Finding work for idle hands: making, baking and more.

Loss of Habitat July 10, 2011

Filed under: Interiors,Shopping — lauravw @ 9:59 am

In which I whine about a very middle class problem: the closing down of Habitat’s network of UK stores.

I’ve had a couple of weeks now to get used to the fact that Habitat is on the way out. And this week, when my mother said she would be going to the Nottingham shop for a final visit, I asked if I could accompany her.

She’s shopped at Habitat for years. Decades. She told me that when they opened the York branch, she was invited to the opening party. The Nottingham store was filled with signs saying ‘everything must go’ and the like, and it was a sad sight. It was also very busy – we all love a bargain. I don’t think I’ve seen so many members of staff on duty there before either – all of whom will be losing their jobs once the stock has been sold.

In my own home, I’ve got all kinds of stuff from Habitat. Very little in the way of furniture – I’ve always aspired to own some of their furniture, but hadn’t reached that point yet. (Though I do have a pink coffee table from there, which belonged to my parents and dates back to the 1980s. The fact that I’ve just said it’s pink makes it sound a bit dodgy, but really, it’s very nice. Honest.) The kitchen is full of their designs though – plates, mugs, tea towels, aprons, glasses, trays, storage jars, chopping boards… About six years ago I saved up and bought a whole set of Habitat china – plates, bowls, side plates, pasta bowls – and I still love the design as much as I did when I bought them. (I know it was six years ago because I paid for it using money I earned working to process and count votes at the 2005 general election!)

So I will be sad to see those doors close, and wonder what will take its place? In terms of a competitor, I suppose shoppers will drift to Dwell, John Lewis and M&S, but I don’t think there’s anything out there offering the same quality of design under one roof. In London there is Heal’s and the Conran Shop, but out in the sticks shops like that are thin on the ground.

By the way, thic photo is of our little cat, Daisy, sitting on a Habitat bag – she loves paper bags, and has played in Habitat bags since she was a kitten. I’m not convinced she’s realised yet how the closure of Habitat is going to affect her.


Liberty desktop wallpaper February 19, 2010

Filed under: Interiors,Shopping — lauravw @ 6:40 pm

You know about this already I’m sure, but there are free Liberty-print desktop wallpapers available to download on the Target website. (Via decor8 and pretty much every other interiors blog I read.)

I find the idea of Liberty collaborating with Target bizarre. Part of Liberty’s whole brand is the way it is because it’s out of reach to most of us, so to see a whole line of pretty things for sale at affordable prices in Target is a very big change indeed. I can’t imagine them collaborating with a UK-based store that sells things most people can afford – it would be like them going into partnership with Next or Sainsbury’s.

Would it reduce the appeal of Liberty fabrics and other goodies to me if they became affordable – cheap, even? I don’t know. But I do know that I wish I lived near to a branch of Target. Sadly the Atlantic ocean separates us, but some of the collection will be available at Liberty in London, and I have a visit planned there for next month (fingers crossed it will have arrived by then).


Vintage Good Housekeeping book February 9, 2010

Filed under: Books,Interiors — lauravw @ 9:02 pm

I found this 1960s Good Housekeeping book recently in a charity shop, for the princely sum of £4. It’s a domestic encyclopedia, explaining all about how to run your home. Written in the late 1960s and updated in 1970, it has a lovely yellow cover with pretty gold lettering – and so once I’ve finished leafing through it, it will have pride of place on the shelves in our living room.

The pictures are very interesting – the two suggestions shown for decorating a living room here both look like places I’d want to live in.


A very Victorian Christmas December 26, 2009

Filed under: Books,Christmas,Interiors — lauravw @ 11:39 am

Just before Christmas I was invited to a Christmas party at a friend’s house. I was very excited about this because they live in a Victorian house. It’s true that many people in the UK live in Victorian houses, butI think this is one of the few that are decorated to look like Queen Victoria is still on the throne!

I arrived to find a very sweet little home, with candles everywhere (which goes some way to explaining why my photos are so dark). Even the Christmas tree had real candles in it (inside tiny glass lanterns). The Christmas cards you can see on the mantel in this photo are Victorian, as was pretty much everything in the house – the bathroom fittings, the beds, everything. I’ve put pictures from the evening on Flickr if you’re curious. I loved how all signs of the modern world very hidden from view – they do have a TV, but it’s inside an antique cabinet, and cables and plugs are also out of sight.

This year I have been reading two enormous books about what life was like for the Victorians – The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed and Consuming Passions: Leisure and Pleasure in Victorian Britain. I don’t know what it was that made me take a sudden interest in the Victorians, but I have enjoyed learning about how they lived.


Collecting coloured glass November 9, 2009

Filed under: Collecting,Interiors — lauravw @ 7:48 pm

glassbowlIf someone had predicted five years ago that I would have a collection of coloured glass vases and dishes, I would not have believed them. And yet, that’s exactly what I have: for the past few years, I have been snapping up coloured glass vases and I now have what amounts to a collection. It was not something I planned, and just grew bit by bit. I am very careful with what I buy and won’t bring a new vase into the house unless I love it. At the same time, there are a few I already own that I can see being replaced by other ones over time.

