Lockdown - Relaxing at Home

Lockdown - Relaxing at Home

I give to you, a list of things to do to relax at home, all taken from advice I've sifted through on the internet or from books/TV shows/Podcasts.  I've had plenty of time for 'surfing' lately but it actually isn't very relaxing so I've done the hard work for you - keep the laptop/phone time to a minimum if you can (once you've read this blog post obviously!)  It's not rocket science but it might just inspire someone, somewhere....
Just In: Bloomingville

Just In: Bloomingville

We're very happy to announce that we've started stocking Bloomingville's eponymous interiors accessories - a carefully chosen selection of their gorgeous products feature in our new Spring/Summer collection.
February 28, 2018 by Sophie Martin

Beautifully set tables: Not an origami napkin in sight

Do you think about your table and how it's going to look when you're expecting guests over for a meal?  It doesn't take a moment to produce something really special if you've got a decent set of napkins and perhaps a tablecloth or runner at home (washed and ironed of course).  The next thing (that really makes the table) are the little touches.  Here's one I prepared earlier........
The day I tried my hand at Modern Calligraphy

The day I tried my hand at Modern Calligraphy

I thought I'd update you on my calligraphy efforts having taken the beginners course with the fabulous Quill London at the beautiful Blaegrove Barn at the weekend.

9 ways to add glamour to your bathroom

I thought I'd share a few tips today about glamorizing your bathroom (is glamorizing a word? It is now!) Bathrooms are so important these days - they're almost the only room in the house that you get to be in by yourself (if you're lucky)...

Mums: Why we love them and what to get them

Mother's Day is the day you get to show your mum how grateful you are for everything she's done for you.  Write a card, tell her in person or buy her a gift to let her know how much she's appreciated - here's a few ideas......

Homemade Hydrangea Pompom

These are pretty easy to make if you can get your hands on some dried hydrangeas.  I've found a website in the UK that sells them and has them in stock - http://hopshop.co.uk/shop/dried-flowers.  You'll need a ball of 'oasis' (available everywhere online) and a long piece of invisible nylon thread.  Start by tying the thread (with plenty of length left to hang it) around the ball of oasis and then simply cut florets from the hydrangea head and poke them in.  Keep them quite close together to avoid seeing the oasis underneath and voila, a beautiful gift that you made with your own bare hands.  Here's mine hanging on the study door.


Potted plant with a beautiful ribbon

A plant is all very easy to get but it would be more thoughtful if you provided it in a stylish pot and finished it off with a beautiful ribbon.  I've bought a succulent from the garden centre and popped it in one of our White Ceramic Pots


Before we go to the last couple of gift ideas, I thought I'd share my thoughts about mums, what they do and why they should be celebrated:

1. Let's face it, being a mother is a bit of a thankless task (certainly feels like that sometimes) but they carry on regardless guiding, nurturing, protecting and caring for their children. 

2. Mums have the ability to make everything alright.  Even when you've had the worst day of your life, if she's there to talk to, wipe your tears, tell you it's all going to be fine and produce a couple of chocolate biscuits, everything seems right with the world again when you're a child.

3. Mums are often the glue that holds families together plus they help us learn, grow and become productive adults (mostly).

4. They are generous, kind, honest and completely selfless when it comes to their children and while, in the end, mums believe the greatest reward for all they have done is seeing their children turn into happy successful adults, I think that a little acknowledgment of love and appreciation from us goes a long way..........

Chocolates (in an incredible bowl)

On the same theme as the plant, it would be simple to go to the shops and purchase a decent box of chocolates but if you bought something individually wrapped like these Lindor Lindt chocolates (highly recommended by the way) and put them in a gorgeous dish like one of our Net Bowls, your mum would also have something to keep.  Buy some cellophane wrap to put around the whole thing to stop the chocolates from escaping / you eating them all before Mother's Day.


A vase full of fresh flowers

Lastly, simply buy a bunch of something gorgeous from the supermarket but because it's your mum it would be much more preferable to present them in a real vase that she can keep forever to be constantly reminded of her wonderfully generous and appreciative son or daughter.  We have plenty (of course) at Andrassy Living to choose from.  This one is the Dot Vase.


To end on, I have a couple of tips on how to keep fresh flowers at their best which I've picked up along the way.  Firstly make sure the vase is completely clean then trim the ends on a slant and cut a small split at the bottom too and re-trim after a few days if they're still doing well.  Remove any leaves that are going to sit under the water as they create dirty water and lastly, make sure you use a fabulous vase.

So, whether you're a mum yourself, whether you'll be celebrating with your own mum, grandmother or just having a knees-up for the sake of it, we hope you have a very happy Mother's Day.


