partnership with Laura Bailey, their first brand ambassador, are supporting the British Heart Foundation by releasing a limited edition version of their cross body bag with a heart tag mirror. The mirror is also available separately and profits from both items will be donated to the British Heart Foundation.

Radley BHF Across body bag

Radley's British Heart Foundation Across Body Bag £99 with £14.85 being donated to BHF

What is unusual for such a donation is that Radley have specified the actual profit they will donate from each item, being £14.85 from each bag sold and £2.85 from each mirror. In percentage terms this equates to 15% of the cost of each bag, so a significant amount, unlike the 10p or similar donated from the sale of each pack of charity Christmas cards.

The bag itself is simple enough that it would go with everything, and being cross body, it leaves your hands free to do other things, be that carry your shopping, a cup of coffee or push a pram. And the attached mirror is always useful for quick touch ups of lipstick, or just to check you haven’t got spinach stuck in your teeth.

The bag and mirror are available from www.radley.co.uk and are priced £99 and £19 respectively.

So, go on. Just think of it as guilt free shopping 😉

Average Josephine x

Bag Lady

Some people are shoe people. I know the way to my best friend’s heart is through a pair of Christian Louboutin’s for example. And whilst I love shoes, I find spending masses of money on them quite difficult. I don’t mind spending a significant sum of money of a pair of shoes which, with a bit of TLC, will last for several years without going out of fashion. but the problem is even with the best will in the world, no pair of shoes will last forever.

But a handbag, a handbag could very easily last you the rest of your life. Granted, they need a bit of TLC, protector spray and keeping relatively dry, but if it’s well made they should last a really long time. So whilst shoes are the way to some girls’ hearts, bags are definitely the way to mine.

In a perfect world where money was no object I would have a small stash of Mulberry bags. They are gorgeous, well made and British (fewer fashion miles). What more could you want? Alas, I do not have a stash of Mulberry bags because they are a little , OK, a LOT, out of my price range. But a girl can dream…

Mulberry Love

That’s not to say that just because you can’t afford Mulberry you are limited to a life of crap handbags. There are a number of brands out there who make much more reasonably priced but still high quality bags. I am currently toting about a Ted Baker bag from about two years ago which has the most gorgeous soft leather (a random requirement of mine, bags should feel nice!) in a dark purple-y blue. I also have a nice selection (I’m up to three at the moment) of Radley handbags.

Radley is a company whose bags I love. They do sometimes go a bit overboard on the details but their more classic bags are wonderful. All of mine have been either Christmas or birthday presents although I am considering investing in another. My current favourite is modelled by Laura Bailey in one of their new adverts although I do confess I would buy it in my favourite purple rather than the cream advertised.

Laura Bailey for Radley

Laura Bailey for Radley

If not Radley then one option I have discovered recently is another British company (I like supporting British industry)  called Peony and Moore. One of Deborah Meaden’s Business Accelerators finalists and shortlisted for a Bath Life New Business Award 2012, this is a really up and coming company making classic but not old-fahsioned leather bags. There are two in particular, the Gilly and Lucia on my hit list and would be great additions to anyone’s handbag collection.

Peony and Moore "Lucia" bag

Peony and Moore "Lucia" bag

So if the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach then the way to a woman’s definitely seems to be through her accessories!

Are you a bag or a shoe person? And what is your limit when shopping for these items?

Average Josephine x

PS. If you buy Easy Living magazine at a bargainous £2 this month (normal price £3.70) there is a code to get 20% off when shopping at www.radley.co.uk so go buy it!!

A message to live by…

Every now and again you see something that just appeals to you. In my case I saw this on Pinterest earlier and it has gone on my “things I would love to buy”.

Kate Spade iPad cover eat cake for breakfast

Kate Spade iPad cover. Source: http://shop.nordstrom.com

It sums up everything I believe should be true in the world and what I would love to do on a daily basis. Granted it would mean buying an iPad to put in it but to be honest, it’s almost worth the expense just to have this fabulous case to put it in!

Anyway, as a cake addict I just thought I would share this little gem with you. Whilst I can’t find it available to buy in the UK, Kate Spade has opened a shop in London so you might be able to find it there. Or you could just say sod it and order it from Nordstrom who, very kindly, not only offer international shipping but also calculate the VAT and duties payable.

IPad owners, credit cards at the ready…

Average Josephine x

Papered over

As I have mentioned before, I am moving back to my lovely little two bedroom flat after an extended stay with my parents (three years… rather too extended). And as I have been away for so long, and when I was there I was rather losing my marbles, I’m embarking on a project.