I’m not entirely sure how it started, but most of the vases I have came from charity shops on our local high street. There is even one shop that we refer to as the ‘vase shop’ since, a trip there has a high success rate when it comes to finding a coloured glass vase. Others have been bought new in shops, and a few more have come from family members, passed down through the generations.

As with most things, I’m very fussy: I only buy things I love, and so that has helped to keep the collection to a manageable size – there is plenty of room for more. (Though being so fussy can be a problem if and when kind-hearted friends and relatives find something they think I’ll like…) I know nothing about glass and so I’m not influenced by what might be considered fashionable, collectable or otherwise lucrative to own.

riihimakiOver the weekend we found a pretty (to my eyes) green vase in a junk shop here in Nottingham. The asking price was a lot more than I usually spend (most pieces I’ve bought have been £5 or less, with a few exceptions), but we got the seller down to £20 and walked away happy. The shop’s owner thought it might be vase by Danish glass producers Holmegaard. A little searching on eBay led us to conclude that it wasn’t, and we then found similar vases by a company called Riihimaki. I’m confident that they are the creators of this particular piece – it seems to come from around 1970.

This was a bit of a step forward for me, in that I have now learned the names of two manufacturers who produce things that are to my taste. It opens up all sorts of possibilities in that I can now monitor eBay for these keywords, but I think I’m going to stick to my serendipitous methods and just look for glass objects in charity shops and junk shops, wherever I happen to be. (Though I’m sure I will have the occasional peek to see what’s on offer online…)

And it doesn’t end there: I have a couple of other collections too – again, unplanned ones. Firstly, a collection of pencils – all of them pretty. This is a useful collection to have, as it lives by the phone and is in use all the time. Plus it only occupies the tiniest space – they all fit in a mug.

Secondly, I have been collecting books on etiquette for some years now. I love to read all the advice dished out to people on how to behave. I would never claim that reading these books has made me a better behaved person, but I certainly have a clear understand of how to behave better.

I’ve put an album on Flickr containing photos of my glass collection if you want to take a peek.

Now I’ve confessed my rather unfashionable hobbies, what about you – do you have any collections?




Snowhome September 4, 2009

Filed under: Interiors,Shopping — lauravw @ 10:06 am

Wall birdsAmongst the cobbled streets and tea shops of York there is a modern treasure: Snowhome. This is a small interiors shop which I got to visit last week during my little holiday in York. I’ve been before, but this time I was accompanied by my mother, who was in her element.

There were lots of things in the shop that I liked, and I was both surprised and pleased that mum chose to buy herself a set of wall transfers. She chose a silhouette of birds on branches, and it’s destined to go on a wall in a bedroom at my parents’ house. The owner of the shop was very helpful and explained a little about the process of installing the transfers – and also told us that there is a small practice transfer included in each kit (in this case, a little bird) which I might be allowed to use at my place.

In return for his helpful advice, mum was able to tell the owner that she’d seen an article about the Queen Mother’s home, where there is a wall mounted wooden stag head on display – an odd scenario since you’d expect the walls of a home like that to be covered in the real (ie dead) thing. He seemed interested to know about it: as he is one of the few suppliers of this product, this means it’s possible that something from his little shop could have ended up living in a royal residence.


Visiting York August 31, 2009

Filed under: Interiors,Travel — lauravw @ 4:51 pm

yorkI had all of last week off, and spent some of it visiting family in York. Ever since I was born, I have been visiting York two or three times a year, but it’s always been family visits rather than an actual holiday. This trip was a little different: my mum and I stayed at a bed and breakfast near the centre of town, and spent time exploring as tourists. Mum grew up in York and so knows the city well, but she had never been on a boat trip along the river, which is something we both enjoyed during our stay. (Though she had crossed the river on a boat before: it often floods, and she remembers being ferried across the river as a schoolgirl on army boats during some particularly high waters.)

If you’ve ever been to York, you will know that it is filled with tourists – and so seems like a busy place for such a small town. The skies were blue on our first morning, and so I got up early (by my standards) and was walking along the river by 7.30am. It was so peaceful – I saw birds and squirrels, and hardly any people. I then walked along a stretch of the Bar Walls, and only passed three people on there (they are very narrow elevated paths, and so usually if you walk along them you spend all of your time getting out of people’s way). From up there you can see all sorts of things – from the Minster to people’s back gardens, and so it’s a great way to explore.

livingroomWe visited my grandfather a couple of times during our stay, and spent one afternoon with him looking over all the old family photo albums. There were a few pictures of the way his house looked in years gone by – this one shows the dining table-end of the living room, and a little of the kitchen. I love the way the room is styled, and it reminds me of some interiors I’ve seen in magazines in more modern times. My grandfather made most of the furniture in the house himself (even the fitted kitchen), and much of it remains, though these days the room is a little more cluttered.

There are a couple more pictures of the room, which you can see here – and I’ve made a set of all my pictures from this trip here, including some which show the very pretty windows of Betty’s tea rooms.