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July 25th  
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Even on a summer evening, it can be nice to have a hot drink. Watching the sun go down while you cradle a cup of coffee is the perfect end to an alfresco meal, wherever you are.

We’ve picked ten of our favourite vacuum flasks, perfect for picnics or eating in the garden – don’t forget they’re also ideal for transporting iced drinks, as well!

Pack homemade lemonade, mint iced tea, fruit punch or elderflower cordial with crushed ice for the perfect refresher for a lunchtime picnic.

1. Slim Thermos flask in blue, Kikkerland

We  love this stylishly thin flask, perfect for slipping into a pocket or bag when you’re walking. The leak-proof design and double walls mean your drink will stay hot or cold for 12 hours. Around £17.50, Kikkerland.

2. Emma vacuum jug for tea, Stelton

If you’re a tea drinker, you’ll know that one of the downsides of tea in a flask is that it can be overstewed and bitter. Made from high gloss stainless steel with a beechwood handle, this jug is as practical as it is good looking. It has an inbuilt smart filter which stops the brewing process once the tea has reached the optimum strength, so your tea will be perfect every time. £79.95, available from Black by Design. 

 3. Geo thermos flask, Normann Copenhagen

With its retro classic design, this 1 litre capacity jug is ideal for BBQs, picnics or to use out on the terrace on a warm summer evening. Available in a range of different colours, it costs £49.90 from Black by Design.

4. Atlas flask, The Oak Room

Enjoy a warm cuppa whilst you’re out and about exploring with this stainless steel flask featuring a vintage world map design.  It has a combined cup and lid and holds 350ml. £12.99, available from The Oak Room.

5. Blue tit flask, Hoi Polloi

Ideal for birdwatchers and gardeners is this stainless steel flask with a plastic cup and an easy to push up stopper. The flaskhas a 350ml capacity, so would be equally useful to take to the beach, picnics and the office. £12.99 from Hoi Polloi.

6. Fish flies flask, Annabel James

Perfect for the fisherman in your life, this ‘Hook Line and Sinker ‘ drinks flask has a distinctive and colourful all over fish flies print on a cream background and a 500 ml capacity. There’s also an enamel mug in same design available separately. £19.95 from Annabel James.

7. Food flask, Wilkinsons

It might not be pretty, but it’s certainly useful. This 450ml stainless steel food flask will hold hot soup for a starter, or even hot chocolate sauce to pour over a pudding. It’s a snip, too, at just £6. For best results, pre-heat before using. Available from Wilkinsons.

8. La Petite Rose flask and cup, dotcomgiftshop

Could anything be more perfect for a summer picnic? Pack up this lovely floral flask with combined cup and lid, and you’ll be sipping your drink in style. It has a 350ml capacity, and is made from stainless steel with a push top stopper. £12.95 from dotcomgiftshop.

9. Eva Solo thermos flask, Amara

This double walled steel flask is simple, sleek and stylist and features a practical carry strap for so you can take it with you, whether you go. Available in a choice of four colours, it costs £40 from Amara.

10. Home Front flask, Wild and Wolf

We’ve all had days like that – but the slogan on this flask is indeed true will cheer you up in the middle of that rainy walk. Stainless steel, 500 ml capacity flask with push button valve and an eye catching vintage design. £18.95 from Cuckooland.

By Sara Walker

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July 19th  
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For a real outdoor living space, you need not only something to sit on, but something to sit under!

We never know what the British summer is going to throw at us, and on any one day we might be equally in need of shade from the sun and somewhere to get out of the drizzle. It’s lovely to have space for a bower, summerhouse or pagoda, but not everyone has an outdoor space that lends itself to a permanent structure.

Garden umbrellas and parasols are easy to move around, adjustable and will keep the worst of the elements off your lunch! We’ve picked out ten of our favourites.

1. Amalfi grey parasol, Harley & Lola

If you don’t like bright colours, this elegant grey parasol will fit into any style of garden. It’s free standing and can be easily moved, adjusted and rotated to provide maximum protection from the sun. It has a mechanical handle for easy opening and closing, handy tilt mechanism and air vent. £299 from Harley & Lola.