I’m redecorating my whole flat.

This project is going to take me a while as when there’s only one of you there is a limit as to how much you can get done in a weekend and also, I can’t quite afford to do the whole lot all in one go! So month by month I’m going to do bits and pieces and you will be able to see how it is going.

One of the most fun bits about redcorating is the hours you can spend, poring over paint charts and wallpaper samples. There is so much out there from the weird (do you want holographic pin up girls greeting you first thing in the morning?) to the fun and the frankly rather fabulous. I often think I should be locked in a padded room and with this wallpaper I can be, what more do you want?!

But I will confess to falling in love with a Farrow and Ball wallpaper called Lotus but unfortunately as F&B print to order, they have a minimum order quantity of 3 rolls of paper. As I think I’m only going to need one roll and this paper does cost a whopping £88 per roll, I might have to give it a pass on this occasion!

So in its place I have managed to find a couple of other wallpapers which I do love but are slightly less ruinously expensive! None of them are from anywhere exciting (Laura Ashley and John Lewis) but they go with the furniture and curtains and would do just enough to perk up my office.

'Coco' wallpaper from Laura Ashley

'Coco' wallpaper from Laura Ashley

'Gardenia' wallpaper by Harlequin

'Gardenia' wallpaper by Harlequin

There is the small issue that I will need to learn to hang wallpaper in order to do this but hey, how hard can it be?!
I’m really looking forward to my redecorating as it will give me a chance to turn a place where I was so miserable into somewhere I love living as well as giving me back the independence I have lacked for so long.
So, which wallpaper do you prefer? Or have you seen any others I might like? I’m open to suggestions!
Average Josephine x

Happy feet

Like a lot of other women, there is an incredible amount of black in my wardrobe. There’s denim, navy blue, grey and whilst I have a fair few brightly coloured tops, the number is heavily outweighed by the number of black items in there. I go shopping and so many times I end up with more black to go in the wardrobe. And as for shoes, I love my Uggs, boy do I love my Uggs, but some days I long for something different to get me through this long dark winter month…

I was browsing through the Sarenza website the other day and I saw the shoes that would lift anyone’s spirits. Classic in shape, these shoes are anything but classic in colour!

Dune 'Hotty' shoes available from Sarenza

Dune 'Hotty' shoes available from Sarenza

Made by Dune these aptly named Hotty shoes come in two colour ways but for brightening up an outfit, the magenta is the only way to go.

With their bold orange stripe along the platform sole, the design has a distinct nod towards the highly publicised Pantone colour of the year, Tangerine Tango whilst the combination of magenta, orange and fuchsia echoes the colour blocking trend that has been so prevalent of late.

The bright colours mean that the style of the shoe should be clean and classic and this is exactly what Dune have done. A simple platform court, the style means that even with their bright colour, these shoes will be incredibly versatile whether worn with a pencil skirt, black trousers or skinny jeans.

The fusion of the funky, eye-catching colours and classic style makes for a pair of shoes that will remain a wardrobe staple for a long time to come, as well as making you smile every time you wear them.

Available from Sarenza, the even more amazing thing is that these shoes currently have 20% off so can you really afford not to?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I have some shoe shopping to do…

Average Josephine x

A cup of tea solves everything

A cup of tea solves everything

A cup of tea solves everything (C) Nikki McWilliams

My mum has often said she would be useless in a crisis. Not because she is prone to panic but because if offered “a nice cup of tea” her response would be “sod the tea, can someone get me a brandy?!”

I, on the other hand, am a massive believer in the healing power of a nice cup of tea. Many of the problems of my life have been dissected and solved over a few cups of PG Tips, Tetley, Yorkshire Tea, Scottish Blend, English Breakfast Tea, even a cup of Earl Grey will do in a pinch… You name it, I’ve had it.

Tea purists will often say that tea is best served in delicate china or even glass I maintain that the vessel used should be more suited to the occasion that the contents.

There is something inherently comforting about a warm mug being cradled in your hands.  And in situations where comfort is required, there really is nothing better than a proper mug. A thick, heavy, earthenware mug. Nothing expensive, none of this bone china or porcelain malarkey, just the sort of mug you can pick up in the supermarket. I will confess my favourite mug isn’t a supermarket purchase but my first Christmas present as an auntie…

Giddy Aunt mug from the Big Tomato Company

Giddy Aunt mug from the Big Tomato Company

There are however occasions where the comfort of a cup of tea is required but the soothing ritual of making tea using a teapot, cups and saucers is required. It requires precision to check the tea is brewed to the correct level and that there is not too much milk in the cups. It is an archaic ritual, although not as formal as the Japanese or Chinese tea ceremonies, and one where porcelain is most definitely welcome.

