Bitching Barstools

Quasimodo In Leather

The stools had wonderful claw-footed bases. The previous owners had bought them from a dealer years ago and suggested that they may have been in a club at some point: they’re probably right


Oh, they have certainly seen some life. The originally seat covers were unspeakable. One of the seats had been slashed at some stage and the foam was bulging through its gaffer-taped cover, but the bases alone were worth a punt and I could always get new seat pads if necessary. At least, that’s what I thought…

…until I saw how expensive the replacement seat pads would be – way more than the bases cost me – and I decided to salvage whatever I could, even poor old ‘Quasimodo’ P1000652

When I found an enormous pale green hide at an unbeatable price, the stars were aligned, so to speakIMG_7789

I removed all the previous staples, and there were many. Admittedly, underneath the old covers there were marks and burns on the foam pads, but they were still firm. After hovering them, dampening and leaving them wrapped tightly for a few days, even the foam on the slashed stool recovered its shape sufficiently (and you’ve got to love that great big fag hole at the front edge!)IMG_7798

I made my leather stretching solution from household products, a recipe picked up on Google. I already had the rubbing alcohol, and a quick trip to Boots provided the baby shampoo, I chopped off a piece of leather, squirted it with the solution and got stuck in with the pliers and stapler

It’s very physical work, but  I could happily do this every weekend – if it weren’t for the back strain, the wrist pain and the blisters on my hand!



After trimming, I finished the underneath using some unloved place mats we hastily ran up out of scrap vinyl before Christmas. Don’t worry, the star is not a design statement, it’s covered by the metal bases


And there they are. I only took a hasty pic because I’m tempted to sell them, but I don’t want to. Better to get them packed up and out of sight before I change my mind

Now I just need another project to use up all that green leather


Blooming Lovely

This is another little heater I picked up

The auction was timed to close at 2am on a Monday morning, so I set an alarm on my phone before bed on Sunday night and was up five minutes before the end. The seller later apologised when he realised what he’d inadvertently done and the effort I’d gone to

I didn’t really mind: it meant that I was the only bidder

IMG_7174I showed this prize to my friend and tame sparky, Ray, who scratched his head and asked what I was going to do with it

‘I’ll make it into a light, of course’

He looked at me dubiously, not for the first time over the years. ‘I don’t know where you find all these things‘ he said, implying that what he really meant was ‘why’ rather than ‘where’

But I was weak at the knees when I saw this and I could see how simple a project it would beIMG_7179

I showed him the original damaged fittings, the same size and ‘pitch’ (apparently) as a shaver socket, but much longer. He said they’d need to be cut and filed down to make them safe but I thought this sounded like hard work and – just perhaps – not very safe at all. Instead, I stuck them into a bag for safekeeping and bought a new black batten bulb holder to attach to the central fitting. It didn’t fit, but I worked at it with various pliers until eventually it stopped resisting and accepted my persuasion. I was fairly stoked, I can tell you, when it finally sat in place

Black fabric flex completes the look, and I got Ray to add the plug and check it over, as I am no electrician and I remain nervous about mixing electricity and metalIMG_7186

The light was too intense from a bare bulb so I chose a small copper-coated golfball bulb for a more subtle effect, and then reinstated the pretty little grill with its Universal logoIMG_7200 There is a neat handle at the back and the light can be tipped to any angle, even directly upwards as an uplighterIMG_7212

It’s made entirely of copper and has perfect patina, so just a firm wipe with WD40 removed the dust from the decorative base


Even Ray likes this one

Safe Keeping for Secrets

When is housework a good thing?

The house now has heating, so I’ve stuffed random packing materials into every possible cranny to stop the heat going into the roof-space and out of the windows. There are a lot of crannies, but there’s a heap of bubble wrap

I close doors to keep the heat in wherever possible. It feels good – mainly

Note to self: don’t close that bloody kitchen door again (there’s a very good reason why I’d never seen that door closed before and it took me over an hour to break in on Sunday morning)

I sit alone, having my coffee, lunch and evening meal at the recently unpacked and rather grand dining table in the grand – slightly derelict – courtyard. What else could I possibly need?

Well, wifi, as it happens

Because being able to access a neighbour’s wifi from the bedroom has allowed me to spend an evening researching the family of leather merchants who owned this house a hundred years ago

The father, Emile, was the mayor of the town when the first electricity turbine was installed in 1890. It would have been a very exciting era, and it makes perfect sense that he and/or his wife would have remodelled the house around that time

I found out that one of his sons helped found the town’s first ever rugby team. I’ve even seen a picture of him, cross-legged in front of his team mates

Sadly, I learned that this son died aged twenty eight in the war in 1914, and so did his older brother in 1918. Emile’s third son – another talented rugby player – was apparently also injured in the war and died prematurely. According to a local gentleman’s memoirs it was his widow who remained living here, and the ‘beautiful’ house was virtually abandoned after her death

We look through the panes of glass they looked out of, the shutters and doors have survived, the staircase and the tiled floors that they trod all remain

For some time, one of the simple terracotta tiles upstairs has interested me. It was so obviously different but I couldn’t move it and was afraid to damage it. Yesterday I tried again to lift it and this time the tile came away easily when I caught the corner just right, dislodging the loose dust that acts as grout and revealing that it was neatly wrapped in newspaperP1010055

Underneath it I found a small but perfect underfloor safe. All it held was a few scraps of newspaper, but I felt a real rush, because this had remained untouched for a very long time. The dirt and the newspaper had ensured that the tile sat soundly and was not easily found, perfect for hiding valuables. Only someone scrubbing this floor would have noticed itP1010057

P1010058So maybe housework isn’t all bad!

