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!



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: 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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Wild animals in Brussels!belgium feb 2015 133
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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!

The New Adventures of KPlan Kate: From Biomedical Science to French Oak and Polish

feb2015 030I am going to start my own business! And I am going to record it all in a blog!

When I say ‘start my own business’ I really mean develop my side line Kplan Furniture. A decision made out of necessity after my career as a biomedical scientist in the NHS was rudely snatched away from me by a private company who prefer money over their staff. Although I still have a job, the lab will be moving to a highly inconvenient location and I didn’t sign up for an hour long commute to work when I moved mine and my girls entire life to Leigh-on-Sea for the senior biomedical scientist post 5 years ago.  I’d been painting a few bits of furniture here and there when people off loaded their unwanted bits onto me for a bit of pocket money now and again but what I really have in mind is big beautiful solid pieces of antique furniture that can be restored to their original beauty with a bit (or possibly a lot) of TLC.  I’ve always loved furniture and interiors-used to spend hours as a child carefully cutting out pictures of beds and chest of drawers and filing them with my numerous colour charts I’d accumulated from visits to Do-It-All.

10577154_1436485653299373_7665468594065964548_n (2)So, I spent approximately six months feeling really scared about the future not knowing what I was going to do after the migration of cytology to Basildon –I have two little girls who I am bringing up and supporting on my own and depend solely on me – and feeling extremely sorry for myself- moaning to everyone who would listen ‘Cytology is all I know-I only know about cells, I can’t adapt to anything else, I can’t apply my skills to anything, everything is rubbish, poor me etc- and generally making everyone around me- particularly my boyfriend’s lives unpleasant. (My boyfriend said I was being negative, I called it realistic!)

After one of my episodes of intense moaning and a few tears (of which there have been loads) I decided on a visit to citizen’s advice to see if I gave up work all together whether I would be entitled to any sort of benefit at all to tide me over while I worked on developing Kplan. As I probably already knew but chose to be slightly hopeful, because I had worked and always paid my tax contributions I would be entitled to exactly NOTHING. The very helpful lady- Pam I think her name was- did point me in the direction of some websites and set me up with a telephone appointment with a business advisor from


I went home armed with the websites but I honestly thought I wouldn’t bother looking at them (I was still in self pity/destruction mode at this point). But for some strange reason I decided I’d look at the Chamber of Commerce website ( Something I’d heard of but never gave what it was any sort of thought-but it turns out it’s all about promoting and protecting local businesses.   Annoyingly I just caught the tail end of some government funded free courses based on starting your own business. I guess these courses are aimed at the unemployed to get them to start a business thus reducing unemployment stats. I did book onto a course called ‘starting an online business’ though. Still feeling a bit rubbish at this point.

Then, completed unrelatedly, because my friend Charlotte had started a new diet and had lost loads of weight I decided to give that a go too because I’d been getting gradually rounder by the day- which gave me something else I could moan and whinge about. And I never imagined how AMAZING it would be! I feel soooooo much better both physically and emotionally (doubling the happy pills possibly also had a small part to play)- and I now feel mega excited about trying to develop KPLan!

So the online business start up course happened last Wednesday. The main thing I took away was how important a blog can be for both marketing, documenting my journey and maybe to be of some help to others who may be in my position. So here it is! I said to my boyfriend a couple of hours ago- I’m not great at writing and English was my worst subject at school- I was better at French and it’s not even my actual language. He did point out that I am always correcting his grammar in his texts and that my blog might be ‘content slim’ but at least it will be ‘grammatically heavy’!! I enjoy the word of the day by email as well so I may attempt to slip one or two in here- maybe you can spot them?! Tantara.


Another couple of things I learnt about and will be exploring in the very near future are Stakeholder Mapping which I believe is another term for stalking and Search Engine Optimisation. All very important since it’s all well and good having a wonderful website but not so good if no one ever visits it. I will keep you posted with my findings. Oh and #’s! Just beginning to learn about them. I’d only ever had experience of them in derogatory texts from my ex-husband before and found them quite amusing #justsaying at the end of an insult was my favourite and now most famous amongst my friends. Turns out this is not how you use them! They are more usefully used to group related topics on social media sites. I’ll hopefully have used few by the time I write my next blog- will let you know how it goes!

I am hoping to get involved in Pinterest and teach myself how to use Twitter. But most importantly of all I have an adventure planned for my 2 girls and I. I will be loading them into the back of a van next Saturday and setting sail to Belgium in search of Flea Markets. I have this idea that I’ll be able to source lots of lovely beautiful antique furniture all ready for me to lovingly restore to sell! However the idea at the moment is scaring me sh@#less- driving a transit for the first time and not only that on the other side of the road in a country I’ve never been to, not helped by my current colleagues agreeing that they were also scared for me! If I make it home, I will tell you all about it!