Dramatic. Dominant. Dark. The descriptors most commonly associated with black are scary, to say the least. It’s no wonder painting an accent wall (let alone an entire room!) in the color, can seem like a huge risk. It might bring us down or make an already-tiny space feel even smaller. Believe it or not, the hue actually has just the opposite effect.
As we’ve learned from some of our favorite moody kitchens, “light and bright” is still possible if you know your right swatches from wrong. When we asked nine interior designers to share the best black paint colors for kitchen cabinets, we were relieved to hear them describe their tried-and-true picks as “warm,” “rich,” and “pairing well with pure whites.” For cupboards and beyond, these are the shades they swear by:
All of Clare’s products are zero-VOC, meaning they’re formulated without the carbon-based solvents found in most other brands. “It’s a no-brainer,” says Natalie Myers of Veneer Designs. Myers describes this “intense black” as not too watery and not too thick, making it a great option for DIYers who want a stress-free application.
This non-traditional choice ticks “depth” off of ETC.etera designer Sally Breer’s checklist every time. “It’s not a black hole that feels hollow; there are some warm, brown-red undertones in it that make it really dynamic,” she says.
This chalky option was the clear winner of the group (multiple designers said it’s their go-to pick). “In certain lighting, it reads as dark gray,” Dee Murphy of Murphy Design points out. Because of that, she adds that it’s the perfect introduction to the “dark side.” The only point the pros vary on is what kind of finish to use. New York designer Cara Woodhouse prefers something on the shinier side. “I like to use this color on both the trim and the walls, but I’d use a full-gloss sheen on the millwork and the brand’s Estate Emulsion finish (it only has a two-percent sheen) for everything else,” she says.
Word to the wise: Matte finishes are best for low-traffic areas, as they’re more likely to show scuff marks and fingerprints. Allison Crawford, the founder of HOTELette, says a flat finish looks especially eye-catching against crisp white walls.
Designers tend to shy away from blacks that look too purple. This one strikes the right balance between a warm violet and rich charcoal. “We use the limewash in most of our projects,” says Tamara Kaye-Honey of House of Honey, noting that the old-world treatment “envelopes a room in the best way.”
Unlike its more beloved counterpart, Off-Black, this swatch from Farrow & Ball skews more blue. Although the color gets its name from ironwork, “it doesn’t feel sterile,” says designer Heidi Callier. To really bring out the navy undertones, the brand suggests using the full-gloss version.
WeWork’s creative director of design strategy, Rubén Hernández-Correa, thinks a lot about using paint to highlight the architectural character of a building. His go-to choice for doing so: This straightforward shade.
Woodwork, flat walls, siding—L.A. designer Jake Alexander Arnold loves this pure, velvety option so much he went so far as to paint the entire exterior of his house with it. “It’s the perfect classic because it goes with everything,” he says. There’s nothing to fear here.
I was lucky to take three international trips in 2019 and as I look ahead to 2020, I’ve already decided on two of the three locations for next year’s international adventures. Now that we’re entering the holiday season, the content will shift in that direction, so this will be my final travel post of the year, but I wanted to share something really special: my journey through the Sacred Valley of Peru and my visit to Machu Picchu.
I spent a few days with my travel companions exploring Cusco, the home base where most travelers begin their journey to Machu Picchu. Some try to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu and back in a day but that seemed incredibly exhausting so we decided in advance to spend three days between a few of the towns in the valley using various forms of transportation, this gave us a lot more time to explore.
Here’s how we broke it up. On our first day, we shared a taxi from Cusco to Urubamba with an hour long stop in Chinchero and spent the night in Urubamba. On the second day we took the morning train to Agua Calientes, then the afternoon bus to Machu Picchu where we stayed until closing at sunset. That evening we returned by bus to Agua Calientes and stayed at a hotel. On the third day we took a train from Agua Calientes to Ollaytaytambo with a three hour stop for sight seeing and lunch, then shared a taxi ride from Ollaytaytambo back to Cusco. At the end of these three days, we concluded we had paced it perfectly.
