Design Inspiration: Henrie Haldane

On my last trip to England I managed to connect with the talented painter Henrie Haldane. We originally met through a women’s business network and I was instantly captivated by her work. Lovely Man and I commissioned this 20140731-081248-29568428.jpgfor our house in England, inspired by photographs I’ve taken of nearby lakes.

She now lives in Spain and the colours and light of her new home shine through in her latest works. 20140731-071513-26113813.jpgWe commissioned another painting, in a darker palette inspired by this20140731-071513-26113055.jpg and on my current trip I’ve finally been able to see it in place.  

 Isn’t it gorgeous?

Henrie can be contacted via her website



Pink Roses

I love almost every colour of rose, but I think pink roses are my favourite. And even though it goes against my California-native/drought-tolerant principals here in California, I couldn’t resist a few David Austin roses in my new planting schemes. This

Gertrude Jekyll rose with deer sageis one of my all-time favorites, Gertrude Jekyll, planted last year and finally hitting her stride. Doesn’t she look great against the grey of the deer sage?

And this

Charles Rennie MackIntosh budsis a new friend, Charles Rennie Mackitosh, planted in February and about to reward me for my faith. You can take the girl out of England… 🙂


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…

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

House Update: Crane Day…again…

I thought once our roof was on we would be done with heavy machinery. But no…

Once the house was done we wanted to add a pool. The original plan was for a classically-styled in-ground pool with a spa and a tanning platform, all tastefully landscaped to match the rest of the house. Then we found out how long the planning process would take and what it would cost in permits and fees before we even broke ground, and we simply didn’t want to wait. So, on to plan B.

We’re neither of us big swimmers, and there isn’t much room on the terrace, so we decided to go for an above-ground swim-spa. It has seats around the edges for relaxation, and a deeper section in the centre where one can do water-based exercises, or swim against a current. We chose one made by Arctic Spas, which arrived on a lorry from Canada, and after some palaver getting it off the back of the truck, sat on our driveway for a week or so while we did the prep work on the terrace.


But, it weighs 2000lb, so there was no way we were carrying it around the back by ourselves! Which brings me to the heavy machinery…

First came thisIMG_4037

Which lifted the tub off the driveway, across the garden and into the back…


And then came this little baby



which was walked through the garden onto the terrace, where is did this…


…and then this…


After some maneouvring


the pool is in place and in use.



It’s not as pretty as we would have liked (more landscaping required!) but it took eight weeks to install, from placing the order to swimming. Yay!

House Update: Guest Rooms

What makes the ideal guest room? We are expecting a visit from Loveley Man’s’s eldest daughter and her family this week so this question is very much on my mind. For me, the perfect room combines practicality with comfort, and I take inspiration from some of the nicer hotels I have stayed in.

First is the bed. I’m a bit of a princess when it comes to sleeping, so I add a down topper to the mattress. Good quality linens that feel gorgeous on the skin. A pretty spread. Plenty of pillows for comfort and support. And an extra blanket for snuggling – rarely needed in California I know, but so cosy!


Closet space and hangers. Guests may be only staying overnight, but they’ll probably need to hang SOMETHING. My parents always complained that the guest rooms in our English house had no hanging space so I ended up putting a bar and hangers on the back of the bedroom door. Better than nothing. The house here has built-in closets in every bedroom (got to love America!) so I just need to add hangers.

A night stand with good lighting for reading. Storage for loose items…I use pretty plates.


Adequate (and easily found) sockets/outlets. This is my biggest beef with a lot of hotel rooms – where do you plug in your phone or camera charger? That said, I once stayed in a hotel which had sockets built into the bases of its table lamps. Genius! At home I make do with power strips or charging butlers. I also stash spare phone leads in the drawer of the nightstand in case a guest forgets theirs.

Lots of  towels. I like to wrap myself in a bath sheet when I’m done in the bath or shower but I also add smaller towels and face cloths, prominently displayed.


The guest room also has a couple of hotel-style bathrobes, for extra welcoming factor…

Spare toilet rolls. There’s nothing more embarrassing than having to ask..! I learned from experience and keep a basket by every toilet in the house. I also make sure I have spare toothbrushes, razors etc. available, just in case.


That’s the necessities covered. Then come the welcoming touches that make people feel you are glad to have them stay! Flowers or a pretty plant in the bedroom are a nice touch, but again I tend to lean towards the practical…

Lotions and potions. Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, soap…you get the idea. I like L’Occitane’s Verveine (Verbena) range, which smells so refreshing in the morning, and is available in travel sizes. And the leaf-shaped guest soaps are so cute!


But this idea


is nice too……a future project! And a scented pillow spray to encourage peaceful sleep…

A hair dryer. And a mirror. This Venetian beauty


came with us from England.

Midnight snacks! So nice not to have to wander around a strange house in the dark if you can’t sleep! While we can’t run to guest mini-bars, I do provide a tray with an electric kettle, cups, and a choice of teas, coffee and hot chocolate, plus nibbles and a water carafe and glass.


An iron. My everyday iron is one of those scary steam-generating types, so I have a spare for guests. I also have a dinky table-top ironing board from my dress-designing days that hangs in the guest closet, too.

And books! I rarely travel without them, but it’s always nice to have some new reading matter. There are bookshelves in almost every room of our house but for guests I try to offer some favourite easy reads, plus a selection of local guides.


What would be in your ideal guest room?

Friday I’m in Love: Pool-friendly plants

I’m planning a planter to go alongside our new hot-tub (on which more next week). From a practical point of view the plants need to be hardy, drought tolerant and evergreen. Ideally they should be tall or visually interesting, to disguise the boring wooden sides of the spa.

I’m leaning towards succulents. Nothing spiny or sharp, but there are some beauties out there that would make a striking display. Here are some inspirations from Pinterest…what do you think?