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On the Road: St Davids, Pembrokeshire

31 Jul

At Decorator’s Notebook we love visiting new places and we’ll be sharing our travel stories with you. But to kick off our ‘On the Road’ series we’re starting with an old favourite.

Every summer of our childhood, Bethan and I would go on family holidays to St Davids in Wales. We’d stay on the campsite that our Mum had gone to with her parents when she was a girl, overlooking Ramsey Island and the Celtic Sea.

DSC_25872 (700x460)Last week I got a chance to return to St Davids for the first time in nine years and had a fantastic week revisiting all of our old haunts in the glorious July sunshine.


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picmonkey-collage-700x700Going back to such a familiar place, I felt bound by our old annual traditions. Fig rolls on the beach,  crabbing from the lifeboat station, welsh cakes with a cup of tea and fishing from St John’s Point. Trying my hardest to stick with tradition, I did my best to lose as much tackle as possible without catching any fish, a feat which I’m glad to say was achieved!

DSC_2466 Stitch (700x271)DSC_2418 (467x700)Not for the faint-hearted (particularly with some of the lowest tides of the year), we also found time to visit the Blue Lagoon at Abereiddy. Though we didn’t quite match the efforts of the Red Bull cliff divers, it was certainly high enough to get the heart racing and the legs wobbling!

2{all Decorator’s Notebook}

What better way to calm the nerves than a trip up the hill behind the campsite to watch the beautiful sunset accompanied by a glass of something warming. Hopefully I won’t have to wait another nine years before my next visit.

City pretty… what colour is yours?

12 Jun

I found these photographs of San Francisco on the beautiful Cachemire et Soie blog thanks to Victoria. The stunning pastel colour palettes created by the architecture reminded me a little bit of The Paris Colour Project and started me wondering what the colour palette of the cities I know would be… or whether there is even one at all?

Photographs of San Francisco colours and architecture

Colours and architecture of San Francisco{all Anne for Cachemire et Soie}

I’ve never been to San Francisco but if you have I’d be interested to know if the whole city is painted like this or if it’s just little a little pocket. When I think of the colours of London my mind’s eye sees something like those Photoshopped black and white photos with just a spot of red highlighted. Grey and red… that’s the palette of London for me. Nowhere near as pretty.

What would be the colour palette of the place you live?

La vie est belle

4 Feb

“Journalist abandons city in favour of tumbledown French farmhouse.”

One day – please god – let someone write those words about me!

French country style kitchenJust imagine cooking in a kitchen flooded with as much light as this! Despite the basic concrete floor this rooms looks so welcoming and warm. Who wouldn’t want to fling open those doors and sit down and tuck into a stack of brioche here?

French country style living roomI must admit that I still think the French do relaxed country style better than anyone. There’s not much going on in this room but it has exactly the right balance of simplicity and interest for me. The stack of nude paintings in the corner is my favourite touch.

French country style bedroom{El Meuble via Graine & Ficelle / Poppytalk}

When Isabella took on her new home it was nothing more than a weedy wasteland – today though she lives the good life doing B&B and running cookery lessons where guests can pick their vegetable and gather their eggs from the (now cultivated) surrounding farmland, while the kids can get back to nature and help out with feeding time. Even the name of the farm is perfect… Graine & Ficelle – Grain & Twine.

Back to nature at Bivouac

16 Jul

Here’s another addition to my cavegirl travel list. Bivouac not only has a great name, it sounds like a great place to stay, eat and explore too.

Bivouac is a posh, eco-friendly holiday camp in the Yorkshire Dales, which aims to be ‘all things luxurious and rustic’ – my dream combination! I’d choose to stay in one of the charming Woodland Shacks (above) which are built with chestnut wood frames, sheep’s wool insulation and a private veranda with views through the trees. Inside, the furniture is a mixture of handmade and upcycled bits and pieces, and each shack comes complete with a traditional Windy Smithy stove for drying out your walking boots or cooking up a tasty stew. The only thing that’s missing is electricity!

Even if you’re not staying in one of the Woodland Shacks, Meadow Yurts or the Bunk Barn, you can still enjoy a taste of Bivouac life in the café. The interior is just gorgeous – I really like the warm blend of wood, combined with pastel-painted vintage chairs and bare industrial lightbulbs. It reminds me of a slightly more refined version of the Town Mill Bakery in Lyme Regis, which I visited last summer and can’t stop dreaming about!

{all Bivouac}

Staying at Bivouac costs from £18 per person per night for a bed in the Bunk Barn to £565 to rent a seven-bed Woodland Shack for four nights in summer. The Bivouac Café is open everyday and sometimes has special events like pottery painting, folk nights and wine tasting. Check out the website for all the details.

