A Bit of Bling

A Bit of Bling

In the olden days, when I wanted to up-cycle something, out would come the paint pots and brushes. Faffy and fiddly and usually waiting ages for the paint to dry. And because I am ridiculously impatient, I’d try and pick up or move whatever I had painted, too soon, and I’d smudge the paint. I don’t know why spray paint had never occurred to me before, but since we’ve been out, these cans of colour have been my saviour. Nothing pleases me more than spinning the rack in our equivalent of B&Q and going for pops of colour I would normally never choose – hot pink, zingy orange, sunburst yellow and vibrant turquoise, along with the beautiful and much used anthracite, have featured in various places around the house and garden. Nothing escapes the spray paint. The garden tables and chairs and wooden sunbeds have all been sprayed in my beloved anthracite. Wooden crates have been given new leases of life. Three Habitat plastic garden stools, originally black, are sprayed in different summery colours – one is orange, one is yellow and one is turquoise. White IKEA cube shelving has had the spray paint treatment – a great hack.

The metal cover for the well had a make-over, and the deep, deep blue now looks so much better and complements the very soft pale blue exterior woodwork.

Even the microwave hasn’t escaped the spray paint. Our silver microwave was just too silver and shiny for the new kitchen, and not being able to find a reasonably priced dark blue one anywhere, I did the obvious…

But perhaps the colour that I love the best is the gold. It just brings warmth and cosiness and a touch of glamour to our stonehouse. It also works so well against the dark colours we have around the house. A couple of our feature walls are very similar to Railings by Farrow & Ball. The walls and ceiling in the kitchen are Farrow & Ball Hague Blue. Most of the wooden floors – and the original stone floor in the Well Room – as well as the two sets of stairs are a very deep indigo. And the gold just adds a little unexpected something. I’ve upcycled bottles which are now used to display faux blooms and branches. Vintage birdcages have been glammed up with the gold. A big IKEA floor lamp now gives off a golden glow next to my desk. Various candle holders, which were pretty ordinary, now look super glam. And, the best thing of all is our vintage French woodburner. Now, this sounds mad – BUT it was never used. It was originally a beautiful blue ceramic burner, but it’s spent a lot of its life with us, in the garden as an ornament and so was a little bit weather-beaten and the hinges and plate underneath the lid were very rusty. It would have cost a fortune to have it reconditioned – and even if we were inclined to spend the money having this done, we’d have had no idea where to actually get it done. So, I figured a coat of spray paint might just give it a new lease of life. What do you think?

The pink table has also been re-upcycled. This was originally a paint-splattered wooden work table, which went pink to give a bit of colour to the upstairs landing. It’s also had a change of look, and now sits in the living room – the perfect place for lots of candles and twinkling lights in the winter…

I try to do all of the spray painting outside, and especially with larger items, but if they have be done indoors, windows are wide open and masks are worn. But, when aren’t they these days? The thing I love most about using spray-paint is that it’s relatively inexpensive, quick and easy to apply and if I want a change, all it takes is a quick sand down and another colour from the carousel.

The Gold Room…

The Gold Room…

I’ve thought long & hard about adding blogs to the website, in the current climate. It seems too frivolous to be posting about renovations and life-style things and recipes. But, and it is a big but, we’ve worked hard for so long to get to the point where are currently, that I have decided to carry on, adding blogs. My way of continuing to record our journey, as we, like so many other people, embark on self-isolation for the next few weeks.

Our second bedroom has gone through some changes since we became the custodians of our stone house in Istria. Before we started work on it, this bedroom was an undecorated space, with two sets of bunk beds, left from the previous owners, shoe-horned into a room which was just not working. Beams, although potentially beautiful, were untreated and clearly hadn’t been touched in a long time and very basic pine floorboards were bare. The window, which again we knew, could be a real feature, was partially undercoated and the ill-fitting door unable to close because of one of the most ugly door handle/locks we’ve ever seen. All in all, a pretty dismal excuse for a bedroom. However, we had to have at least one room where we could escape the madness of full-on renovation – and so three years ago, Bedroom Two, was for a while Bedroom One.

From what we inherited above, we were delighted with the first incarnation with the room. Walls were painted white, a new bed was ordered and delivered, industrial wall lights fitted, new bedding on the bed and we were in. Utter luxury! I cannot tell you how amazing it was, in the early days, to close the door at the end of the night and sink into that bed. If you’ve renovated a property, you’ll know where we’re coming from.

But, we’ve come a long way since the room looked as it does above. The wooden beams are original – very old and very beautiful, but we did have a problem with woodworm, which we had to resolve very quickly, as this room became a guest bedroom. We called in a specialist company who treated all of the beams in the house, and we then got to work on them, ourselves. Just to be extra sure that the pesky woodworm had gone, we further treated them, wrapping them in clingfilm for a couple of weeks – just to be on the safe side. These measures seem to have worked, and we think the woodworm are no more. Although the beams were beautiful in their natural state, our style for in the interior is contemporary and they just felt as bit too country-cottagey. So we got to work on transforming them – and after undercoating and painting in a very soft gey satinwood, they are, we think, even more beautiful…

To contrast with the white walls and soft grey beams, the woodwork – window frames and surrounds and door and frame – have all been painted in a very soft baby blue satinwood, which contrasts well with the colours around.