Urubamba is an hour drive from Cusco, and your taxi driver can stop in a little town called Chinchero. It’s a tiny town where textiles are made and gives tourists a brief look at the process and the opportunity to buy them. Llama and alpaca feeding free of charge. 😉
We stayed the night at a nice hotel in Urubamba, ate breakfast then walked the colorful downtown area to get a feel for it. We loved all the tuk tuks the local use to get around!
My travel companions and I had read about the luxurious Hiram Bingham round trip train ride from Cusco to Agua Calientes but realized that ticket is super pricey. We wanted the train experience but not at that price, so we booked the one way Sacred Valley train on Peru Rail from Urubamba to Machu Picchu and it was totally amazing! I almost wrote a single blog post just about this train ride because it was exceptionally fun and now ranks as one of my top five travel memories ever.
Large pieces of luggage are not allowed on this train so we decided in advance we would live out of a backpack for our three day journey carrying nothing but a few toiletries, phone chargers, and a change of clothes. We caught the train at the Tambo Del Inka hotel at 10:30 in the morning and as soon as we boarded we were enchanted.
Riding this train feels just like living in a movie. The classic bar car and polished caboose offer panoramic views and a brass railing along the back of the train where we stood and soaked in the scenery. I loved every detail and every minute!
The passengers are limited to 33 so never felt crowded, and we were lucky to be traveling on a perfectly sunny day. The second half of the journey included a three course lunch with wine in the elegant dining car. The food was simple but tasty (hello aji sauce!) and the dessert was the best tres leches cake I’ve had in years.
As we wound our way to our destination of Machu Picchu, we watched the topography slowly changing as the train followed the Urubamba River from the fertile valley through the mountains then into the jungle. The train continues to wind its way through the valley as the river turns into rapids making its way to Agua Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu.
We drank our last cup of coffee and gathered up our backpacks for our arrival. The only thing between us and Machu Picchu was the final 20 minute bus ride! Bellies full, we were ready for a hike to one of the modern seven wonders of the world.
To get to the site you need to take a bus, but before we boarded we wanted to store our backpacks first. There are several places in town near the bus ticket office where you can store belongings. Agua Calientes is a charming little town and the only access in and out is via train, so plan ahead. The line for the busses to Machu Picchu can get long too, so allow for time to wait in line as well.
Arriving at Machu Picchu is a thrilling experience, but you can’t there unless you have your bus ticket, site ticket, and your passport. We almost forgot our passports so don’t make that mistake! Once you make it to the top and through the gate, get ready, it’s very exciting because you’re about to witness one of the coolest places in the entire world.
How lucky were we to be there on a sunny day, the shadows cast by the bright sun brought out all the contrast in this UNESCO World Heritage site. Amazing! The hike through Machu Picchu takes about 2 hours if you’re going at a leisurely pace. You can hire a guide or do a self guided tour with some research beforehand, it has a fascinating history.
Avid hikers can skip the bus ride down and hike the trail back down to Agua Calientes. We opted to stay the night to rest after a long day and also so we could experience the nightlife, eat more Peruvian food, and listen to local musicians play pipe music.
Our final day in the Sacred Valley, we ate breakfast at our hotel, then explored Agua Calientes on foot for a couple of hours. It’s here you can pick up any souvenir you’re looking for in the market stalls and shops. This town welcomes thousands of travelers passing through every day.
The last town we wanted to see was Ollaytaytambo, we took the train to this small village where we stopped for lunch and spent a few more hours walking around this little town. There’s a fortress and some ruins to climb here if you have the time!
By the end of this third day we returned to Cusco, exhausted from all the climbing but with hearts full from the sights seen and the laughter shared. This merry band of friends loved every moment of our three days spent in the Sacred Valley!
As I flew home from Peru, I reflected on how fortunate I am to experience traveling to new countries. Peru possesses its own unique culture with its inspiring vistas, savory flavors, colorful textiles, and people who exude warmth and kindness. For me, international travel is the best way to experience humanity because it teaches me things that books never can. Watching how other cultures live and interact, how they eat and celebrate is eye opening and reminds me every time how deep down we’re all alike. We all want the same things in life: a happy home, laughter, good food, great friends, and a few fun stories to tell from our adventures.