2. Portofino parasol, Indian Ocean

Fancy making a statement? Made from top quality materials, the Portofino parasol is the luxury choice and can be customised with your choice of colour and piping. It’s portable enough to re-position easily, and has a simple shape that will add to rather than detract from your dining area. £640 from Indian Ocean.

3. Couture garden parasol, Sywawa Belgium

This garden parasol is finished with a pretty stitching effect, made from a series of laser cut holes in the top layer, showing the a second layer of contrasting fabric underneath. Made in ultra hard wearing Symacryl, which blocks out 97% of UV rays out, you can choose from 24 different colours for the top and lining. Also available in two different sizes, prices start at £310 from Go Modern.

4. Glatz Alu-Push Parasol, Riverside Outdoor Living

Don’t have the space for a huge parasol? The Alu-Push is the ideal sunshade for small spaces and fits almost any irregularly shaped corner. The tilt joint can be angled according to shade needs and adjusted for height whenever necessary.Available in different colours, prices start at £145 from Riverside Outdoor Living.

5. Capri parasol, B&Q

A great choice if you’re on a budget, the Capri parasol comes in a choice of shapes and colours. Measuring around 2.5m for the round version, it will provide shade without taking up too much room. It comes with its own carry bag, but you’ll need to buy a separate base. £49 from B&Q.

6. Riviera 3m free arm parasol, Dobbies

If you have a table without a parasol hole, or you’re looking for flexible garden shade, the extra-large Riviera 3.0m free arm parasol could be what you’re looking for. A simple wind of the handle puts the shade up or down, so you can easily adapt to the changing weather in your garden. It’s available in a range of colours, and costs £159 from Dobbies.

7. Riviera deluze 2.5m crank parasol, Dobbies

For a no-nonsense, good value option, this simple parasol has a crank handle mechanism for raising and lowering. The angle can’t be adjusted, but it’s a good, basic choice for a small to medium dining area. It comes in a range of bright colours to add a cheerful note to your garden on grey days. Note there’s no base included. £79.99 from Dobbies.

8. Geisha garden parasol, Norfolk Leisure

Perfect for long afternoon picnics, this Geisha parasol will add an oriental flavour to your garden. It has fibreglass ribs which are highly durable making them more flexible and less likely to bend or break, while the centre pole is aluminium for lightness and strength. The opened parasol measures 2.7m in diameter. £79 from Cuckooland.

9. Modern simplicity 2m wide parasol with base, Homebase

Made from solid FSC® certified Eucalyptus wood, this Modern Simplicity parasol is an inexpensive way to stay out of the weather. Its water-resistant material makes it easy to clean and maintain, while the wood base adds a touch of style. £29.99 from Homebase.

10. Lotus 2.7m parasol, Achica

Make a feature of a necessity with this eye-catching Lotus parasol. Designed with an oriental touch, it comes in a range of vibrant bright colours. £49 from Achica.

 

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July 8th  
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With the weather improving all the time, many of us are starting to make plans for the summer. From festivals to the beach, glamorous Glyndebourne to our own back gardens, the thought of eating outside is starting to seem more and more appealing.

If your picnic set has been in the family since 1983, and currently consists of three plastic goblets and a single plate, now’s the time to invest in some new picnicware. We take a look at what’s out there, and what you should choose.

Paper picnicwear

Modern paper tableware has come on in leaps and bounds, and many companies now sell ‘posh’ versions that are even suitable for outdoor weddings and parties.

The advantages of paper are that no-one has to wash up (always a bonus!), and it’s very light to carry settings for a lot of people.

Disadvantages: they’re not very robust (paper plates can disintegrate halfway through a meal, and have a tendency to bend and tip food off mid-bite), and they’re not re-usable. Plus, wine drunk from a paper cup doesn’t really have the same appeal! While ideal for one-off large events, if you’re planning regular family picnics it could be better to invest in something more robust.

We like:

Toot Suite Harlequin plates, Cake & Candle Ltd

Harlequin paper plates, £4.25 for eight

These large size harlequin design paper party plates would be perfect for a festival or glamorous event. In bright primary colours, they have a gold rim and cost £4.25 for a pack of eight from Cake & Candle.

