GLOBAL FUSION!! Taking inspiration from the tiles of Lisbon

Whilst walking the hilly streets of Lisbon I was captured by the tiled buildings I was surrounded by, compelled to take numerous photos of the ceramic-shelled architecture!  I’m not entirely sure why!

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Having done a small amount of research I found that the art of the ceramic tile in Lisbon is known as ‘Azulejos’, an Arabic word meaning ‘polished stone’.  These tiles are used to decorate everything, from walls of churches and monasteries to houses, subways and park benches.  They came about in the Gothic period where there appeared to be a need to decorate large expanses of white plaster.  In Italy they used frescos, in Portugal there were tiles!  As well as serving a decorative purpose they also served a functional purpose in temperature control.  To begin with the tiles were imported from Seville and in accordance with Islamic law were not allowed to incorporate human forms and so consisted of geometric patterns- this could be the reason why I was so taken by them- my geeky mathematic mind has always been drawn to geometric images!  Later on the Portugese started to produce their own and began incorporating human figures and animals.DSC03195 - Copy

The dominant colours in the tiles are green, blue, yellow and white.  Although these tiles can be found in other European cities it is quite apparent that in Lisbon the Azulejos take on an expressive poetic form lacking in others.

Having been captured by these tiles I was very excited to find that B&Q stock tile effect wallpaper at just £10 a roll and Topps tiles sell ‘Lisbon effect’ tiles at £40-£70 per square meter.

I love the idea of being able to incorporate elements of my travel into my interior design and retro furniture collection from around Europe.  With high street shops now stocking these ranges and restored furniture from around Europe readily available this can be done easily and cost effectively.

P.S. Lisbon is an amazing city to visit!

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With the historic buildings and trams interspersed with grittier more bohemian areas reminiscent of East Berlin and the best custard tarts you will ever eat Lisbon is a city you could visit again and again and always find new corners and experiences.  Having been to numerous European cities there have not been any others that I have felt a need to return to!



5 Tips for Mixing Modern and Retro Furniture

For a long time I believed that all furniture in one room had to be made from the same wood and be from the same furniture range.  I have more recently become aware that this is not true!  There are no rules that state this and incorporating contrasting styles of furniture and accessories into a room adds texture and can bring a room to life.  My house is definitely a mixture of styles and none of it was entirely planned or possibly to anyone’s other than my taste but I’m quite happy with it!  Using a mixture of styles also makes it easier for a room to evolve as trends and your tastes change- bits can be added or removed without having to start from scratch or redecorate.

There are rules that need to be followed when attempting to combine modern and vintage or retro style furniture otherwise you’ll end up with a crazy, headache inducing eclectic hotch potch of a room!

Number one is to go for a neutral backdrop- greys, creams or whites then add interest with your furnishings.  This will also ensure any statement pieces will really stand out and will not be lost within the room.

So number two is the 80:20 rule.  As long as you stick to a modern style for 80% of your furnishings the other 20% can be made up with either vintage or retro.  Maybe try pairing a modern contemporary table with some retro style chairs?  Or vice versa a retro desk with a modern contemporary chair?

I love this dining area- from designer Avocado Sweets. A really lovely example of how vintage can be in harmony with modern. (Photo credit Fisher Hart).

Click here to see more photos of the above apartment and other designs by Avocado Sweets!

Number three- make sure that the 20% vintage/retro items are evenly distributed throughout the room.  One random piece of French vintage furniture may look a bit odd amongst its modern counterparts however dotting some French vintage style accessories such as a lamp or jug on these modern pieces will help!

Number four- don’t mix ornate styles such as Chinese or baroque with simple styles such as arts and crafts or Danish retro.  They do not mix well!

And finally number five- make sure every piece of furniture and accessory is beautiful in it’s own right.

I read somewhere that a successful space should be made up of smaller vignettes, meaning that if you took photos of random areas of a room each one should be an exquisite snap shot.

For inspiration visit my board on Pinterest specifically made for the mixing of retro/vintage and modern furniture.

The Adventures of KPlan Kate in Paris: Lobsters, Retro Furniture and Battlesbridge on Crystal Meth

I have just returned from our adventures in Paris and am absolutely shattered- if only from driving a massive van clearly not designed for girls!