My biggest takeaway from my trip to Peru was pure gratitude. It’s a country that lives with far far less of the comforts we enjoy in the United States, and it reminded me how crazy lucky I am, to have traveled with friends who are from Peru and to have had the opportunity to experience its culture, food, and people.
If you haven’t visited, definitely add the Sacred Valley of Peru to your travel bucket list!
I woke up this morning, made some coffee, took my teens to school, came home and casually opened Instagram. Then it hit me as I scrolled through my feed. Here we go, it’s officially the holiday season and with it comes two months of unending to do lists and obligations thrust upon me. I could feel the tension creeping up in my neck and shoulders. It hit me so hard and made me feel so stressed I did something I rarely do, I crawled right back into bed.
I knew the only way to for me to get rid of this discomfort was not to hide from the stress, but instead to face it so I took a long walk to clear my head. I’ve become pretty good at maintaining balance in my life in the last few years, but I got knocked off balance today and it forced me to ask myself some important questions about why I felt this way. Why do I feel such overwhelming pressure to do so much during the holidays? Why am I not excited, why do I feel such dread? Is it self induced? Is it societal projection? Every year, on the first week of November, I get hit with overwhelming pressure to please way too many people, so much so I feel it physically in my body. Where does this come from?
People pleasing during the holidays was modeled by my mother and aunts. I watched them growing up so I absorbed it and believed it was my role that I needed to take on too. Decorate the house, bake the cookies, plan the menu, host the party, buy the gifts, wrap the gifts, and don’t forget to smile and look your absolute best while you do it.
People pleasing is thrust upon us by social media, it dominates our culture and pressures women to have beautifully decorated homes, gifts tied up in perfect bows, magazine worthy menus, and children dressed in matching pajamas.
I accept that some of my people pleasing tendencies are self induced. I love writing this blog but with the holidays comes additional pressure to provide unique content to inspire. Yet when I look at others in my niche it feels as if there’s some collective agreement to raise the bar every year. So to preserve my sanity, I push back. I say to myself “Girl, don’t kill yourself, there are no points being rewarded or prizes being handed out here. Relax, breathe, pace yourself, contribute what you can when it works for you.”
People pleasing is a choice I’ve consciously made, but it feels so much different when it’s one-on-one. When I spend time cooking or entertaining and I can see the joy on the faces of the people who are directly benefiting from it, that feels like giving and that’s a good thing. If I’m making real memories, I say yes to that, time and again. The part of Christmas I enjoy the most is the one-on-one connection, when I’m decorating the tree with my daughter or snuggling on the couch with my son watching movies. And twinkle lights, I can never get enough of twinkle lights. 🙂
Last year I kept a promise to myself, that I was no longer going to do things that I dreaded. No longer would I spend time on holiday activities that were a soul suck. This year I’ll do the same. Instead of throwing a big party for eighty people on a Saturday night, I choose to gather ten of my best girl friends on a Thursday night for a two hour ornament exchange. Instead of sending ninety gold foil Christmas cards, I’ll send personal texts or individual cards to people I love who make a difference in my life.
For anyone who needs to hear this, I offer these words of encouragement. Look at the obligations (or dare I say burdens) we take on during the holiday season, and ask yourself, 1) Does this activity bring me joy? Or 2) Do I dread this every year? If it’s in the #2 category, maybe it’s time to just say no. To begin the practice of saying yes to only the things that make the season bright, and no to all the things that drain you.
Maybe it’s time to introduce a new boundary this season that honors you, your time, and your energy. There’s so much power in giving yourself permission to say no.
What have you eliminated from your list of holiday obligations that brings you more peace?
When someone tells you they “slept like a baby” or “like a rock,” what they’re really telling you—though they might not even know it—is that they achieved deep, uninterrupted slumber, also known in the science world as non-rapid eye movement (NREM) slow-wave sleep. And according to a new study shared by Science Daily, people who make a habit out of it are probably much less anxious when they’re awake.