Live like a cavegirl

26 Mar

Despite the whole London thing, I’m a proper country bumpkin at heart. While the other girls were dressing up as princesses, I was usually happier playing cavemen with my brother, smearing my face with mud, running around barefoot and cooking up delicious ‘meals’ from plants and berries foraged from the garden.

Twenty years on, not much has changed really – when it comes to holidays you can forget sun loungers and piña coladas, I’d much rather be somewhere like this:

Urnatur Woodhermitage is a collection of magical little huts and treehouses in a wooded clearing in rural Sweden. Visitors are encouraged to get back to nature (and back to basics) with almost everything built, cooked or crafted from the immediate surroundings.

I’d find it impossible to choose which one to stay in – reading the descriptions of the Hat Cabin, the Charcoaler’s Hut and the Little Treehouse, each one sounds even lovelier than the last.

Aspiring cavemen (and women) are welcomed – there are courses about gathering wild herbs and mushrooms from the forest, simple carpentry, haymaking and the intriguing sounding ‘fire & knife’.

{all Ulrika Krynitz / Urnatur}

By now you’re probably either recoiling at the idea of staying in an unheated, electricity-free shed for a holiday, or desperate to know when you can go. If you’re amongst the latter, Urnatur is open from April to October and you can book via the website. If you’ve been captured by the magic, check out these photos and videos Anthropologie took when they visited Urnatur to shoot one of their look books a couple of years ago.


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A remote and rustic cabin in Croatia

A beautifully understated Moroccan Riad

Do you like a bit of rough?

31 Oct

Does anyone remember the TV show Ruth Watson did a few years ago where she helped wannabe hoteliers do up their establishments? It was kind of The Hotel Inspector (which I love) meets Grand Designs (which I don’t).

Anyway, one of the stories she followed was that of The Reading Rooms in Margate, which the owners hoped to transform from a batch of scummy bedsits into a boutique hotel, drawing on the ‘rough luxe’ decorating concept. In fact, The Reading Rooms needed such extensive renovation that a lot of the rough had to be smoothed to stop the whole place falling down, although the finished result is very lovely all the same.

{Clive Sax via The Reading Rooms}

In principle, there’s something I really love about the rough luxe idea. There’s a certain sense of nostalgia in making a feature of the paint and wallpaper choices of residents that have gone before – wearing away the layers to show how materials and tastes have changed – adding your own influences here and there.

The question is, I suppose, is could you really live in a house that was decorated like this? The Rough Luxe Hotel in London is pretty well known now, but I think it’s still worth mentioning as an interesting test of the principle.

{Rough Luxe Hotel}

Yep, I love the faded wallpapers and peeling paints and my mind’s telling me I should be head-over-heels for this hotel. But there’s something about it that leaves me cold. Perhaps it’s because the website declares so proudly that the scheme was masterminded by designer Rabih Hage and knowing that, the whole thing suddenly feels a bit contrived. Like buying distressed French furniture from Argos or torn jeans from Topshop.

I don’t know. I just feel a bit weird about it.

Anyway, leaving my personal dilemmas aside, how about we revel in some gorgeous rough luxe interiors from Inspace Locations?

{via Inspace Locations}

The beauty of location houses is that often they’re not lived in on a full-time basis, so every imaginable impractical decorating choice, from a gloss white hall floor at one end of the spectrum to a dangerously decrepit staircase at the other, is all fine and dandy. So long as you have a watertight liability insurance policy in your back pocket, of course.

{Inspace Locations}

So, what do you reckon?

Am I torturing myself because I’m slightly OCD and the thought of open lathe and plaster collecting dust and spiders strikes fear into my heart? Or am I being unfair on the likes of the Rough Luxe Hotel for ‘getting a man in’ to help them realise their vision?

Ultimately, is there a right time to start renovating and is there a right time to stop?

Inside Croatia’s cutest cottage

22 Jul

If I didn’t have to be in wet and windy London this weekend, I’d definitely be here…

{Damir Zizic via Kuchica}

Kuchica, which means ‘little house’ in Croatian, nestles in the lush hillside near Zagreb. Lovingly restored with flea market finds, rustic colours and bare minimum of fuss, the 100 year old cottage can be rented for holidays by those that value the simpler things in life. I admit the sleeping arrangements aren’t terribly romantic, but I can’t imagine a more idyllic place for a getaway – take the test here to see if Kuchica would suit you!

What do you look for in the perfect break? Does somewhere this basic appeal to you or are you boutique chic all the way?

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