Quaffing & Troughing at The Pig Hotel

Well this time last week, I was excited at the prospect of a couple of nights away with Mike without our beloved children and had no idea what to expect from The Pig at Brockenhurst - I wasn't disappointed and had to share the experience with everyone as you should all go - it's fabulous (and the interiors are pretty good too).

For those that don't know, Brockenhurst is in the New Forest in the UK and last weekend The Pig had the pleasure of our company for two whole nights thanks to our generous friends who felt sorry for us as we're now in our 40s so treated us to a mini break.

We arrived on Friday evening to find these rather scrumptious homemade sweets in our room and note the even more scrumptious curtains.

Then headed straight for the bar obviously.  We pretty much spent the entire weekend in the bar (!) but there are two other beautifully decorated sitting rooms, which for some reason we didn't venture into, brimming with luxurious fabrics, elegant furniture and fabulous wallpaper.  Not to mention the roaring fires.


Next day we explored Lymington (not much to see there I'm afraid - let me know Lymingtonians what I missed if you're reading this).  Found a lovely place for lunch though right on the water at Mudeford and then headed back to our phat pad (enjoyed imagining it was mine for a couple of days) for more quaffing and troughing.  In fact, their strap line is, "Quaffing & Troughing - that's all we do!" - pretty much on the money for us.

The dining room was in a new glass extension which looked out onto the artfully lit trees in the grounds and was the perfect setting for enjoying the delicious food which they take very seriously.  The emphasis is very much on home grown and locally sourced ingredients so most things are grown on site in their kitchen garden, or foraged.  They were even cultivating seedlings at the tables. 

So to conclude, the food is delicious, the house is beautiful and the staff were friendly and extremely helpful.  The only thing I found wrong with the place was the fact that the bathroom mirror was a bit meagre but it looked beautiful so I'm letting it go.

Just in case you fancy going, the details can be found on their website below.  Happy troughing!


Maison et Objet Trade Show - the home of home accessories

I went on  my bi-annual trip to Paris last weekend for the Maison et Objet trade show, a mecca for all things interiors.  They have over 3000 exhibitors showing their wares to the likes of me plus loads of lectures, demonstrations and installations to inspire and delight.  I've included lots of pics of products I found and little else - a nice easy-reading blog for this week (well actually, a nice 'virtually no reading' blog for this week).

I got to Paris in one piece (I don't much care for flying) and my onward journey with the taxi driver from hell was thankfully short - once I'd told him my destination and he'd exclaimed that he was the unluckiest taxi driver in Paris (apparently he was hoping for a longer journey), he proceeded to drive the entire way in second gear whilst cursing in French.  Anyway, once I'd arrived, all was well in the world again and I embarked on my marathon trip around Hall 5a (there are 8 halls in all and I only managed 2 of them in a day).

First stop, House Doctor.  Gorgeous Danish brand that tends to concentrate on subdued colours with hues of green and grey.  I especially love these little bud bases - the green one is my favourite.

They believe that "a home is created over a lifetime of stories, memories, tales of who you were, who you are and who you wish to become" and if that's the case, I'm getting these cushions - I wish to become, stylish, unique and good value.

After I'd added several items to my shopping list at House Doctor I headed to my much beloved TineK Home where I found a haven of stylish textiles, gorgeous lamps, rugs and decorative details, all in calming greys, greens and lilacs.  I especially love the way they style everything at TineK - doesn't this look beautiful?


I also spied our Glass Vase Lantern with a very appealing little collection of grape hyacinths growing in it.  Definitely going to do this at home.

Then onto Broste - I loved their lanterns and candles the best.......


Oh, and these rather fabulous dotty vases and t-light holders ....

Day Home were showing their Autumn/Winter 2015 collection at the show (they match their seasons to the fashion brand's seasons) which included beautiful cushions as always, some lovely home scents (candles and atomisers) and some unusual decorative items such as this - I never know what they're called.  Anyone?


I also stopped at the Senteurs de France stand as their packaging hit me as I walked past.  These beautiful boxes house the well-known Savon de Marseille square soaps and this is their new toile de jouy design - what do you think?


Anyway, it was a hugely successful day filled with interiors, interiors and more interiors (my perfect day) but by this stage I was flagging rather and looking forward to a glass of red in front of the fire at home so I said my goodbyes and headed for the airport.  Not before I'd stopped at Laduree for macarons though - I started buying them the first time I came to Paris and now I can't get away with arriving home without them - should have stuck with the Toblerone.