University of California, Berkeley researchers recently found that insufficient sleep can amplify levels of anxiety up to 30 percent and, on the flip side, that a solid eight hours or so helps reduce stress. “Deep sleep seems to be a natural anxiolytic (anxiety inhibitor), so long as we get it each and every night,” Mathew Walker, a senior author of the study and a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the university, said in the published report for the journal Nature Human Behaviour. The study analyzed brain scans from 18 young adults and discovered that those who got a full night’s rest had a lower heart rate and lower blood pressure, as well as stable emotions when they woke.
Falling asleep is one thing, but staying asleep—crucial to reaching the NREM slow-wave stage—is its own challenge. Crafting the right environment is your first step. If you consistently wake up at 2 a.m. because you’re too hot, swap out the sateen sheets for a percale weave; they’re ultra-breathable. Make your room a no-blue-light zone by putting an alarm clock on the bedside table instead of relying on your phone (according to one sleep study, the light emitted by screens restrain the production of melatonin, which messes with your circadian rhythm). Because consuming alcohol within two hours of bedtime can interfere with catching quality z’s, ditch the vino for a cold glass of water. And finally, throw on a sleep mask if you live in a city where light pollution is a problem. Counting sheep has nothing on these solutions.
Make sure you read this before picking up your festive fir
Saturday 8th December, is officially Bring Your Christmas Tree Home Day, with garden centre Dobbies predicting it will sell an epic six trees PER MINUTE. But before you go to pick up your seasonal spruce, it’s worth reading our guide to choosing the perfect real tree.
Pick the right type for your home and look after it properly, and it will look healthy and hearty right through until January 6th.
Buying a real Christmas tree – know your fir types
By far the most popular tree in the UK today is the Nordmann fir, a variety with excellent needle retention. It has a good full shape, and a glossy green colour. If you like to put your tree up early, but still want it look its best on Christmas day, this is the tree for you.
The Norway spruce was the tree that Prince Albert first brought to Windsor Castle back in 1841, popularising the idea of decorating a tree at Christmas. The variety still a traditional favourite, particularly because of its classic fresh scent, but it is prone to dropping needles. ‘It boasts a lovely pyramid shape,’ says Craig Roman, in-house expert at Dobbies Garden Centres.
‘This is the tree we all remember from our childhood, and although the needles will not last as long as some other varieties, it is a good choice for those with cooler rooms, or tend to put their tree up a little later. They also make great display trees for the front garden to welcome your guests over the festive period.’
You won’t find too many Noble firs available to buy, but if you’re after the ultimate luxury tree, it’s worth seeking one out. ‘Whorls of blue-tinged needles adorn these gorgeous chunky trees, and the nicely spaced foliage provides the perfect place for all your baubles and decorations,’ says Craig. You will find them in garden centres, but make sure you get there quick!
Hate trees that drop needles? The Forestry Commission tells us that a Lodgepole pine has the best retention of them. You’ll know a Lodgepole by its bushy appearance, long green needles and branches that point upwards, not to mention its strong pine scent.
Prices vary across the country but, as a general guide, expect to pay from £30 for a 6ft Norway spruce, and from £45 for a 6ft Nordmann fir.
Did you know? Around six to eight million real Christmas trees are sold in UK every year.
Real Christmas trees vs fake trees
Other than the gorgeous pine smell and luscious green look, their are loads of reasons to arrange your presents under a real tree rather than an artificial alternatives:
It’s estimated that real trees use 10 times fewer materials and five times less energy than artificial trees.
They are completely biodegradable and can be recycled and composted.
If you buy a British grown tree you can guarantee that you are choosing a more sustainable option with a smaller carbon footprint than an artificial tree.
Real trees are a renewable resource, at least one tree will be planted when one is harvested. At some plantations such as Infinity Christmas Trees they plant two new trees for every one harvested each year.