I have replaced the tile, leaving the newspaper undisturbed for now. I will try to date it later, but one of the items I noticed in the paper looks interesting …

I wonder what other secrets remain in this house

My Room 101

What can you not stand in your life?

I embrace many styles, and the French house will be subject to compromises because it is my only opportunity to indulge my catholic style tendencies (and because I take in whatever casualties/goodies that come my way)

Still, there are a few style elements that I staunchly avoid, and so, if I were to compile a short list for my Room 101 suggestions, it would have to include:

Things that are made to fit into corners (e.g. corner cupboards/ corner wardrobes/ corner shelves etc)      For some reason I have a very strong dislike of all things that were purpose-built to go nook and cranny-ish into a corner. This intolerance does not extend to things that go into recesses. No, I can’t explain, but corner-shaped things set me on edge

(a previous inhabitant of our French house painted the floor tiles around a long-gone corner unit as well as some of the rugs. I consider this very lazy as well as in poor taste, and its footprint is an enduring – ugly – legacy)

Barley twist legs    How boring and unimaginative, they make me think of my Aunty Kit (not that she was necessarily either of these things – and her legs were not kinked that I can remember – but she had a Jacobean-style cupboard with the offending legs in her chalet bungalow in Totteridge). I have yet to find a piece of furniture to persuade me that I could live with this particular feature and I have rejected many tables, sideboards and chairs because of them

Etched glass    Perhaps weirdly, though I drool over leaded, coloured, signpainted glass and over old pressed glass such as the feature image above*, I am not keen on etched glass

There are a few exceptions to this last one, usually in old pubs, but they have to be taken on a case by case basis. And no, again I cannot really justify it

What decorative things irk you? Or are there no rules…

*Only just noticed the generous dollop of bird poo, top left of the pic

Oh well!

Immortality Achieved

A beautiful space to remember

In retrospect, I dedicate this post to Terry of Spearfruit, who passed away just after I posted this. I was thinking of him when I visited the Memorial. RIP Terry – a brave and inspiring man – and much love to Gary who is left behind

‘Death is the brother of Sleep’

The Runnymede Air Forces Memorial at Englefield Green stands above fields and woodlands next to the Thames at Runnymede, looking over toward the sprawl of Heathrow and then London beyond. It was a place that Baz took me to soon after we met

Runnymede Air Forecs Memorial

Over the past twenty-something years I’ve seen it in most weathers. This weekend was hot and sunny, but sometimes the wind howls and the rain lashes as you open the door up to its roof, where the terrace gives a commanding view. Yet it always seems to remain protected from the elements at ground level, where light and shade play beautifully

Runnymede Air Forces Memorial

Designed by Edward Maufe – who also designed Guildford Cathedral – it has, to my mind, a perfect balance of decoration and restraint. Much of the decorative interest itself is provided by the lists of over 20,000 names engraved, immortalised on its walls, providing a thought-provoking memorial


The dead named here are from the Commonwealth Air Forces and have no known graves. People visit the site from all over the world

We come in spring to see the bluebells on the slopes of Runnymede below, we come in autumn to look for fungus in the woodland. We always take these opportunities to visit the Memorial. Spring flowers abound at Easter and wreaths of poppies appear for Remembrance Day, but there are always flowers, photos and personal messages propped against its walls

Runnymede Air Forces MemorialThough it is currently partially-shrouded in scaffolding for repairs, I wanted to see how my little handbag-friendly Lumix camera would cope with the strong light

Runnymede Air Forces Memorial



Restraint continues throughout, with simple benches and the airy chapel with its softly painted ceiling

Runnymede Chapel ceiling

Air Forces ChapelWalking the corridors is very moving, inviting reflection without trying to create drama – simply a beautiful place for people to remember the dead and for them to be cherished


Am I Being Curated?

