The Living Room

The Living Room

The living room, when we bought our Istrian stone house, was dark and oppressive. Walls were plastered in places, painted in places and in other places, the stone work was exposed. Window frames and external shutters were a faded green colour. The pine floor boards were untreated and the original beams, very dark and exposed.  The stair treads were also exposed, and there were no risers or spindles and no handrail, meaning that they felt very unsafe. The previous owners had left much of the furniture – all dark wood and dark brown leather, and definitely not our taste  – and all in all, it was a pretty unloved space.

This was the first room we tackled as we needed to have somewhere that would be a comfortable retreat from the renovation chaos going on around us, and as our furniture arrived from England within a couple of days of arriving, we had to accommodate quite a lot of it somewhere, away from the building work. One of the first things we did was paint all of the walls, including the exposed stone work, white, which immediately lifted the room. We also stumbled along with the ornate cast iron stove we had inherited but it was proving to be very efficient, and so when we spotted this concrete beauty we knew it would be perfect for what we were planning.

A new chimney had to be built from the Snug (immediately below the living room), as our Dovre Stove which we brought over from Didsbury was being fitted down there, and up through the living room, into the bedroom and out through the roof. New ventilation was also installed. The white walls did definitely make a big difference in the early days, and with some familair and some new furniture in place, we did have a cosy room we could retreat to at the end of a long day.

However, we’ve continued to chip away in this room and today, we think we might finally be happy with it, and be able to put away the paintbrushes. For the time being.

Those beams have all been treated for woodworm and caulked, as there were too many gaps and holes and we wanted clean lines between the beams and the ceiling. They were then undercoated and then top-coated with a soft grey satinwood.

The faded green paint on the windows and frames and external shutters was sanded away and the woodwork was primed, undercoated and finished in a very pale blue, to complement the grey beams.

I find it very difficult to look at a room and think that it’s finished, especially when the rest of the house is in renovation chaos. I suppose I should try much harder, but I can always see something else that needs doing, or I go somewhere and see something I like and have to incorporate into the house. Such has been the case with the living room. The white walls have definitely been much, much better than the exposed stonework, but something just wasn’t quite right – and a visit to a beautiful bar in Ljubljana told me what was missing…

I loved the deep navy and gold and the patterns and textures and accessories and knew that this was what the living room had been missing. so set about creating an area of the room that was dark and luscious.

We decided that as well as painting the wall a very, very dark navy, the time had come to tackle the floor. The pine boards were not looking good and so it was decided that the whole floor would be painted in the same soft grey satinwood as the beams, pulling the whole room together.

The very dark wall just lends itself to a bit of contrasting bling, so as well as the gold sprayed stove, these angel wings take pride of place. A purchase which I just couldn’t resist…

The white IKEA cube storage was also sprayed and I think it all looks a whole lot better. Instead of the white cubes dominating the room – and being very obviously IKEA – they now blend into their surroundings much more. The spray painting was all done outside and it was completed very quickly. meaning that we didn’t have to wait hours for paint to dry before putting books back and accessorising. The artwork is actually from Bauhaus – our equivalent of B&Q. I’d spotted something very similar on Pinterest and had been searching online to see if I could source something like it – and there it was, as we were buying paint 🙂

Those rickety old stairs were given a much needed safety overhaul and makeover, too. It was a bit of a concern to discover that some of the treads had never actually been secured, so they were brought forward – given more foot room – and all securely attached. We also fitted a wooden back to the stairs, meaning that they looked a whole lot safer and much sturdy. Those spindles, will, at some point, be replaced, but we decided that as the stairs were being painted, they might as well also have a lick of paint. Considering how pretty bland they are, we think they look quite a lot better in their new colour and disguised ever so slightly, with two faux sheepskin covers.

The final thing we did to finish off the room – for the time being! – was to repaint the sideboard, which the TV sits on top of. It had been a pale grey but was beginning to look a bit grubby, so the bavy blue satinwood came out again, and transformed it, into something quite beautiful and elegant…

And there you go. For not too much expenditure, a new living room, inspired by Kolibri Cocktail Bar, in Ljubljana.