Christmas tree plantations benefit the environment. The Infinity Christmas Trees plantations alone absorb 900 tonnes of CO2.
Growing real Christmas trees provides jobs in rural areas, where employment can be hard to come by.
‘Real Christmas trees are a sustainable, renewable resource with a much smaller carbon footprint than artificial ones, especially when they are home-grown like ours,’ explains Dave Brown, a Christmas tree grower of Infinity Christmas Trees. ‘We plant two new trees for every one we harvest and each year, our Christmas tree plantations across the UK absorb 900 tonnes of CO2, benefiting the environment.’
Before you leave the house, measure the height of the room that you want the tree to fit into. Don’t forget to factor in the height of the tree stand! You should also consider the width of the tree, which can vary wildly. ‘That’s why you should also never buy a Christmas tree ready-wrapped,’ advises Craig Roman. ‘When a tree is in the netting you don’t know what you’re getting. It could be too wide for your room or too uneven in shape.’
A cut tree should be fresh when purchased. Brush it gently with your fingers or tap it lightly on the ground – if it sheds lots of needles, it may be an old tree. Avoid any brittle branches and dull needles. ‘Like cats and dogs, you can tell if trees are healthy by the sheen of their coat,’ adds Craig. ‘Ideally, the tree should be a shiny, glossy green.’
Also, choose a tree that isn’t pre-wrapped in netting,’ advises Wyevale Garden Centres’ Mark Sage. ‘This allows you to really see the shape and ensure branches aren’t bent into an upwards position.’
‘Trees left in netting aren’t able to benefit from air circulation and begin to form a micro-climate. This means the tree begins to warm up, drop needles and decompose at a much quicker rate.’
To make sure you are getting a British grown tree that meets strict freshness standards look for a Grown in Britain logo, a non profit organisation champions home-grown forest products and plants.
Getting it home – first steps
Image credit: Rachel Whiting
Cut off the netting to allow the branches to settle, and saw off about half an inch (2.5cm) from its base in order to open up its pores – just as you would do with fresh flowers. Next, put it in a bucket of water and keep it outside in a shady, sheltered spot until you’re ready to bring it indoors. Just before you carry it into the house, give it another gentle tap to shed any loose needles.
Once inside, stand your tree in a container that you can top up with water to help it last longer. You may be surprised by the amount of water it will drink!
How to decorate your real tree
Yay, it’s the fun bit! However, preparation is everything. Before you even think about touching a bauble, secure the tree in its holder or pot.
‘Avoid whittling the trunk of a tree to fit a stand,’ says Mark Sage. ‘Always buy a bigger stand as whittling can remove the most active cells from the outside of the trunk and make the tree thirsty as a consequence.’
Next, add any strings of lights, starting a the bottom.Now it’s time for the ornaments. Organise them by size, and hang the biggest baubles on the larger branches, and smaller trinkets on the more delicate sprigs.
‘On my own trees, I always fix the decorations to the tree with wire, rather than string,’ says Craig Roman7. ‘This means I can completely control where they sit, rather than rely on where they hang.’
Always make sure your tree trunk is immersed in water – ideally try to top it up every day as trees are thirsty fellows! Keep your tree in a cool, dry space, away from radiators or fires, and always remember to turn off your lights before going to bed. Larger bulbs can potentially dry out or even scorch the needles of your tree.
If you’re looking for budget Christmas decorating ideas, then you’ve come to the right place.
Whether you disagree with spending so much on festive accessories or you’re just plain broke – for all of the above, we have a suitable budget answer. Who says you have to spend to be Christmas in style
Decorating your home for Christmas doesn’t have to break the bank. Follow our purse-friendly designs this year for easy updates that are on budget (but look far from it!).
Trees, wreaths, garlands, sprayed twigs – nature is cool at Christmas, and it’s free. Get your wellington boots on and get foraging for holly, pine cones, herbs, sprigs and twigs before getting home and twisting and turning them into botanical masterpieces. There is no reason why you can’t do Christmas on a budget!
