Nuvolette : Cole & Son

Nuvolette : Cole & Son

In a previous post I wrote about our desire to eradicate the parts of internal walls which have not been plastered and are still the original Istrian stone. Some people would love the walls, but as the years have gone on, I have to say my love of exposed stone – albeit now painted white – has waned and I am craving smooth, plastered walls. Some will be painted (probably white again), and for others we are considering pigmented plaster. But for the living room walls, once all is smooth, I am looking back to the beautiful wallpaper we had in our house in West Didsbury, when we renovated it,

This beautiful repeat pattern paper is Nuvolette, by Cole & Son, and is a dramatic cloudy sky mural by the Italian artist Piero Fornasetti. Unless you are an expert at wall paper hanging, I’d recommend that you do what we did, and get in a professional to hang it. The striking design is supplied in a set of two rolls, with the pattern repeat being 80cm. I was informed this mean a straight match between roll A to roll B and a half-drop between roll B to roll A of next set…

See! Told you a professional is your best bet.

The overall effect is absolutely stunning, especially if the wall to be covered is quite a large area. We used it on one feature wall only, with ceramic bulb drop pendants in front of it, and it was very dramatic. I really do miss this wallpaper now that we have moved, but I think it may make a re-appearance, once the walls in the living room are all smooth and plastered. It’s definitely not the cheapest wallpaper, but it’s very strong and sturdy and I think if you love it, there’s little chance you’ll be wanting to change it quickly. I do wonder if it is still hanging in our West Didsbury house…

Small Steps…

Small Steps…

Over the summer, when we were averaging two or three house viewings a week and had some very serious interest in the house, if someone had told me that by October, we’d have taken it off the market, given up on The Printworks (and in the process, lost a lot of money) and be embarking on a whole new plan, I’d have thought they were crazy. Especially when we had accepted a firm offer and contracts were drawn up. But, things take turns you don’t expect – which at the time, seem just so awful, but often turn out to be the right thing.

So, two months on, we feel very differently. We could have stayed angry and upset and all “woe is us” – but what’s the point? We’d just have got more and more miserable and more entrenched in living in a house we no longer wanted to be in. Instead, we decided to own the situation. That woman from Germany, who pulled out, was not going to dictate our lives. She was going to have no further impact on us. A final email, articulating all of my thoughts, very politely, was sent, with the request that she never contact me again. That chapter is now closed and another has opened.

We’ve decided that we are going address the main issue which seemed to come up with viewers – namely, that they often weren’t sure where our boundaries where. Despite being demarcated by conifer trees at the rear of the house and the the front, big wooden planters. Supported by official documentation. But, I suppose some people just need a great big, thumping wall right in front of their eyes to believe what we tell them. So, walls will be built, but that’s a future blog. This one is about starting to document the small steps we are taking, which will hopefully get us right back on track and in the positive frame of mind to get the house back on the market, next year.

This cabinet goes back quite a way, with us – and probably a bit further back. When we lived in West Didsbury, our house was behind a beautiful interiors shop. called David Gavin Design and the owner sourced furniture. This piece, for whatever reason, didn’t make the cut, and it was put outside his shop, with a Free to A Good Home sign. I was lucky enough to be walking past and offered that good home, to take it off his hands. It wasn’t the prettiest – a kind of varnished brown veneer and plastic handles – but I figured we could do something with it. And, after sanding it back to the original wood, it has gone through a number of transformations and has moved from West Didsbury across to Istria. Quite the life, for something which was consigned, potentially, to the tip.

As well as moving to Istria, it’s also moved around our house. It’s been in the living room, the Well room, all of the bedrooms and last place being the upstairs landing outside outside our bedroom door. But it’s never felt quite right, anywhere. And, the deep navy paint never took to it, as I imagined it would, so it was on the list for finally tipping. Until I remembered that we still had some duck egg blue chalkpaint, which we’d used on the other bedroom furniture, and it was given a reprieve over the weekend. The plastic handles had been replaced long ago by silver handles from IKEA, so these were sprayed matt gold, to match the handles on the wardrobe and other cabinet.

OK, so it doesn’t completely match the rest of the furniture, but it does in terms of colour. It also provides us with more storage, especially as I took the opportunity to bin most of the contents. Much of which had been inside since we unpacked in 2017 and never used. So, definitely not needed! The main bedroom is also large, so a bit more co-ordinated furniture is always welcome.