The van we took this time was massive- we needed a crew van because Steve joined us on our expedition and a transit only has two passenger seats.  If I was worried about driving the transit-that was nothing compared to this beast!  I hired it from a company called lobster van hire!

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Who knows what kind of trouble we’d have been in without this sign on the van!
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Our Parisian Home!

The van was ok to drive but being a girl with small feet I found it incredibly uncomfortable to drive because I couldn’t rest my heel on the floor with my foot on the clutch, which really does your calves in!  I will take this into consideration when I come to buying my own van!  We got to Paris about 11pm and by the time we had met the guy who was to let us into our Parisian apartment for the next 4 nights (I decided this would be a better option with the girls and financially so we wouldn’t have to eat out every night- check out you can rent peoples apartments/houses while they’re away and live like you actually come from that city!  Steve’s neice put me onto it and I was really impressed!) it was about 11.30pm.  I then sent Steve out on a wine run while I unpacked and put the girls to bed with lovely clean teeth.  About 15minutes later Steve bounds back in really chuffed with himself armed with McDonalds- I was really pleased when he went and got the girls back up again to eat Big Macs!  Very little sleep was achieved that night and I got us all up again the next morning at 6.30am to attack the first flea market on my list!

We checked out a market called ‘Marche aux Puces (French for flea market) de la Porte de Vanves. pairs may 2015 012 This market is south of the Seine.  I let Steve do the driving (mainly because I was too scared to try to park the van!)- I have never seen anything like the roundabouts in Paris.  They are huge and have a million different exits off them and no distinct lanes!  They are a massive free-for-all.  If you’ve got a weak heart I would definitely recommend never driving in Paris!  So pairs may 2015 014arriving there in one piece (and not having to pay to park because all parking is free in Paris on weekends it appears) we began to wander.  Shortly into our wander Steve pointed out there wasn’t a lot of furniture and I began to worry.  I had also written a little note next to this particular market on the market list  had pre-prepared ‘?not good for furniture’ so it wasn’t boding well.   Also any furniture I had seen and liked was crazily over priced.  Anyway the further we delved the better things were- the market wasn’t huge (compared to the flea market in Tongeren, Belgium- you can read about it here) but spanned over a couple of streets and we found quite a few retro chairs and a desk  plus a nice antique style oak wardrobe.  I think overall this market was my second favourite of the trip.  Although it’s not huge the content was pretty good, the atmosphere was good and you can find yourself some bargains if you delve deep enough.  There were also some really weird and wonderful treasures to be found!

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These things caught my eye-I can vaguely remember them from my childhood-pretty sure my brother had one-any idea what they were called???

On day two we were en route to Marche aux Puces de St Ouen when we stumbled across a market in Vincennes.  I did a bit of research to try to find out what the market was called but l’m pretty sure if was a market on purely for the bank holiday weekend.  I think there is a market in Vincennes but it’s more foody and is on a Saturday and Wednesday.  The one we stumbled across was really good.  I bought a couple of retro leather chairs and by now was getting a lot more confident in the bartering and getting to grips with French numbers.  I was fairly impressed with how much GCSE French I remembered.  I have Mrs Howes to thank for that!

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The tree lined market at Porte de Vincennes

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After we’d exhausted that market-or rather the market had exhausted the girls we headed on to the Marche aux Puces De St Ouen.  And I have never seen anything like it.  It was HUGE!  It was described online as Europe’s biggest flea market.  I am not surprised-apparently there are 15 markets all in one. Each area of the market appeared to be very different.  The first part we arrived was called Paul Bert and Steve described it as ‘Battlesbridge on meth’.  Anyone who ever visited Battlesbridge Antique centre in Essex will know that it is basically people selling lots of over priced junk!  This place was like that except the junk was more extravagant and more outrageously priced.  Worth a look though!

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The Paul Bert Market area

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On leaving that area we stopped for moules and frites.  And the customer service was nothing I’ve never seen before!  An American guy seated behind us complained that all his mussels were empty shells.  The owner came out to speak to him and said that the mussels might be at the bottom of the bowl.  The customer said that ‘no, they weren’t’ and so the owner took his bowl away and said ‘ok, goodbye’!