De-clutter, get organised and look sharp

For my first blog of 2015 I thought I'd help you give your home a lift after the Christmas decorations have come down.  Plus, we all like a bit of a change in the new year and it doesn't have to cost anything except for your time (a valuable commodity I know).

The first step to falling in love with your home again is .....

1. Storage

Use baskets (you all know how I love a basket).  They're great for keeping small objects tidied away and in one place (so you know where all the hats & gloves are for example).  It's also a good idea to keep one at the bottom of the stairs (you need a particularly beautiful one for this of which we have many).  They're great for storing stray objects that need to go up into bedrooms etc.  Encourage all family members to check it at the end of the day and deal with things accordingly - there's nothing wrong with teaching tidiness from an early age although they may not show their enthusiasm for this new 'game' right away.  Below is a beautiful example of a tidy, well-organised hallway or boot room (for those that have the luxury) and I've taken the liberty of including our gorgeous Rattan Square Baskets in case you were interested.


Put out of season items away; use furniture in the hallway that doubles up as storage, i.e. a lift-up seat; have plenty of hooks for coats and bags and place kids' hooks lower down so they can reach them themselves; use pots to keep loose change in or keys so they're not just strewn across the kitchen counter or on the hall table; and lastly, if you can use your back door and keep all of the coats, shoes, school bags out of the hallway, so much the better.

2. Clearing out

It's a very cathartic experience having a clear-out.  Whether you're clearing out the playroom or your wardrobe, make sure you have 4 piles - what to keep, what to store, charity and recycling / the bin.  If you're  keeping something, do you really think you'll still want it/be using it in 5 years time? If you don't think you will be, get rid of it now.  There's no point in cluttering up the place only to throw it away down the line.  Who knows, at the end of it all you could end up with a wardrobe as beautiful as the one below by Lee Ledbetter & Associates - as if we'd be that lucky. (photo by Pieter Estersohn)

3. Deep clean

Next step is a deep clean because everything always looks better after a good scrub.  Plump up cushions, shake out (and wash if necessary) blankets & throws, and make sure you move furniture you don't usually move to vacuum underneath (and while you're going round with the duster, have one last look at anything that you've missed that can be stored away or cleared out).  Make sure you give the windows a clean too - they'll look even more filthy once everything else is sparkling, plus, clean windows equals more light.

4. Style

Lastly, here are a few small pointers to add some style and ambience and to make your space fabulous.

a) Make use of natural light - move furniture to face the light (once you've cleaned those windows of course) and hang large mirrors to reflect light and bring the sunshine in.  Two perfect examples are below although we're not all lucky enough to have those windows (must be a nightmare to clean).


b) Create some art - bring out photos, kids paintings or a sketch you've done (only if it's any good of course.  That painting of your cat you did when you were 9 might not cut it) and replace outdated or unloved artwork for a fresh look.  The photo below is of Annika von Holdt's gorgeous house (she's Danish - need I say more?)

c) Aromas - get yourself a couple of scented candles (you know how much I like those too) and light them at the end of a long day or just because you fancy it (I find any time is a good time to light a scented candle).  Use a linen spray when you're ironing or, just get baking.  You can't beat the smell of freshly baked bread and lovely aromas really do make a house feel like a home.  The candles below feature in our current sale by the way. (photo by Gill Bowyer)


So, my final piece of advice is to tackle one room at a time (probably the one that you're least happy with) and dedicate a weekend to improving it - tidy, de-clutter, deep clean and even add a splash of paint as we've probably all got a load of it sitting in our sheds.  You could even change the use of the room entirely (if you've got that luxury).

I hope you enjoy the process of de-cluttering, getting organised and beautifying your home.  I'd love to see pictures of any 'before and after' scenarios or just tell me how it went (if you ever get round to it that is).



NB. I've tried to credit the photographer where I can of these stunning photographs but haven't been able to source everyone so if you're the photographer, please let me know so I can add you.

January 09, 2015 by Sophie Martin

Bored of Christmas Pudding? You'll LOVE this

I had a rare day out of the 'office' on Friday morning as I was attending a cookery demonstration no less.  I've never been to one before and wasn't sure how a morning watching someone cooking in their kitchen would pan out (pardon the pun), but it was fantastic.  I've come away inspired to get back in the kitchen again (I got bored doing the same old thing), have picked up some top tips, invested in some new utensils and have some fabulous recipes in my repertoire (one for Honey Parfait with Mulled Red Wine Plums coming up later you lucky things but here's a pic to whet your appetite - so Christmassy).