 

The Honey House, Ljubljana

The Honey House, Ljubljana

The lovely story of The Honey House in Ljubljana…

A respectful attitude towards nature allows us to maintain the harmony of life. We are proud to offer you a piece of nature that has been prepared with the utmost care, immersed in tradition and knowledge, which has been transmitted from generation to generation. Our grandfather had kept bees since childhood. As an 11 year-old boy, with straw basket in hand, he asked a neighboring beekeeper for a swarm of bees. The number of hives grew over the years and stayed with him throughout his life. While observing the life of bees and other animals on the farm, he built a respectful attitude towards nature and life. He carried-over his attitude and knowledge to the family with great enthusiasm, and raised the next generation of beekeepers. Thus, our father also lovingly cared for bees. In a more stressful and fast-paced life, he found pleasure, tranquility and contact with nature though beekeeping. He “infected” the entire family with his dedication and love for bees, and invited us all to participate in beekeeping. A small beekeeper thus slowly grew into the Krevs family beekeepers.

We love this shop and its products. The honey is absolutely exquisite, and comes in a variety of flavours – acacia, chestnut, flower, forest and fir. We’ve sampled them all and bought a few, but the stand out favourites are forest and fir. They smell divine – woody, and foresty and intense and deep, but are much lighter than you’d imagine to taste. The Forest Honey always go quickly. We can’t wait to get back to Ljubljana to stock up, as we have none of this left and are sparingly using our last jar of Fir Honey. If you close your eyes and inhale it, you are transported to the mountains…

But it’s not just the honey we’re fans of. On our last trip before Christmas, we also purchased some intensive, hydrating cream – not knowing how valuable this little pump action bottle would be! Now that vigorous and regular washing of hands is the order of every day, we’re finding that hands are a little drier than usual – and this nutrient packed cream is amazing. Made with beeswax, aloe vera, shea butter, propolis and honey, only a small amount is needed to re-hydrate dry skin. If only we’d been able to see into the future and realise how much we’d be using it, we’d have bought a few more pots of it. However, it can be purchased online, so as we’re fairly sure we’re not going to be getting to Ljubljana any time soon, I’ll definitely be placing an order for delivery.

This is not a promotional blog and we paid full price for the products. Just wanted to share some lovely products…

Maribor : Slovenia

Maribor : Slovenia

Maribor is Slovenia’s second largest city, but that doesn’t mean it’s big, by any stretch of the imagination. Up until now, we’ve overlooked it, in favour of the capital, Ljubljana, whose appeal is immediate. It’s beautiful, full of well restored and well maintained historical buildings, with a winding river, fringed with weeping willows and a fairytale castle on top of the hill, looking down on the red roof tops of the old town. But, we decided to stop over in Maribor last weekend (Sunday evening) on our way back from Graz, in Austria. Although in two different countries, the two cities are only about half an hour from each other, so we arrived in good time in Maribor, hoping to get out and about and explore the city. Unfortunately, Sunday was grey and cold, unlike the previous day in Graz, which had been very spring-like – warm and sunny. The weather obviously didn’t help, but the outskirts of the city were a bit on the grim side. Very down trodden, and with definite reminders of the austerity of the not too distant past. We did wonder if we’d made the right decision, and whether we should just head home – but we’d made a booking and decided to give Maribor a go…

4 Flats, Slomškov trg 11, Maribor, Slovenia

4 Flats, Slomškov trg 11, Maribor, Slovenia

We booked an apartment online, and were delighted to find it was located in the above building (our apartment was the one on the bottom right, with the two big windows). 4 Flats is just what it says – four converted apartments, off a communal entranceway. However, before getting into the apartments, you have to go through the arched doorway, just to the left of the tree. The door is ancient – and could be described as delapidated, BUT it became immediately clear, once through the doorway, that this was a building with real history, and hence the doors…

Internal courtyard : 4 Flats, Maribor  Internal courtyard : 4 Flats, Maribor

Internal courtyard : 4 Flats, Maribor

Look at those walls! If these were in England, they’d probably be being preserved by English Heritage, but these are the communal entrance way, behind the great big delapidated wooden doors. There’s a cobbled accessway, and once the exterior doors are opened wide, residents drive their cars through here, to park in the internal courtyard. Amazing that a building like this, is just, well – there…

Our apartment was actually fab – quite minimalist, but all the right colours for me! Plus, lots of the original features had been retained, including the huge windows – which had an inner frame of double glazing, so absolutely no noise when they were closed.