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The next area we went in was a slightly dulled down version of this and then we entered an area which was a little bit grubby and I think there may have been a few opportunist stall holders who had thrown down a bit of cloth and any old bits of rubbish they’d managed to put their hands to!  Then we moved onto an area which had loads of stalls selling tracksuits and trainers!  I’m sure had we have stayed and explored more we may have found some decent areas but I was feeling uncomfortable in the area we were in and the girls had certainly had enough.  The reviews I’d read about this market weren’t great and I have to say I wasn’t keen!

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Our final market trip on the Monday was Les Puces de Montreuil.  This was more of a market than a flea market.  The first area we walked through was all ram shackle market stalls with all sorts of junk-it was quite unsavoury!  Then we headed down the road and found a beautiful chair.  This however was the only stall selling furniture and this chair was the only nice piece!  Moving further into the market it became apparent I was not going to find any thing of interest.  There were mainy stalls selling new but cheap and nasty clothes.  One little gem though- I found a stall selling upholstery material at a price so good I still can’t work out how the stall holder makes any sort of profit!

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I’m sure there are many other flea markets in Paris but if I had to recommend one to go to if you like that sort of thing I would have to say the market in Vincennes was my favourite but since it’s not there all the time check out Marche aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves.

Oh, and we did manage to squeeze in a bit of site seeing!

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The New Adventures of KPlan Kate: Louis Chairs, Stab Wounds and Gel Nails

Since my blog is about KPlan Kate and her furniture I thought I should really write one about some furniture!

In Belgium I purchased three French Louis style chairs.  Now there are four different styles of Louis chair.  I will tell you all about them!

So, there were four King Louis’ of France and the furniture at each of their different times of reign had a different style.  Fashions in those days developed based on what the King liked, so the style of furniture the King of the moment liked became fashionable and so the style was named after him.  King Louis XIII reined from 1610 to 1643 during the late renaissance period.  The chairs from this era have straight backs, turned legs and more often than not, curved arms.  At the bottom of the chair, between the legs they have ‘H’ shaped stretchers to hold them together.  They looked quite like this:

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King Louis XIV reigned from 1643 to 1715 during the Baroque period.  These chairs tended to be much larger providing more space for the large puffy dresses worn by the ladies at that time!  He also built himself a huge Chateau with huge rooms and so needed large bits of furniture to fill them! The backs didn’t tend to be attached to the seat of the chairs as they were previously and the arms and legs were very intricately carved and sometimes gilded with bronze or silver.

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Then came Louis XV from 1715 to 1774.  The Louis XV style was Rococo.  The big difference here was that the chairs have a cabriole leg-kind of like an ‘S’ scroll shape.  Again the chair evolved to fit the fashion of the time with shorter arms to accommodate the large hoops in the women’s dresses.   The chairs at this time were quite feminine with curves and fancy carved motifs and gilding.  They looked like this:

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The final Louis was Louis XVI and the style was neoclassical.  The biggest clue as to whether you have a Louis XVI chair is again in the leg.  They always have tapered straight legs.  They were trying to recreate the patterns of the ancient Greeks and Romans in these chairs, so they are carved with laurel leaf wreaths and fluted columns.

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Having looked at hundreds of pictures of Louis style chairs there seem to be a lot of overlaps in the various styles but the biggest clue is always the legs.  The three chairs I picked up in Belgium all have straight tapered with laurel leaves carved into the arms.  They also have column patterns around the seat.

So, I set about restoring the chair I thought would be easiest.  The upholstery was in really good condition.  It is black velvet.  The frame, however was less desirable.  It was really chipped and parts had completely crumbled away.

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I set about filling these crumbled bits with some wood filler and a teaspoon!  I always find myself using cutlery for this kind of thing despite possessing a complete plethora of tools.

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After waiting for the filler to dry I sanded it with some really fine sandpaper, then gave the whole frame a lick of black gloss paint, added some new little pads on the bottom of the legs and the chair looks like new!

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The other two chairs are currently causing me a lot of grief.  They need reupholstering and the frames need stripping and re-finishing.  Before I could even start on all this I’ve had to remove close to a million pins and staples just to remove the old material.  I’ve endured stab wounds from the steak knife I’ve been using along with the more conventional tack remover and nausea from the paint stripper fumes!  As soon as I have finished I will write a blog all about it!

