Bowood House, near Calne in Wiltshire, is a fine example of an English Country House. The gardens and part of the house are open April-November and are well worth a visit. Every spring the owners open their justly famous Rhododendron Walk to the public, and this year I was able to go. But though the rhododendrons are spectacular, my interest was elsewhere…IMG_0339

House Update: Guest Bathroom

The guest bathroom is almost finished.
This room is on the 1930s plans as the “Maid’s Room” and has been somewhat altered over the years. This is how it looked when we moved in:
IMG_0334 The only original thing was a little bit of the tile. So I didn’t feel too bad about ripping everything out and starting again! Here it is in February of this year:
IMG_3705 And here is where we are now:
IMG_5445 The basic layout remains the same, with the tub replaced by a walk-in shower. The original master bathroom sink I had hoped to re-use was damaged during demolition but the new vanity (from Restoration Hardware) reflects the art deco style of the rest of the bedrooms. The medicine cabinet IS original to the house, again salvaged from the master suite.
IMG_5448 The tile design is based on that used throughout the rest of the house, re-imagined in crema marfil and emprador light marble. I love this combination!
IMG_0336 The bedroom doesn’t get much light, so we are replacing the solid paneled door with one of these glazed doors:
IMG_5452 which originally led from the upstairs landing to a sun terrace on the roof. Sadly, the original 1930s glass needs to be replaced for safety, but at least it will allow some extra light into the room when the door is closed.
We are still lacking curtains and a coat of paint, and there is a towel rail to go above the toilet, but beyond that we are done! Roll on the visitors…

Friday I’m in Love: The English Hedgerow

The perfect English hedgerow is an ephemeral thing and this year I was lucky to be on the spot at the right time. The ingredients are:
Hedges (of course!)
IMG_0329 Key trees are oak, ash, blackthorn or sloe, beech, hazel and the occasional horse chestnut, but absolutely vital to a spring hedgerow is hawthorn, or as it’s known when in flower, “May”.
IMG_0330 Occasionally the “hedge” is a wall…
IMG_0331 …and there should be the odd gate or gap to allow a view of the fields beyond.
IMG_4657 Wild flowers peeping out from the grass;
IMG_0332 And last but by no means least: cow parsley. Not that spectacular seen singly,
IMG_4659 but in drifts…beautiful!

Monday Pinspiration: New England Style

Back in England for some necessary chores and thinking of what needs doing to our house here. The living room is in sore need of an update! Apart from installing some bookshelves, we’ve done virtually nothing to the room since we moved in almost 10 years ago and it’s starting to look tired. The sofa, in particular, is beginning to look a little shabby.
Currently everything is pretty neutral (whites/creams and natural oak) and I’m wondering about introducing a colour. The house is “New England” style and it’s by a lake, so the obvious direction is Cape Cod/Hamptons (without too many nautical clichés!). Plus we have a beautiful abstract landscape by our friend Henrie Haldane in tones of blue and brown so it would be nice to pick up on some of those shades.
So maybe a slatey-blue sofa? IMG_0310Or tan/brown?
IMG_0283Or a mix of the two? IMG_0281I love the contrast piping on this image!
Maybe I should recover the armchair in a contrast colour? IMG_0284 IMG_0286And keep the sofa light…
with contrast cushions?IMG_0301
(not the anchor, in case you were wondering, but I love the knitted stripes).
I definitely want to bring in some texture: rope and wicker baskets, driftwood, chunky knits and soft throws.
IMG_0304 IMG_0309 IMG_0280
Another of Henrie’s paintings would be lovely. IMG_0294And I’ve taken quite a lot of photos of the lake over the years, so maybe some should go on display? IMG_0306 IMG_0307What do you think?
All images from Pinterest

Happiness Project: Reading Lists

I never need to make the resolution to read more; reading is one of my main pleasures in life.

And travel is for me a good opportunity to catch up on some different reading, so my packing for trips back to Europe aways includes a variety of books I might not get round to reading otherwise. This trip I’m (re)reading “Howard’s End is on the Landing” by Susan Hill, in which the author spends a year reading – and writing about – books she already owns. It has started two trains of thought…

The first is that, like Ms Hill, I have books on my shelves that I have either not yet read, or which warrant re-reading. I’m going to set aside a bookcase for these so that they are always on hand when I’m in need of literary  inspiration. There are probably enough that I won’t need to buy a new book for six months if not more! Not that it will stop me…

And the second is to actually write down the titles of the interesting books Ms Hill mentions that I haven’t got, so that I can read them too. It’s going to be quite a list!

Which leads me to more lists:

A friend posted this IMG_0188


on Facebook and I’m trying it for a different approach to book selections. I’m working on my first line and so far I’ve read or am reading: “The Signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert – over 500 pages; “The Black Moth” by Georgette Heyer – author under 30; “Paprika” by Yasutaka Tsutsui – one-word title; “The Killing Floor” by Lee Child – first book by a favourite author; “Black Cherry Blues” by James Lee Burke – book a friend loves. Only 150 pages of the first to go…another book that’s in my packing!

More of a challenge is this list. And this is well-nigh impossible! So far I’m up to 31 and 110 respectively. I don’t expect to finish…

What do you like to read. How do you make your selections?


Friday I’m in Love: Bacon Sarnie

Heading back to England for a few errands and a catch-up with everyone. I’m already salivating at the prospect of indulging in some of the foods I can’t get here…

Top of the list is Bacon. By which I mean back bacon. IMG_0186There is no American equivalent. This is one of the few English things I truly miss…to the extent that I even did a course at Altadena’s Institute of Domestic Technology to learn how to make it myself. Fun as well as useful…though I have yet to source the perfect cut. I’d love to hear from anyone in the Pasadena area who knows where I can get the right part of the pig!

Bacon is best eaten as a “sarnie” or butty”, the perfect indulgent breakfast, and an excellent hangover remedy!

What do you miss from your home?

Descanso in April

More technical issues this month, but I did manage to make one successful trip…

I fell in love with some new trees. This (I think) is the redbud I photographed before, now in full leaf.

P1020365What a beauty!

A strawberry tree in the entrance courtyard.


This is a magnolia, I think. Just beautiful.


A huge bottle-brush tree by the Bird Observation Station.


And I was captivated by the tulip tree outside the Boddy House.

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