Come the turn of the season, most blogs will feature some kind of update your style/skincare/make-up type of content.
In fact, if I’m keeping proper score, I think I’m planning a couple myself.
But this weekend, as I did a bit of tidying and rearranging at home, while gazing out of the front window in horror at how long we’ve let the grass grow and now it’s probably going to rain until April and ugh, it struck me that what we really should be talking about is updating our homes.
We’ve owned our little house for about 18 months now. That means the amount we haven’t had to pay to somebody else in rent is into five figures, which I feel pretty damn good about. And yet, I still don’t feel as if I’ve done enough to make the place my own. Living in a new-build has its advantages – we don’t have to paint the walls or anything, and so we haven’t – but it does mean the house is even more of a blank canvas than had we moved into somewhere that had been somebody else’s home first.
Autumn is a great time to be a homebuddy. Darker nights and manky weather make sofa time even more appealing than usual, and all the best TV is back on to enjoy while you are there. Here are five simple ways I’ve tried to make my living space a little more cosy, and a little more personal, as the nights draw in…
Focus on lighting
To me, lighting is one of the most fundamental components of getting the look and feel of a room right. I spend a fair amount of time experimenting with our uplighters and ceiling lamps to create the right mood – one that’s cosy and restful, but still conducive to laptop working when it needs to be.
Sensing there was something missing, I took a trip to TK Maxx the other day to see if I could find a cute lamp that would deliver just the right amount of autumnal vibes. I left with two candle holders, a globe and a box of gin and bitter lemon flavoured sherbet humbugs* – which is, of course, the perennial problem with TK Maxx. And it wasn’t even one of those globes that opens up to reveal a hidden drinks cabinet, as I shamefacedly had to explain to Stringer afterwards.
Which was why I was overjoyed to uncover this New York city skyline-themed lamp when I was tidying up over the weekend – it’s one of a pair that my dad and stepmum got us for Christmas, and I had completely forgotten that we owned them. It’s cute, gives off a lovely soft light and reflects one of our biggest loves right back at us – perfect.
Flirt with a new colour scheme
TK Maxx has some lovely homeware in right now. The stuff that most caught my eye the other day was themed, in name at least, around “A Passage to India” but felt a little more Phileas Fogg: lots of brass, lanterns, compasses. And, yes, globes. In keeping with the season, much of it is in muted oranges and browns – although the candle holders*, once I got them home and popped in a couple of those wintry Boots spiced apple crumble tea lights, turned out to be two different colours. Oh well. Anybody asks and I’ll tell them I was going for intentional, antique-shop look haphazardness.
You can’t beat flowers to add a pop of colour to a room, but I struggle to justify the expense on something that’s dying. So I was delighted to find this cheeky orange potted plant in Morrisons for a mere £2 – it’ll be hard to resent the price if the cats decide it merits further investigation (they’ve steered clear so far, but these things are almost always subject to change).
Invest in a statement piece (or two)
If ever there was evidence that I struggle with adulting in the conventional sense, I found it a couple of months ago – when I realised that I didn’t have a single lampshade in the house. Just bare, mis-matched, energy-saving lightbulbs hanging from the various ceilings. It took me 18 months to figure out that this might be a little bit weird.
This oversized vinyl print lampshade* by Ella Doran for Made to Last has gone some way to rectify this oversight, while also being the newfound love of my life. As a concept, Made to Last is a fantastic idea – a sort of Not on the High Street for quality, British-made design. The site is a treasure trove of genuinely useful, beautifully made homewares, furniture and fashion, sold directly by the makers, and everything comes with a clearly-labeled guarantee – in some cases, for life. Ella Doran is an East London-based designer, and her “Stacks and Stripes” print – which also appears as a cushion – is the perfect addition to my living room as the room in which my vinyl lives.
Of course, after it arrived I realised that I actually have two of those bare, overhead bulbs in the living room and not just one – but the addition of this gorgeous lampshade is a start, at least.
Dig out those summer holiday souvenirs
Okay, here’s a pretty disgraceful confession: with all my jet-setting over the summer, I didn’t actually manage to fully unpack from my Italian holiday until I needed my suitcase for the New Orleans trip. Which meant that I completely forgot about the pair of coasters I bought in Gargiulo & Jannuzzi as a souvenir of my second visit to Sorrento.
The Amalfi coast is famous for inlaid wood, and Garguilo & Jannuzzi, which sits right on the main square on the Corso Italia, is itself a local institution – the shop first opened in 1863. I spotted it first time around, of course, but it was only this year that I actually went in. I fell in love with the pretty kitties on these coasters because I am a giant cliche, but with the exchange rate being what it was I could only afford two of them. They’re so beautiful I don’t actually want to use them.
Give your upholstery a new lease of life
When we were buying new furniture for the house, we thought we’d be smart and pick the machine washable covers out of the options for the sofa we liked. We have cats, the reasoning went, it will help us to keep things clean…
Guys, if I may give you one piece of life advice it is this: never buy the light sofa covers.
As well as being a cheap and easy way to update your colour scheme – at least compared to the cost of a new sofa – jazzy, coloured throws hide a multitude. As do fun cushions. I’ve never bothered getting matching ones as I prefer patterns that make me smile, and then you don’t have to worry so much about coordinating your accessories.
(Glass is a limited edition, “pop-up” magazine which purports to explore the issues that matter to today’s women: a quick flick-through reveals technology, travel, dating, pubic hair, interviews with thought leaders and some really striking imagery, thanks to the magazine’s partnership with Getty Images. It’s actually more of a marketing project than a magazine, as the content was informed by a survey of 4,500 women across nine countries by the marketing agency behind the publication – but that itself is pretty interesting, if a wee bit unsettling.)