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On the plus side-my gel nails withstood the paint stripper!!

The New Adventures of KPlan Kate: Dead Birds, Versace Trays and Electric Guitars

So, on Thursday KPlan Kate went to the auctions.  She attended not only one auction but two!

The first was in Brentwood- Brentwood Antique Auctions.  It was in a tiny little wooden shed type thing with all the lots (about 600ish) and the bidders all crammed in.  I had seen from the online catalogue that the furniture wasn’t happening until about lot 500.  I had no idea how long each lot would take and therefore had no idea how long I’d have to wait until the furniture came up.  I was incredibly disappointed to find that the auctioneer spoke at a normal speed- Steve said I’d been confusing antiques auctions with cattle auctions in my head.  I’d got this vision of someone speaking at breakneck speed in some kind of tongues.  I think this was why I’d always thought that an auction would be a scary place!

I’d seen a few bits of interest on the on line catalogue but felt very self conscious trying to squeeze past the bidders, negotiating guide dogs to try to find the bits I’d seen online.  I could feel mental daggers being plunged into me!   I managed to squeeze to the front to speak to one of the auction staff to see what time he thought the furniture lots might start and he worked out that if there were 120 per hour then it would be about 3pm before they got even close.  Perfect!  School run time!  Obviously there was no point hanging around to see how much the Winnie the Pooh figures went for or the milk glass snuff bottle!  The man told me I could bid by phone if I wanted to but because I hadn’t really gotten to look properly at anything I decided against it.  I guess it was my own fault since they had a viewing day the day before!

One positive note to come out of the Brentwood expedition was that I realised auctions weren’t as scary as I thought they’d be and I probably would be brave enough to bid in the future-so long as the timing doesn’t interfere with the school run!

The luxuriously spacious Chalkwell Auctions!

From Brentwood we set off for the Chalkwell auctions-which sneakily weren’t in Chalkwell at all- they were in a unit at the Temple Farm Industrial Estate in Southend!  They had viewing time up until the auction started at 1pm AND they had coffee!  It was a lot more spacious and you could wander round and see all the lots properly.  There were about four lots I was interested in but again the furniture didn’t start until about lot 430 which would have been after I’d had to pick the girls up from school.  Grrrrrr!  But then I spoke to one of the men that worked there and he showed me how to bid on line.  I’d assumed it would be like ebay where you put your max bid but it’s NOTHING like ebay!  It was sooo clever- I am really amazed by it!  You have to register but then you log in to the auction from home and it’s live-you can hear everything and then press the bid button if you want to place a bid and it’s as if you were there!  The only downside is you have pay an extra 3% on top of the hammer price and the VAT.

I went home and set up an account and saw that it was up to about lot 100.  As I left to go on the school run it was on lot 200ish.  I was sure I’d miss the one I wanted-lot 432.  I dashed to the computer when we got back and I hadn’t missed it!  So I dashed upstairs to fold washing then bolted back down to check the bidding- still a few to go, so I ran upstairs and changed my bed, then rushed back to the computer, then sped to the kitchen to make a sausage and tomato pasta sauce, then sped back to the lounge, then sprinted back to the kitchen to put some pasta on, then legged it back to the computer……. we were then just getting to lot 430.  I could feel myself getting all het up- not sure why but I felt really nervous and excited as my eagerly awaited lot arrived.  I was after four beech dining chairs to go with the table I bought at the Belgian brocante.  And I won!   For £5 less than I  had decided I would bid up to.  Then I got all cocky when 434 came up-the South Amercian hardwood side table I had my eye on and missed out by £10.  But as the guy at the auction house said ‘there’s always the next sale’!

A Beautiful Dead Scraggy Bird!

They had absolutely everything you could think of at Chalkwell Auctions-from Versace trays, to a dead scraggy bird in a glass box-I wish I’d seen whether that sold!  There were electric guitars that fetched over £600-I guess they must have been pretty special!

I was really shocked by how exciting and nail biting I found the whole thing.  I was also struck by how I stuck out like a sore thumb after thinking about it afterwards.  I didn’t really fit in with the auction demographics.  Maybe this is because auctions, running a home and school runs don’t really mix so well!