Above is a wreath from our Christmas shoot 2019, fashioned with fragrant herbs, pretty baubles and decorative dried flowers. A cost effect way to dress a front door in style.
2. Dry fruit for decorations
Christmas tree decorations don’t get much more cost effective than oven-dried fruits. Clementines are a Christmas classic, due to the seasonal scent. They are therefore the ideal fruit to dry and attach to the tree, to add a splash of warm colour and rich fragrance. Multiple cuts around the outside, from top to bottom will be sufficient enough to allow the fruit to dry out quicker, and emit more of the sweet fragrance.
Simply thread string through the top to fashion a loop, for hanging on a tree, wreath or garland.
3. Make your own gift wrap
Photo credit: Annie Sloan
Keep the budget down by making your own gift wrap. Hand printed patterns create a beautiful authentic paper to add charm to your gifts. Slice a large potato in half and carefully score a festive motif. Cut away the potato on the outside of the scored section, so the shape is raised. Dip this side into a thin spread of paint (use the underside a tin lid as a palette), avoid making it too heavy otherwise it will be blot. Stamp onto a sheet of brown paper, or better still on the reverse of an upcycled sheet of paper.
Stamp several times before re-coating with paint and repeat until the paper is covered. Leave to dry.
4. Fashion trees for festive place settings
Creating a charming festive statement by dressing the table with mini trees as place settings. You can cheat this effect by making homemade mini trees. Simply take cuttings of branches from a real fir tree, and place them in a tealight votive. If you have a real tree as your main tree you can easily snip branches from the back, they won’t be missed.
Add a further touch of personality by dressing the ‘trees’ with mini baubles, that are otherwise lost on the big tree.
5. Do it yourself
Image credit: Simon Whitmore
Go back to basics with a fun little garland made from string and old-fashioned luggage tags – you can hang it across the mantel, along some shelving or at the end of the bed so Santa will know where to stop. Using a new tag for each letter, write out a family member’s name, a Christmas message or a personalised greeting, then string the tags on a length of twine with mini pine cones in between to separate each one.
6. Make twig trees
Image credit: Tim Young
These will bring a modern woody touch to a side table. Take two long, sturdy twigs and join with a hot glue gun. Twist with wreath wire to support. Now, cut and lay out the crosswise twigs. Starting at the top, cut two short twigs of equal length and lay side by side. Repeat and cut two more, slightly longer, a finger space below the first two. Continue, with the twigs gradually getting longer, until you have two triangular shapes, but leave enough trunk to push into a pot.
Fix the cut twigs on to the trunk, working on one side first with a hot glue gun, according to the original layout. Cool, turn over and repeat. Push oasis into a pot, then push in the cooled tree. Top pot with moss and berries, and decorate the twigs with twine or wreath wire.
7. Countdown to Christmas
Image credit: Brent Darby
Simple to make, this lovely alternative advent calendar can be used each year. To make your own, buy 24 plain brown envelopes and emboss or print each one with a number, from one to 24. Then, fill each envelope with a sweet treat or a simple written clue to where a small present is hidden. Peg the envelopes onto four short lengths of cord and fix onto your wall. Use red ribbon and stripy string for an extra festive touch.
With just a few key accessories in scarlet red, snow white and natural materials you can achieve a seasonal Scandi look without breaking the bank. Browse flea markets and car boot fairs for old type-setting blocks so you can spell out a festive greeting. Buy red and white woolly jumpers or blankets from local charity shops and upycycle them into festive cushions or home-made Christmas stockings.
9. Add a sweet candy cane wreath
Image credit: Emma Mitchell
For some edible inspiration look no further than our candy cane decorations. See the candy stick like you never have before – spun into festive lettering, stuck onto Christmas wrapping and tied to wreaths – who knew the candy cane was so versatile? Costing next to nothing for large packs, get stuck in to these sticky goodies.