Melamine picnicware

The history of melamine, a plastic resin material, goes back a lot further than you might think.

It was actually invented by German chemist Justus von Liebig in 1830, but wasn’t manufactured on a commercial scale until the late 1930s. By the 1950s, it was hugely popular and was used in the manufacture of household objects.

It’s still a popular choice today for picnicware, as it’s comparatively unbreakable and very light. Modern manufacturing methods mean that melamine tableware is available in a vast range of sizes, colours and designs. It’s reusable, practical, durable and makes a good choice for a family set.

We like:

Lobster tray, Thomas Paul

Melamine lobster tray, £27

This melamine tray features a realistic image of a lobster on it. The plate is made from high quality, durable melamine and is perfect for serving food or for display on its own. £27, available from MAIDEN.

Enamel picnicware

This summer, go old-school with enamel tableware. Made from steel and covered with a vitreous coating to prevent rust, enamel is probably the most durable picnicware there is – in fact, you’ll be passing it down to your children!

Advantages: it’s unbreakable, lightweight and perfect for rougher picnicking such as camping, plus it makes you feel like you’re in the middle of your own Enid Blyton book.

Disadvantages: ‘unbreakable’ doesn’t mean ‘unchippable’ – if you’re really rough, pieces of the enamel could break off.

We like:

Enamel allium mug, Burgon & Ball.

Blue enamel mug, £6.95

Designed by Sophie Conran this mug is perfect for carrying around the garden as well as for picnicking, and keeps your hands warm on colder days. Made from stainless steel with an enamel coating and stainless steel rim, it costs £6.95 from Annabel James.

Glass and china picnicware

Let’s face it, unless your picnic involves very young children there’s nothing quite like the real thing.

There’s something very decadent about sitting on the beach eating from a china plate with a real knife and fork.

Disadvantages: fragility and weight.

Advantages: you can pretend you live on the set of Brideshead Revisited. Put together your own picnic set from charity shop or eBay finds of mismatched china, then you won’t worry too much if the odd plate gets cracked.

 

 

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July 2nd  
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If you’re anything like us, the summer months aren’t just for picnics and long, evening walks – they also see the ‘vintage fair’ season in full swing.

Vintage fairs, sometimes called reclamation, salvage or shabby chic fairs, are run like antiques fairs.

Unlike some antiques fairs, which can be a little demoralising to walk round (original Georgian dresser for £3,000, anyone?), vintage fairs are a glorious jumble of fabrics, 1950s, 60s and 70s furniture, bric a brac and much more.

Although you’ll find lots of high end items as well, including lots of antiques, prices are accessible and you might find anything from vintage children’s toys to commercial enamel signs. Part of the fun is definitely strolling round and seeking inspiration from the stands, which are beautifully presented, then finding that perfect statement piece to help you create the look yourself.

Commercial enamel signs strike a fun, cheerful note in your home. This one above would be ideal in a bathroom! They’re popular, so original examples range from £95 to £400 depending on age and condition, while modern reproductions can be picked up for a few pounds.

This bright enamel canister, above, makes a lively splash of colour. Display it in a kitchen or sitting room, or position it by a fireplace to hold matches and kindling.

This lovely pharmacist’s cupboard, above and top, is a modern reproduction. It would still look wonderful as a kitchen centrepiece, though, and the drawers make it practical for storing cutlery, napkins and a hundred and one bits of kitchen paraphernalia. You’ll have to decide what to keep in the ‘arsenic’ and strychnine’ drawers!

You don’t have to spend a fortune to create an effect – this colourful display is made up of an original lifebelt and a modern reproduction sign, both of which would work well in a garden room or conservatory.

In some cases, more is definitely more – these vintage coffee jugs make an impact together on a shelf. These are probably French, and can be picked up for around £25 to £45 depending on size and condition.

Don’t be narrow minded when looking around – re-purposing is the name of the game! This lovely big vintage bird cage would make a lovely display area for plants.