The New Adventures of KPlan Kate: Why We Didn’t Find a Flea Market in Waterloo, Blue Moustaches and One Horrendous Wedgy

Another early start but this time I fed the girls before we left for Brussels leaving them with one less thing to whinge about.  I checked and checked again that there would be a flea market in Brussels and we successfully found it with little fuss-even after some scare mongering from the hotel receptionist that there would be nowhere to park.  This was where the friendly Belgian tramp came into play, helping with my first ever van reverse park!

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A pretty good first attempt (if you overlook the wheel slightly on the curb)

My excitement was quickly crushed though- the market was RUBBISH! and that is exactly what they were selling. I’ve never seen anything like it- I can’t believe that anyone would want to touch that stuff let alone give money for it and take it home. Where they found all this Sh*t from I’ll never know.

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Why would anyone want to root about in this? I like other people’s junk but this is a step too far!
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A cold depressing scene!

We had a bit of a wander round and a hot chocolate in an extremely unpleasant cafe then set off in search of some culture. One thing we noticed was that the cafes in Belgium all seem to charge you 50 cents to use the loo.  In this café we walked into the toilets and turned straight round and walked out because they were so undersirable-then I noticed after we’d paid the bill we’d been charged for the pleasure of observing the squalor!  I was really disappointed after the relative success of Sunday. But I kept telling myself ‘this is a research trip’ and I have certainly learnt where not to go!  I did however purchase two Louis IVX chairs (which Steve on my return has bagsied!)

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Look at the expression on Hazel’s face as the happy lady approached singing extremely loudly!

We had a nice day in Brussels. Met a mental woman on the tram (who, because she boarded the tram with us and stood with us for the first part of the journey everyone assumed was with us!), ate waffles for lunchbelgium feb 2015 108 and paid 29euros for the car park. The girls spent the whole day of some sort of sugar high like wild animals after a kind (?) shopkeeper gave them both a free lolly in the shape of the facebook ‘like’ symbol. This also tainted the photos somewhat because they both had blue beards and tashes from the blue colouring. I’m not sure it will ever come off their perfect little faces!

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If it did this to their little faces, what did it do to their insides??!

The following day was Hazel’s 7th birthday and after the present opening ceremony and a fairly lazy breakfast- ruined by a tantrumming child allowed to run free around the breakfast room by his parents (I don’t ever remember my two ever doing that in a public eatery and I’m fairly sure if they had I would have removed them!) we headed to Butte du Lion for a small amount of education- mainly for my benefit.  This is located in Waterloo and is a lion statue on top of a mound overlooking the field in which the battle of Waterloo took place.  We climbed the 226 steps to the top then descended immediately.belgium feb 2015 204belgium feb 2015 189

Anyway, the point to including this little snippet of un-furniture related information is that after driving to Waterloo it became evident that the Carrefour car park the sat nav had taken us to was probably not in Waterloo and was why we didn’t find an amazing flea market there.  Next time I will use the quaint old fashioned navigation method-a map.

Another unrelated piece of info in case you are ever travelling to Brussels with kids check out Ocenade.  It’s an excellent swimming pool with an indoor beach, wave machines, climbing frames in the pool, waterslides.  My girls loved it.  They didn’t really attempt any slides except one Hazel fancied that looked fairly innocuous.  It was outside and I stupidly assumed the drop pool would be heated to some level.  It turned out that this innocent-looking little blue slide was a drop slide and I acquired the most painful wedgy on hitting the sub-zero icy water I have ever had-and that is saying something-my brothers have given me some life threatening wedgies in the past!

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On Wednesday we paid a visit to Bruges- until that point Belgium hadn’t really won me over.  Bruges is beautiful.belgium feb 2015 304belgium feb 2015 278

I would have liked to have spent more time exploring Bruges and all it’s antique shops but my children were not up for this-fairly understandably when I stopped and thought about it.  All they were doing was walking and being cold.  It occurred to me that they were not interested in the architecture or scenery that I was admiring!  I did spend some time talking to the owner of an antiques shop, Jan, where they restore all their own furniture and may be of help to me when sourcing interesting bits of furniture.  I will take Steve with me instead to Bruges next time and make an appointment to visit Jan’s warehouse.  Hopefully his face will not look like this………

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Aggy Hazy!