Two of the other apartments were obviously not booked, and the doors were open, so I did have a bit of a nosey – and can confirm that the images on Booking.Com are completely accurate. All very lovely and well renovated.

It’s worth mentioning that there are parking bays all around the little park just outside the flats – and it’s free on a Sunday. (Payment – very inexpensive – begins at 8am Monday morning). Just across the park, with a view from our apartment windows, is the Slovene National Theatre, with performances of drama, opera, and ballet annually attracting the country’s largest theatrical audiences. We saw the audience leaving after the Sunday evening performance and it’s very clear that the Slovenes like to dress up for the theatre. Very grand, indeed!

The owner of the apartments met us and tried very helpfully to suggest where we could eat on a Sunday evening – although he did struggle, by his own admission, as many places, at this time of year, are closed on a Sunday evening. Nothing for it, then, but to get out and exploring Maribor. The historical centre is very small – and very, very, very old. You can really imagine what life must have been life in medieval times, as many of the buildings are literally teetering on the brink of collapse. We did spot one for sale, so if anyone fancies a bijou residence in Maribor, hit us up and we’ll get the details to you.

Narrow cobbled streets, like the one above, lead off one of the main sqaures – Glavni Trg – down to the Drava River, and the area of Lent. It did look as if the bars which line the river would be lovely in the summer, with plenty of evidence of outdoor seating, terraces and umbrellas already being put out, but it was a bit chilly – even with blankets – outside The Piranha Cocktail Bureau. The logo led us to this very stylish bar…

The interior is very striking, including backlit wall of bottles of spirits and liquers, and furnishings with lots of accents of black. I think I was most impressed by the toilets – scrupulously clean, and everything high gloss black. No photos unfortunately, as I still find it too weird to take photos of loos ? We were lucky too, to get a very pink sunset – much welcome after the gloomy afternoon.

Just next to Piranha Cocktail Bureau – and this has been verified by The Guiness Book of Records – is Stara Trta, the world’s oldest vine, growing outside an old medieval house called Hiša Stare Trte, also known as The Old Vine House.

We did eventually find somewhere to eat – Ancora, an Italian restaurant. Suffice it was a pretty surreal experience, but I’ll leave that there.

Monday morning was bright and sunny, so we took the opportunity before heading off, to scoot around the historical centre. One lap of about 30 minutes and you’re done, but there are some sights really worth seeing, especially if you look up, above the street level shop fronts, which are mostly fairly dreary. But look above street level, and this is what you’re greeted with…

Glavni Trg, Maribor’s second largest square

Also in Main Square is The Plague Column. Erected in 1743 to replace an older version, this monument commemorates the end of the plague, which killed over one third of the city’s inhabitants between 1680-81. The large monument, designed by Jožef Štraub, dominates Glavni Trg (the main square) and features a golden Virgin Mary on top of an eight metre column surrounded by six saints. It’s really very, very impressive!

So, what did we actually think of Maribor? To be honest, I’m still a bit undecided. There’s a definite palpable sense of history, and parts of the old historical centre are undoubtedly beautiful. It doesn’t have the sassiness of Ljubljana, or the coastal aspect of Koper. But, there’s something about it. It’s raw and a bit rough around the edges and feels like it’s not quite in 2019. It feels like a city that has a bit of catching up to do. However, when it does, I think that Maribor will be somewhere that should be on your destination wish-list. Until then, if you love history, you will like Maribor. And, if you need a new hat, you’ll definitely like it…