There’s also a long IKEA floating shelf, which I’d previously covered with the pages of a book (“Ulysses” – totally unread! – if you’re interested), which had been above the bed. But since the bed was moved to the other side of the room, it just kind of, well – floated. It was going to be taken down, until I decided to cosy it up, with faux plants and foliage and tealight holders. Much better than taking it down, filling the holes, repainting and storing the shelf. Proper cosy, as us Mancs say…

So, whilst what we did at the weekend certainly isn’t renovation, it gave us a massive lift, in terms of the house. It’s fair to say we’d fallen a bit out of love with the house, which is ridiculous as, even though we say it ourselves, it is gorgeous and we have achieved so much. But, with small steps, we’re getting back on the horse, loving the house and gearing ourselves up for some BIG renovation work. Just need to find a team of builders now…



the snug reno : update2

the snug reno : update2

When we viewed our stone house in 2016, we found a very sorry looking room – a cellar, of kinds – down the stairs from the living room. The stairs were treacherous to say the least. Very thin pine treads, on a steep vertical with no handrail. These hinted at what we were going to find at the bottom of them.

Bare light bulbs hung from flexes, and stuck out of their fixings on the walls. The walls were half plastered, half bare stone. Original beams – a potential plus point – were in a very poor state of repair. They were untreated and the wood was rough and splintered. The ceiling, although plaster-boarded, was unfinished. Woodwork was unpainted. The concrete floor was rough and powdery. A far cry from the polished concrete finish I’d been visioning. It was also obviously a bit of a dumping ground. Window frames propped up against the walls, tins of paint, bags of concrete, and a deflated plastic swimming pool. All in all, a pretty depressing room. BUT – and we just couldn’t get this out of our heads – a room with a whole heap of potential, in a house with a massive amount of potential…

It does make me shudder to look back on these photos, as this room remained in this state, for quite a long time. In fact, it probably got worse, as it became our dumping ground, for packing boxes, furniture, everything which we didn’t unpack immediately because we didn’t know where things would go. Gradually, as we renovated rooms above, it did begin to empty out, but our focus was on the main house and to be honest, with so many rooms above, we weren’t actually sure what we were going to use this room for. So, for a good two or three years, it remained unloved, as we devoted our attention to the rest of the house.

However, as pieces of furniture were moved upstairs and boxes emptied and our belongings put in their new homes, we realised that we could do with this room, what had done with the ones above. We had brought with us, from Didsbury, our Dovre Vintage woodburner and it quickly became apparent that this dinky retro burner, wasn’t large enough for the main living room. A new, much bigger, one was sourced, but it meant we had to find a new home for the Dovre. We considered the big bedroom, but the reality of keeping a fire going in there – and moving logs upstairs and cleaning it out – was pretty unrealistic, and all of the sudden we had the lightbulb moment. Why not create an additional living space, under the main living room, which could house all of our books, vinyl records, CDs, hi-fi system and a big sofa? So The Snug idea came about – named as such, because we wanted to create a room for the winter which would be a cosy hideaway. It’s actually a really big space, and we were able to create an area under the stairs which is now curtained off, but houses essentials such as a condenser dryer, a chest freezer, storage cubes and household appliances such as the ironing board, hoover etc.

We decided that all of the walls, ceiling, beams and floor should be painted white to maximise on the feeling of space and make it lighter and brighter. There are two windows which are quite unique – as this room is under the main living space, the the two windows open out onto ground level outside, giving us a very different perspective. Our two gardens – front and rear – are at eye level from The Snug, and this makes it feel even more cosy. To contrast with the all-white room, we painted the woodwork in the same pale blue satinwood as we have throughout the house. The stairs were also tackled – a safe back was attached to the treads, and each tread was pulled forward, giving more depth and therefore making them safer. Chrome plumbing pipes and brackets were used to create vertical grab rails, meaning no more looking into a void over the side. And finally, like the stairs leading up from the living room to the first floor, these were painted in the Farrow & Ball Railings, which we’d brought back from Manchester on one of our roadtrips.

In the winter this room really is snug – and as we stayed in Istria over Christmas, we decided to really utilise this space, and create a hygge haven at the bottom of the house. And finally completing the renovation.

New throws and cushions, and two chocolate brown furry rugs, were introduced to add more layers of warmth and comfort, and to increase the seating, without going to expense of buying more chairs, the garden chairs which have been in winter storage were moved down here. A Christmas gift of money was put towards a new Smart TV and an additional TV box, linked to our wi-fi, was also bought, meaning we can now access all channels in this room, as well as the living room upstairs.