We started with some delicious cake and a coffee in Gee's sitting room while we chatted to our fellow cookery demo delegates and browsed the fabulous cookware, and then were seated in Gee's kitchen with a clipboard, pen and the recipes.  Gee cooked them in front of us (with some prepping done before our arrival of course or it would have been a long boring day watching the slow roasted fennel pork cooking in the aga).  We got lots of tips and we were able to see her cook everything as she has a fancy camera linked to a big plasma screen on the worktop. See aforementioned Slow Roasted Fennel Pork below (just been to order the pork from the butchers - so delicious).

We were educated in the different cuts of beef (she used skirt for the Braised Beef with Squash, Star Anise and Soy recipe) and I also learnt that when browning meat in a pan, you shouldn't turn it over until it has a crust otherwise it sticks - am I the only one that didn't know that?  Anyway, from now on, I will be leaving it to sit until said crust forms.

She cooked almost everything on/in her aga which is foreign territory for me (I'm a fan girl) so great for you aga lovers out there, but she gave us all conventional cooking times and temperatures too.

I also learnt all this - you can put cling film in the oven on a very low temperature, we musn't put knives in the dishwasher because it blunts them, you can buy vanilla POWDER which is just as good as the real seed pods but without the hassle, spices go off (must go and throw out that pot of Chinese 5 spices I've had since 2003) and the plastic blade I got with my magimix (that has never been used and not sure it's even still in the cupboard) is going to work brilliantly in preparing my Celeriac and Roasted Garlic Puree.

We tasted everything (utterly delicious, without exception) although I was a little nervous about being in line after the girl with the streaming cold and the smokers cough.  We were able to bombard Gee with lots of questions and I came away feeling inspired to get cooking again.  I've become rather lazy at mealtimes of late but seeing fresh food cooked brilliantly with excellent flavours made me feel all 1950s housewife and gave me a compelling desire to cook decent meals for my family and friends (think the dinner party invitations are drying up due to the continual outing of roast chicken followed by pavlova).  I shall definitely be knocking up the Tomato Chutney to go on my cheese board (SO easy to make as you use tinned tomatoes and a homemade chutney goes a long way even if it only took half an hour to make).

For pudding on Christmas Day I am going to serve the Honey Parfait with Mulled Red Wine Plums and you can find the recipe at the end (these are like gold dust you know) - my Christmas present to you all.

Meanwhile, if you want some inspiration in the kitchen, have got bored of cooking the same old recipes or simply fancy a fun morning out with a friend (there's shopping too, people), then I highly recommend Gee Cartwright Cookery in Stockbridge.  Her next demonstration is an Asian influenced demo in February of next year and you can find all the details at http://geecartwrightcookery.co.uk/

Merry Christmas!


p.s. We welcome your comments and questions, and would love you to share this with friends and family.


Honey Parfait with Mulled Red Wine Plums (serves 8-10)

200g mild honey

6 sprigs thyme

8 egg yolks

600ml double cream

3tsp rum / brandy / cointreau

12 plums (halved and stones removed)

Pared zest of 2 lemons and 2 oranges

200g Demerera sugar

2 cinnamon sticks

300ml red wine

100ml port

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
  2. Heat the honey in a small saucepan with the thyme sprigs.  Bring to the boil and leave on one side to infuse and cool a little
  3. Whisk the egg yolks until they are much paler and quite thick, this can take a while
  4. Slowly add the hot honey to the egg yolks (through a sieve) and whisk until light and creamy
  5. In another bowl, whisk the cream until it forms firm peaks, fold in the alcohol and then the egg mixture, carefully fold together until well mixed
  6. Pour into a 2Ib loaf tin lined with cling film if it's metal but you don't need to if it's a silicone one (I purchased one on the day for this very reason) and put in the freezer overnight
  7. For the plums, put the plum halves in a small ovenproof dish, cut side down and add the rest of the ingredients.  Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the plums are tender.  If cooking in the Aga place in the roasting oven for approximately 15-20 minutes.  Take out, remove the plums into a dish and leave to cool slightly. They should be served warm.  Put the remaining liquid into a pan, bring to the boil and simmer until is has reduced by half.
  8. Remove the parfait from the freezer 5-10 minutes before eating and turn out onto a large serving dish.  Cut into slices and serve with the warm plus and spoonfuls of the syrup.

Top Tips

  • The parfait keeps in the freezer for up to a month so you can make it well in advance
  • You can make these as individual parfaits (pour the mixture into ramekins/individual moulds lined with cling film, cover and put in the freezer
  • You can make the plums a couple of days ahead and they also freeze well.  Take them out of the fridge and bring to room temperature or put them on the back of the Aga to warm through.


    December 08, 2014 by Sophie Martin