These big zinc tubs and canisters would look great planted up with herbs or flowering bulbs. Zinc containers were one of the most popular finds at the this year’s fairs – we spotted everything from baby baths to little hot water jugs! Prices for these cannisters range from £30 to £50 depending on condition.

Commercial pallets have found a new lease of life as a kitchen island, complete with handy shelves for vegetables.

Although reproduction painted furniture is a great way of dipping a toe into the shabby chic market, there’s nothing quite like the patina and texture of the real thing – take a look at the depth and character of paint on this old stepladder.

Above, beautiful old vintage linen and fabrics have found a new lease of life as cushions and throws. If you’re handy with a needle, vintage fabrics are a great buy and you’ll end up with some unique home furnishings. Always open the piece right out before you buy it though, as there could be stains, moth damage or fraying that will spoil usefulness.

Individually, these bits of china and furniture don’t look like much but make a charming display together.

If something catches your eye at an event and it’s too battered to be any good for its original purpose, think about how you could re-use it. Here, a vintage child’s trike has been cleverly re-purposed into a coffee table with the addition of a heavy glass top.

For details of events near you, try:

Arthur Swallow www.asfairs.com 

Bentley Fairs www.bentleysfairs.co.uk

Salvo Fair www.salvo-fair.com

International Antiques and Collectors Fairs www.iacf.co.u

 

 

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June 30th  
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This bedroom looks super calm and cosy. Love the Sheridan Wheatley bedding and coordinating accessories.

If you’d like to give your bedroom a bit of an update to refresh the look, but haven’t got a big budget to spend, don’t panic! Making small changes can be just as effective as a major overhaul and will be kinder on your bank balance. Here are seven affordable ways to update your bedroom for summer.

Bedding

It’s amazing what a difference new bedding and bed linen can make – not only to the feel of your bed, but the style of your room too. You can add new colours or patterns to your room through the use of a pretty duvet cover set.

If you can’t decide on a colour for your bedding, opt for a classic crisp white, then add colour and pattern through the use of other accessories, such as cushions, a luxurious bedspread or a cosy throw.

Wall art

You can add interest, texture and colour to your walls through the use of some well chosen wall art. Get some of your favourite photos blown up and framed or choose some new affordable pictures to hang.

If you’ve had pictures hung in the same spot on your wall for years, then try something different. For example, hang them in a gallery wall style format to create impact. There are lots of different gallery wall layout combinations to try – get some ideas here.

Cushions

In line with the bedding, adding a few new cushions to your bed can help update the look too. Pick a few cushions in coordinating colours, and consider mixing and matching the size and shape of cushion you choose.

To save money further, you could even purchase new covers only, so that you can simply pop them onto your existing cushions. Just remember to check the size will fit and that the colour or pattern underneath won’t show through.

Lighting

Take down tired old lampshades and invest in fresh new ones, swap your old bedside lamp for something new or simply add some fairy lights to your bedroom to improve the atmosphere.

Simple lighting changes needn’t cost the earth, but can be very effective.

Curtain accessories

Curtains themselves can often be pricey, especially if you don’t have standard sized windows, so instead why not think about adding new curtain accessories instead?

Think a new curtain pole, pretty curtain tie backs or decorative metal curtain hooks that you hook the curtains back into. If you don’t normally tie your curtains back, then using tie backs or decorative hooks offers a different way to style your curtains and helps it feel like you’ve made a difference.

Flooring

Inject a new look into your flooring by adding a colourful rug. Choose a colour or design that complements your existing room decor, or go wild and add something a bit more funky.

It will look great and you’ll love getting out of bed in the morning and stepping onto the soft warm pile of a rug.

Decorative accessories

Have you had the same accessories in your room for a long time? If so, why not spruce up the look with a few new buys, or put some of your existing items away for a while.

There are some gorgeous and very realistic artificial flowers available, so fill a vase or jug with some pretty blooms that will last through the season, without fail! 

Bedroom update wishlist

Here are the top items on my summer bedroom wishlist. All items are available from House of Fraser and most are currently reduced in their sale, so even more savings to be made – hooray!