Although this room may not be to everyone’s tastes, we think we’ve created a very cosy room. It’s a great additional living space and we think that once family and friends start visiting again, it will be well utilised as it will mean that guests will have a living room of their own, if they want some privacy.

In terms of our house being for sale, this room is an added bonus. As well as an additional living room, there is the potential to adapt it and create a fourth bedroom. There is ample space to install an en-suite bathroom, and the window which overlooks the rear garden, could easily be opened up and a doorway fitted, creating a private entrance and easy access into the garden. For anyone with bigger design ambitions, the space is sufficiently large enough to create a small self-contained apartment, with an en-suite and a kitchen area. In fact, if were staying here and not planning on embarking renovating another property, I think we’d be going down the self-contained apartment route.

This room has been the final piece of the renovation jigsaw. Now that it is completed, we’re turning our attention to the the gardens at the front and rear of the house to create two very different, but very beautiful outdoor spaces, that we can use throughout the spring and summer, and into the autumn. Watch this space…




project printworks : update 3

project printworks : update 3

So, we’ve finally made a proper start. The old industrial unit, which has sat unloved and empty for as long as we’ve lived in Istria, is being internally dismantled in preparation for the major renovations. A scaffold unit, an extendable ladder and a demolition drill have been added to our arsenal of tools and equipment, and we’re off! Sensibly, we’re largely staying away whilst our builder smashes down the walls – we’re on hand to offer words of support and photograph what’s going on. It’s not very pretty at all at the moment, and won’t be for quite some time, but you’ve to crack some eggs to make an omelette, as the saying goes…

The walls to be dismantled were clearly identified and the mallet swung into action.

Unless you know the layout of the building, none of what we are currently doing will make much sense. But, in a nutshell, we are creating three ensuite bedrooms, all with big windows overlooking the valley and Oprtalj, with simple ensuites. Access to each room will be from a newly created corridor to the the rear of the bedrooms. This idea is to work with the main structure of the building and create a very simple, minimalistic, open plan space inside. We’re still negotiating on outside land, so as there is much space inside, we’re stealing some of it from the other end of the building, to create an internal courtyard/potted garden. But that’s all way, way in the future.

At the moment, we’re just delighted that we’re surrounded by rubble and masonry – oh, and wasps because we’ve uncovered a wasps’ nest – because this all means one thing. PROGRESS.

In the meantime, we are selling our current renovated house. It could be the perfect holiday home for someone out there. Check out our website – and if you’re interested, get in touch and let’s see what we can do.


Les Jardins de Villa Maroc, Essaouira

Les Jardins de Villa Maroc, Essaouira

It’s always great having friends in-the-know when you travel abroad, as they often give you top tips that you don’t find in guide-books or through internet searches. Because usually you don’t know about these places and so don’t search on them. One of these gems turned up on a trip to Essaouira. Sandra, who runs Riad Remy in the Medina, also manages the apartment we stayed at, and so was on hand throughout our stay. She has a wealth of information about Essaouira, especially on the eating out front, but her stand-out-top-tip was a day trip to Les Jardins de Villa Maroc, located about 15km inland from Essaouira.

This secluded idyll is reached by private transfer, arranged through the sister hotel – Villa Maroc – in Essaouira, and when we visited, the cost was approximately £25pp. (The countryside villa used to be the private home of the owners of Villa Maroc). We met our driver at the hotel for an 11am departure and by 11.30 were around the pool, in the most amazing surroundings imaginable. We were there in January and so the only guests, so literally had the whole pool area and restaurant to ourselves. Lunch was served on the terrace by the pool and it is no exaggeration to say that what was brought to us, could have fed at least six people. Every dish was full of home-grown produce and each dish was cooked there and then. Essaouira has no shortage of brilliant places to eat, but this was something special!

Les Jardins de Villa Maroc has three separate boutique suites and private swimming pool – perfect for families or a group of friends. There is also a beautifully equipped kitchen in the largest suite and the hotel staff, if required, will prepare food here. Design wise, it is the most exquisite complex – and the perfect retreat if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the beach or the medina. It was apparently the first riad in Morocco and is now a hotel, comprising of three suites, dating back to the 18th century, with a full hotel service. Designed with nature in mind and ecologically friendly, using solar heating and solar power it is self-sufficient place. Let us take you on a tour, both external and internal, of the villa…



We cannot recommend this villa highly enough – even for a just a day of rest and relaxation. And if you like your interiors (and exteriors), it’s a visual treat. Very 1970s – you could definitely imagine Pierre Cardin chatting to Brigitte Bardot around the pool, looking super stylish and probably smoking Gitanes…