I’ll find a home for anything Art Deco

Baz has often said that he doesn’t want me to turn our home into a shrine to the 1930s. Obviously, my love of art deco could easily have transformed our modest 1930s UK bungalow into a beautiful museum (when we came here the only remaining 1930s feature was the fireplace), but I have curbed some of these tendencies out of respect for him

This hasn’t completely prevented me from de-blanding our house by installing reclaimed 1930s panelled doors throughout, a Lloyd Loom bed and Chinese black lacquered bedroom units. Or, for that matter, from adding the sunburst drinks cabinet and a 30s church pew

He knows that if he takes his eye off me I will sneak more in

But I admit that the green uranium ceiling and wall lights were a step too far. I was constantly terrified that someone would damage them (low ceiling, freakishly tall visitors, etc) so my tame sparky Ray, who absolutely hated them, took them down again after a few weeks, so that I could relax

I’ve been picking up bits and pieces of Art Deco since I was little. It was and remains my biggest style influence. I get a thrill when we drive past an original deco front door and sidelights in situ and I still covet my mum’s ex-neighbour’s sunburst gate!

I suppose the truth is that Baz curates me. He tries to remind me that I cannot give a place to everything. At least, not in this house

There remain some beautiful unspoilt examples of thirties houses. The one I knew best was Jack’s House. My grandparents bought their brand new house in Edgware in the thirties and our Uncle Jack lived in the same house until his death about ten years ago. I lived there with him for about a year in the late eighties and it was his house I went home to during that massive hurricane, after working the nightshift. Nothing had been changed in all the years. Nothing at all. And I loved it. When finally sold, the buyers planned to strip it, including the completely original and unfashionably tiny kitchen with its black and white tiles and purpose-built larder

This summer, friends invited us to their unspoilt 1930s house in Bounds Green. Weirdly I became anxious as we approached my old area of London and I nearly passed out. It was worth the trip. They had kept everything including the little kitchen, so it was almost exactly a mirror-image of Jack’s old house, and a flood of memories engulfed me as we sat in the front room eating cake (Jack rarely used his front room, but we would sit and have coffee and cake together on Friday mornings in the back room overlooking the garden, with his enormous speakers blaring out classical music)

Jack was a one-off. One day I’ll try to finish the post about him that I started writing two years ago!

If, like me, you are consumed by a lifelong love of art deco, perhaps – like me – you lie awake at nights worrying about what has been chucked into a skip that day

Thankfully, fellow blogger Art Deco Magpie dedicates his time to the essential business of documenting and photographing some wonderful deco buildings, providing an honest report of them, raising awareness and ensuring that they are immortalised in case of the unthinkable

His blog is full of streamline passion and is well worth a visit. I loved his post about the Piccadilly Line, featuring the fabulous stations I knew as a child growing up in Southgate

And when Baz captured this image on Saturday evening I knew I could find it a home



The Accidental Prop Shop

The world’s smallest brocante – and nothing is for sale

All my current favourite rooms in the house seem to be the ones that had been in complete darkness for over forty years, with the shutters and doors firmly closed. Perhaps they scream the loudest and so they get the my attention?

This room is effectively just the end of a corridor next to the ‘Damask Room’ and had been used by the elderly lady as a cooking and laundry area until the mid-1970s. Note the clothes pegs and hangers – I’m not really a detective

Poshbird's prop shop
as we found it August 2015

I spent a day last week stripping this tiny room bare of paper. The Dissoucol worked a dream and I learned the (mercifully brief) wallpaper history of this space

Poshbird's prop shop

Under the very brown patterned wallpaper with the horribly mismatched border there was a cobalt blue and white lace-patterned paper which must have been very elegant in its day. This in turn had its own border, deep blue and graphite with silver grapes on it, though I only found small traces of this

Poshbird's prop shop

Poshbird's prop shop

The ceiling paper was extraordinary only in the fact that it would never have worked with either wallpaper. I was fascinated by how the pattern has chemically degraded

Removing the old coat rack (I have kept it for future use) revealed a patch where the colour had remained, showing an unexpected and much cheerier sky blue background

Poshbird's prop shop

I found various scribbles on receipts covering up to 1975 in the coke box. I gathered all the evidence – which will need a good iron – and stuck it into a vide grenier frame for safe-keeping

Poshbird's prop shop

Also in among the coke was a cannonball, about two and a half inches in diameter. No doubt at least one of these has hit the house during its history, judging by the cracks. This house just keeps giving

Poshbird's prop shop
in spring 2017 we ‘lost’ the cooker or whatever it was
Poshbird's prop shop
some epic gravity-defying cobwebs

The little room is earmarked for a loo and washbasin and we’ve had plumbing installed in readiness, but I was SO enjoying unpacking all sorts of smaller gems after two years in their wrappings that I decided to actually ‘put’ them somewhere to enjoy them. I’ve never had them in one place together before so it’s been hard to gauge scale etc. Plus, I wanted to check for breakages – so far, so good…

Poshbird's prop shop
Exterior doors (right one partially cleaned)

The original paintwork on the doors showed fabulous colours under the filth, so rather than remove the lead-based paint (and who knows what else is in it?) I will keep it. It rivals any posh paint colours of today and has a genuinely fabulous patina. I’m sure some people would squirm at the idea, but I don’t care. I can use wax to seal it

Poshbird's prop shop
Starting to unpack (interior door to hallway)

And so, here we have the world’s smallest brocante, the beginnings of my own personal prop shop from which I can pick and choose items. Don’t you just love it?

Poshbird's prop shop