Although the room isn’t the largest, it can comfortably fit a double bed and two wardrobes from IKEA – these are from the STUVA range. More for a child’s bedroom, but perfectly adequate, with plenty of hanging and storage space, for a smaller bedroom. And, much nicer on the budget too. However, as they are actually full of our stuff, they weren’t serving much of a purpose in a guest bedroom and so the decision was made a few weeks ago, to have a big change around and create bedrooms which worked much better as spaces. We’ve completed the dirty, dusty, disruptive renovation work, and so can now have a bit more fun, being creative and accessorising.

The wardrobes went to their new home, in the room next door and once we’d created a bit more space, we started on the new look. First up was the cerise pink table in the hallway. Once an old work table, it was covered in paint splats and oil stains, but a few cans of spray paint gave it a new lease of life and it’s been a proper pop of colour, for a couple of years on the upstairs landing. However, we wanted something that visitors could use – a table where they could dry hair, put on make-up, maybe catch up on a few emails on a lap top, but we didn’t want to go out and buy something else. Our house has rapidly become full of *stuff*, despite a massive clear-out before we moved, so we’re trying to recycle and upcycle where we can. The pink table was a perfect starting point…

Spray paint is now our go-to product for quick make-overs and within an hour, the pink was gone and replaced with shimmering gold. Accessorised with a beautiful opaque, glass vase, in a very unusual shade of green and tall faux blooms, scented candles in pinky coloured glass jars and a tortoise shell mirror, it now looks completely different. A round globe lamp sits behind the green vase, so at night, a really beautiful glow is cast around the room. The large pine mirror looked out of place, against the table, so this too has been sprayed gold and now looks a million dollars. For the cost of a can of spray paint. I didn’t want a bulky chair at the table and so found this rather lovely stool – gold frame and pale pink velvet seat. Perfect! The Moroccan style off-white & navy blue geometric patterned rug adds warmth and sits well on top of the newly painted navy floorboards. No more pine!

Yes, I did spray the bin, too 🙂 Rather than searching around to find something which was more suitable, the black, metal, flip top IKEA bin was given the bling treatment, too. And, why not?

To the left hand side of the window is the internal chimney, which comes up from The Snug and the living room below. Gorgeous in the winter, as it means we don’t need any additional source of heating in this room, but it does make the way we can lay out the room, a bit more problematic, because it is bulky. The bed can’t be located anywhere else, but space to the side is limited because of the chimney, meaning that we were also limited to what we could have each side of the bed. We wanted something that people could use for mobile phones, ipads, drinks etc and did a fair bit of head scratching as everything was always just a tiny bit too wide. Then, hurrah again for IKEA – we spotted these mustard coloured boxy wall units, which are just perfect. Attached off the floor, but not too high, they don’t take up too much room and mean that phones be charged, and there’s space for water, a book or two etc.

I think we might now be happy with this room. Although who knows? After a few weeks of self isolation, we may have sprayed the whole room gold…

conscious gift wrapping

conscious gift wrapping

When we travel back to England for Christmas, we don’t fly. Flying is a real hassle, even when it’s the short two & a half hour flight we do from Pula to Manchester. Plus, we’re becoming more & more aware of the impact of flying – but, we have to get back some way, and so driving is the best option open to us at the moment. I know that what we’re gaining from not flying, we’re losing by driving, but there’s no viable alternative. So, this year I made a determined effort to try and do what I could to make a tiny contribution to being a bit more ethical at Christmas.

It would be brilliant if we could buy everything locally and be able to walk to independent shops – but we’re not in West Didsbury any more. Where we live now, in northern Istria, driving is unfortunately part and parcel of every day life. So, buying things does mean driving – and sometimes ordering online. Therefore, I decided that rather than wrap presents in paper which was foiled, or contained glitter, or use that curly shiny ribbon, I’d try and be a bit more “eco” – especially given that our current lifestyle doesn’t easily lend itself to doing this on a grand scale, currently.

So, what did I do? I bought the following…

  • Rolls of brown paper
  • Twine & string from a local garden centre
  • Corrugated cardboard luggage labels
  • Faux sprigs of eucalyptus

…and, hey presto! For very little money and using components that could be reused and/or recycled, some very pretty packaging emerged. And not a sheet of shiny paper involved…


Like I say, it’s not quite as easy – or as convenient – here in Istria, to be eco on a consistently daily basis. We do recycle as much as we can at home, and we use the public recycling facilities here. We’ve just bought re-usable veg bags (spotted in Sainsbury’s over Xmas) which can be washed, so this also means we’re able to cut down on plastic fruit & veg bags when we go shopping. Bags for life have replaced throwaway plastic bags. We use a water filter jug, so no longer buy plastic bottles of water.

However, because of our location, we are very much reliant on our car. There is no local transport network to speak of, so driving is how get around. We are very conscious of this – but hopefully the small steps we are starting to make, will begin to make a tiny difference.