Affordable and easy ways to update your bedroom for summer

* Top row, from left to right:

Linea Traveller print duvet cover set ~ Linea artificial flowers, the summer arrangement ~ Graham and Brown pink botanical bloom printed canvas

* Middle row, from left to right:

Linea set of three scented votives ~ Linea Maris mosaic easy fit glass pendant ~ Linea Traveller print pillow

* Bottom row, from left to right:

Julie Dodsworth Mary Rose cushion ~ Dickens & Jones bird tealight holders ~ Siena raspberry red wool rug

(Disclosure: This is a collaborative post in association with House of Fraser)

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June 29th  
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The appeal of denim is timeless – after all – how many of us can say we’ve never owned a pair of jeans?

The name ‘denim’ is a corruption of ‘de Nîmes’, meaning ‘from the French town of Nîmes’. Although known in Europe since the 17th century, the fabric, once used for everything from sails to boot linings, was made popular in 19th century America. Recognising a need by miners for good, hard wearing workwear, entrepreneur Levi Strauss invented the riveting process in conjunction with tailor Jacob Davies, and the ‘blue jean’ as we know it was born.

It’s testament to the durability and comfort of denim that jeans have remained so popular. The most common colour is still indigo blue – as it’s made from a mixture of dyed blue warp threads and white weft threads, blue jeans are white on the inside. Modern dying techniques, though, mean we can now buy our denim in a whole rainbow of colours.

The advantages that have made denim the go-to choice for casual trousers for over 150 years also make it an attractive and hard-wearing choice for home accessories – we’ve picked out our favourites.

1. Genoa denim high bar chair, Harley and Lola

Made from a recycled pair of vintage jeans, this unique bar stool will look great in any kitchen or lounge area. The denim seat is supported by handmade solid teak wood legs. £91.99, available from Harley and Lola.

2. Relaxed yellow denim cotton bedding, Secret Linen Store

This unusual yellow bedding made from 100% cotton has a denim weave, giving a distinctive look of denim in super soft cotton comfort. As it’s a true denim weave, one side of the fabric is paler than the other for a quirky look. Prices start at £9 for a pillowcase from Secret Linen Store.

3. Irwell denim blue elephant stitched light shade, Colours at B&Q

Add denim to your ceiling with this denim blue light shade, with elephant silhouettes picked out in raised white stitching. Ideal for a child’s room, or anywhere you want to add a quirky accent to a plain ceiling. £16, available from B&Q.

4. Jubbly bean bag in denim, Pouf Daddy

The denim Jubbly (a triangular design named after a 1950s ice cream) is comfortable and  hardwearing, ideal for TV rooms or children’s playrooms. £169, available from Pouf Daddy.

5. Genoa denim round low stool, Harley and Lola

Made from vintage denim, this quirky round stool is sure to create a statement in any room. It can be used as an occasional seat or footstool, and the legs are handmade from solid teak making it sturdy and comfortable. £55.99, available from Harley and Lola.

6. Jeans pocket wall storage, Kikkerland

If you’ve got a child (or a spouse!) who insists on stuff everything they need for the day in their jeans’ pockets then these wall-mounted storage pouches are ideal. Great for storing pens and other small necessities, they’re fun as well as practical. £10 each, from Kikkerland.

7. Pants cube pouf, Zoeppritz

Make an original addition to any room in your interior with this pouf, adorned with an array of denim jeans in different shades and shapes. £156 from Amara.

8. Shabby chic denim frill cushion, House of Fraser

For a softer, prettier denim look, this cushion is perfect for layering on your sofa or bed. Complete with a feather filled cushion pad, it was £40 now £28 from House of Fraser.

9. Blue and white denim and chenille cushion, Harley and Lola

This unusual cushion has is handmade from strips of recycled denim and soft chenille to create a chunky texture, ideal for adding interest to a plain sofa. £24.99 from Harley and Lola.

10. Indigo denim donut dog bed, Rokabone

When it comes to choosing stylish denim home accessories, don’t forget your best friend! Handcrafted in London from durable indigo denim and linen, donut dog bed is ideal for discerning dogs. Prices start at £75 from Rokabone.
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