10. Stick to a theme and save
Image credit: Dominic Blackmore
An icy woodland-inspired theme is magical and will last year after year. What’s more, with a natural look you can dress your home with ‘free’ foliage from your own garden and use inexpensive materials for rustic charm. Dress the mantel with a homemade garland, using pinecones, greenery, nuts and berries from outdoors. Buy inexpensive paper stars to hang from the ceiling, or even make your own from sheets of newspaper.
If you prefer an understated scheme, achieve simple style by supplementing what you already have to create a festive atmosphere that is simple and heartfelt – and not expensive.
Give a neutral living room a Nordic twist with wooden decorations in red, white and warm wood. Swap the bauble-laden Christmas fir for a small-scale twig tree strung with fairy lights and wooden shapes. Decorate the mantel with a pared-back garland and lights with a cardboard wreath suspended above.
12. Get creative by upcycling food tins
Image credit: Polly Eltes
Upcycle simple tin cans and turn them into twinkling lanterns. To create your own, start by peeling the labels off your cans and running them through the dishwasher for a shiny finish. Next, fill them with water and pop them in the freezer. Once frozen, draw a heart or star on paper and tape the sketch onto each tin. With a hammer and a nail, pierce the tin following the pattern (the ice inside will stop the tin denting).
After thawing the tins, wash out them out and add a handle using aluminium wire. Finally, light a nightlight inside and line up two or three in a row for a homemade Christmas decoration with plenty of natural charm.
Decorate the dining room with a simple red and white Scandi theme. You don’t need to spend a fortune on new decorations, just bring out kitchenware you already have in a red, white or natural wood colour theme. Decorate shelves with glass jars filled with red and white treats, such as candy canes, sweets and foil-wrapped biscuits. Tie lengths of red ribbon onto metal cookie-cutters and hang them up as decorations on the branches of a mini tree. Dress dining chairs with red and white tea towels used as simple cushion covers, and tie pine cone decorations to each chair back with lengths of stripy baker’s twine.
14. Collect seasonal pinecones
Image credit: Tim Young
Sometimes, simplicity is key and this effortless display is as easy as it is charming. Take your favourite candles, add a handful of pinecones and one or two choice baubles, or ornaments to fit in with your colour scheme. Place on a mantelpiece in your living room or a console table in your hall for relaxed and elegant festive style.
15. Serve up a treat
Image credit: Chris Alack
Christmas is the only time of year that it’s acceptable to eat your decorations (well, Easter too but lets not get ahead of ourselves) so make the most of it. Gingerbread houses on tabletops, candy canes on trees and iced biscuits as place settings are all cheap and easy decorations – how much can you eat this Christmas?
16. Downsize the tree
Image credit: David Giles
Natural fir will bring the scent of Christmas into your home. If you don’t have enough room or budget for a full-sized tree in your living room, why not display small clippings instead. Pot them up in galvanised metal containers for contemporary, understated style, or wrap them in sisal for a rustic, country appearance. The beauty of these decorations is that they will last for the full festive period – just top up with a little water. Decorate your miniature tree with cinnamon, pine cones and small-scale decorations for an authentic look.
Will you be using any of these budget Christmas decorating ideas this year?
The week before I started eighth grade, I fell in love for the first time. Bored, restless, and desperate for change, I abandoned my pile of library books for something that seemed colorful and new; for something I considered to be a gateway to independence.
I flipped through my first IKEA catalog, and in it found my definition of adulthood.
After plucking the catalog off the bench in my family’s front hallway, I hunkered down in my bedroom and poured over the interiors that looked nothing like the space I was in. I was transfixed by the late-’90s mix of minimalism (such sharp lines and no ornate wood carvings!) and maximalism (so many colors and fabrics!), which were in direct opposition to my own childhood space. I wanted to feel like a grown-up, and IKEA seemed like the path to that. So I did what any 13-year-old in my position would do: I begged my parents to take me there, promising I didn’t want any actual furniture. I merely wanted, say, a rug.