My love of tea is such that for my birthday my brother and sister-in-law bought me the most gorgeous Wedgwood teapot.  It is the sort of teapot that is kept in its box or in a display cabinet and only used with loose-leaf tea, none of those common tea bags. I want to collect the whole set (I currently have the peach and blue tea cups in addition to my teapot) to enhance the experience but this is likely to be a long (and expensive) process. If, of course, anyone wants to help out with this, then please feel free. No, really, feel free!!

Would you choose a cup or a mug when having a cuppa or does it depend on your mood? Or would you just say “sod it” in a crisis and opt for the brandy?!

Average Josephine x

Just keep pinning…

Being a chronic insomniac, I have a lot of time where I don’t want to be doing anything that will involve my brain too much and keep me awake but lying in your bed when you can’t sleep is torture!

One of my default activities when I’m awake at 1am is to play freecell, one of the card games that comes as standard with virtually every version of Windows still in current usage. It’s not particularly taxing but the repetition of moving cards around is sometimes enough to make me drop off.  Although the fact that I’ve played about 5,000 games in a year does say something about the level of my insomnia…

But the other thing I have discovered which keeps me somewhere near sane (not entirely sure I can claim to ever have been totally sane) is one of the newer social media networks on the block…

Pinterest

For anyone who has yet to discover Pinterest, it allows you to create a virtual pinboard of images from the internet, pretty much any image you want, and organise them onto different boards. All the images are then available to repin and are categorised in to Art, Design, Home Decor etc.

Whilst in abstract it sounds spectacularly uninteresting, it’s actually a bit like a tube of Pringles. One you pop, you can’t stop! Or in this case, once you pin

I have ten boards and one of my favourite categories to explore is Home Decor as I’m moving into my flat in the near future (I’m getting there but procrastination is my favourite trick!) and want to do some redecorating. One of things I have discovered is that in an ideal world I want a really big, white, country style kitchen. I think I must have over 50 pictures of those alone.

But here are some of my favourite other pins which include a gorgous chair from Graham and Green, crafty ideas and what looks like the most incredible cake ever…

Recipe for home made lemon sugar body scrub

Recipe for home made lemon sugar body scrub

Graham and Green pink velvet slipper chair for one's boudoir...
Graham and Green pink velvet slipper chair for one’s boudoir…
Whimsical Bakehouse cake

Whimsical Bakehouse topsy turvy cake

What do you do when you can’t sleep? And if you have ventured into the world of Pinterest, what are your favourite pins?

Average Josephine x

Objects of desire #2

OK so I’m running a bit behind this week.  Actually, scratch that I’m running a lot behind as this is my first post since last Thursday’s “Things I want” post (now renamed Objects of desire) and given this will be posted on Friday rather than Thursday…. You see my point!  And after last week’s slightly frivolous post, we are coming back down to earth with a shiver.

Winter is approaching fast despite last month’s random Indian summer (very peculiar but I will never understand the vagaries of the British weather) and with the advent of winter, this means the start of the cold and the wet… Remind me why I live in this country again?!

So it’s time to stock up on woolies and bring out the wellies and, in my case at least, start looking for that fashion essential to see me through the dark months.  Yes, I am in need of a new winter coat.  I have one and it’s still in OK condition considering I bought it nearly three years ago and it does get worn pretty much every day for about five months of the year.  It’s black, fairly basic and goes with pretty much everything I own but to be honest, it’s a wee bit on the dull side.  I’d like something to brighten up the dark winter and add a bit of fun to the standard workwear that largely consists of grey, white and black.

The problem is I’m a bit picky when it comes to my coats and the vast majority of them are black and grey.  I was losing a bit of hope when the red one I saw online was alarmingly orangey in real life (and orangey reds and I do not mix!) until I saw this

Oasis pink herringbone car coat

It’s pink! It’s tailored! And it’s pretty!  And if that wasn’t enough, it’s also available in a brilliant purple colour (decisions, decisions…).  Just to add to the fabulousness it’s not horrendously expensive; £100 is not what I would call cheap but given that I have seen coats on the high street costing anything up to and above £300, £100 is not bad.  And whilst I have been going for looser coats over the past few years to cover up the flab, with my current weight loss and Operation Fit and Fabulous helping to lift my self-esteem above floor level, the fact that it has a nipped in waist to help show off my curves is brilliant.

The only problem is… pink or purple?  Come on folks, give me a hand, what’s your vote?

Average Josephine x