And I got a rug: A small, woven, $7 rug that I ditched after high school because it wasn’t “adult” enough to me anymore. Plus, a lamp and a few shelves my dad put up to replace the bookcase that had long threatened to tumble over. He put them up and I sat on my bed, transfixed, knowing that I was one step closer to abandoning childhood forever. When he finished, I put on Jewel’s Pieces of You—the most grown-ass-woman CD I owned—knowing that everybody at school would be able to tell how far I’d come. (Spoiler alert: My head was still covered in butterfly clips and I wasn’t allowed to see most PG-13 movies.)
But eventually, the older you get, the more jaded you inevitably become. And in desperation to eject myself from the earnest person I used to be, I went into my late teens and early twenties determined not to love or like anything that once defined me. And this included the IKEA catalog. While my bedroom still consisted almost entirely of the brand’s furniture, I assured anybody who came over that it was out for sheer convenience.
Ultimately, I’ve started to move a little closer to the idea of happiness that fuelled me once upon a time.
Then, I ventured into my 30s and I discovered that growing up and morphing into an adult doesn’t mean you have to set fire to the parts of yourself that ushered you into being who you are. As I prepped to move into the apartment I’m in now, I jumped back into the IKEA catalog “for research purposes” and realized I’d rather buy furniture I could afford and put together with my dad than anything that cost two months’ rent. And most importantly, I learned that wanting to re-create that feeling of independence I felt with my first IKEA purchase was okay. Ultimately, I’ve started to move a little closer to the idea of happiness that fuelled me once upon a time.
Which, I know, I can’t totally get with the acquisition of more Malm. But my return to the open arms of the IKEA catalog has been like an extension of my love of vintage clothing: As an adult, I can finally combine what I thought was cool back in the ’90s with what I think is cool now. I can stop running from the embarrassing enthusiasm of my wee baby self because her tastes set me up for what I love now. And that’s something worth celebrating.
This year, after a morning spent flipping through the glossy pages, I found myself at IKEA again. I wanted the type of rugs I’d condemned to die once I hit high school. And then I started looking at desks, knowing that my childhood bedroom—that I still stay in when visiting my parents—needed somewhere for me to work. And right now, I’m sitting at that desk, typing this story, and pretty sure that whether visiting my IKEA-filled apartment or this very room, 13-year-old me would be pretty psyched about her adult choices.
A spectacular modern build in the a rural countryside setting
Coachmans Lodge is a stunning contemporary retreat set in a secluded location in Farnham, Surrey. It’s the contemporary architectural style that led us to envision this impressive house staring on Grand Designs. As far as we know it hasn’t actually been on the show, just for the record – we can just imagine it.
The thoughtfully designed property to make the most of the surrounding scenery, built by the current owners only 10 years ago.
The modern layout creates the perfect rooms for entertaining – all with a great use of glass and bi-folding doors, enchanting the views over the surrounding lakes with a south-westerly facing gardens.
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While there are currently three bedrooms in the main house, the space allows for with some simple alteration.
A kitchen/dining space has never looked so good! This enormous space is a vision with its rustic wide wooden floorboards and painted kitchen cabinetry.
The generous living room is a great entertaining space. Complete with a library-style wall of shelves, opulent velvet sofas and a statement fireplace – it has all the ingredienst to make yourself right at home.
The perfect place to host dinner parties, the dining room is a captivating space. Just off the large kitchen area is a space large enough to entertain on a grand scale.
The open-plan aspect, with the landing room above, and the glass roof ensures the space feels very inviting with an open to all vibe.
The house is nestled on a secluded idyllic lakeside position. The thoughtfully planted surrounding grounds have been conscious designed to encourage wildlife.
This incredibly house is currently on the market with agents Savills, with an asking price of £3.5million.
Natural linen upholstery brings a fresh perspective to this smart button-back armchair. One is a talking point, but put a pair together and you’ll really get the conversation started.
Vanessa Richmond, Editorial Director of Country Homes & Interiors says: ‘At Country Homes & Interiors, we love to showcase the best of modern British country style. Beautifully made furniture and home accessories that put a contemporary twist on time-tested traditional pieces, so they suit our lives and homes today.
We’re proud to have partnered with One.World to create this handpicked collection to enhance any room.’