Turn your camera roll into a gorgeous photo album online with Photobox

How many photos do you have on your mobile camera roll right now? Do you turn your digital snapshots into actual printed photo albums? For many years now I make an annual photo album of our family pics. It takes a bit of time, but I am so glad I kept it up. The books are real keepsakes in our house and often get taken down from the shelf to flick through. It is wonderful to see and remember what we were up to that particular year. I often include text as well; some funny phrases the children said or some things that happened in our lives that year. The children love looking at themselves as babies – and I just sigh and reminiscence at the thought of how time flies. Today I am going to tell you all about Photobox who I have happily used for nearly a decade.

Choosing a company to create a photo album online

There are many different websites for creating a beautiful photo album online and most also offer the easy option to automatically put an album together for you. This is especially handy for those who find it hard to think of a nice layout or simply don’t have the time. I love creating and publishing – as you will know from reading my blog – so I happily fiddle about with photos, backgrounds and embellishments until it’s 100 % right. Within the Photobox editing system you can choose layouts for up to five photos per page, coloured and patterned backgrounds, type fonts, frames and graphic elements such as speech bubbles, lines and even pieces of ‘tape’ or paperclip images to give the impression of a scrap book. Go for minimalist black and white backgrounds or have a different background on each page. Choose a soft or hard cover, A4 or a small square. There are endless possibilities. What about making a professional looking recipe book for yourself, with all your favourite dishes?

How do you create a great photo album?

My top tips for creating the best photo album online?

  1. Play around with different layouts (just one striking photo for example or a group of five), but keep consistency by only using three or four layouts throughout the book.
  2. Choose a style for your book in advance, perhaps go for a minimalist look or make it fun and colourful with lots of embellishments
  3. Use the same type font and colour scheme throughout for a great, professional looking design.

INCLUDE QUOTES, ANECDOTES, PICTURES OF DRAWINGS…ANYTHING THAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU

As for the pictures themselves: if you are making a year book, use every day life, honest photographs and don’t include too many posed ones. Raw images are much more interesting in the long run than the family portraits next to the Christmas tree. Treat your photo album as a journal or a photo documentary. I even include pictures of school projects or drawings by the boys. In the future you will find it hard to remember those very normal things you or your family did it that particular year, so how lovely is it to keep a memory of those moments in pictures? I love our family photo albums mostly because of this approach. Keep it real, people! Leave out perfection. At the time I hated my husband taking that picture at 6am, me being unwashed and exhausted, breast feeding my baby while watching Thomas the Train with my 2-year old in the living room, but now I am so grateful it exists. I also usually include a few nice selfies, just to remind myself when I am old and grey, that really, I did look pretty good back then.

The best pictures? Capture the moment, good or bad

Portraits and posed group photos are fine of course, but don’t omit the random shots. Photos of people who are unaware of the camera often capture the moment much better. A sleeping child, friends laughing, your parents chatting. Exhaustion, boredom, a day in a life. I also take photos of our home: untidy, raw, like a time capsule. Look, this is what the house looked like when we had young children and life was crazy. It doesn’t all have to be Instagram ready. This is your life, your photo album and you will cherish that forever, promise.

Easy uploading, organising and editing a photo album online

As always, I only post about brands I like and Photobox is one of them, because of its user-friendliness and the quality of the products. You can simply upload and organise your photos in albums and come back later to create a product. You can edit your creation, save it and finish it later, no need to do it all on the same day. I mainly order their photo albums online, but have also created calendars a few times, which were great for ourselves and as gifts. Mugs, fridge magnets, canvasses and prints are other examples of products you can create with your photos. If you have created something in the past you can also simply order another copy at a later date, or order the same album for yourself and the grandparents.

Photobox special offer code

The other great thing about Photobox are their big discount offers, which come past fairly regularly. I usually wait until a Photobox offer code lands in my email inbox before ordering my finished product. You can save a lot on the price of a photo album online, which helps when you have a big book with about 30 to 60 full-colour pages. This August there is a 50% Photobox offer on all photo books, no code needed. Not got anything ready yet? Simply buy the credit and you have two months to use it.

Shipping internationally

After moving to Spain I wasn’t sure whether I could continue my annual photo albums with them, being a UK company. Luckily they ship internationally and I am happy to pay for the additional cost.


Click on the image below for the current discount link:

photobox promotion code

How to create stylish, clutter-free kids rooms with the right storage

You want to throw all the toys out of the window you say? I hear you. I remember the days, before having kids, when my husband and I would look at each other in horror after visiting a bomb site at a friend’s house. “I can’t believe the state of their house. Honestly, the amount of plastic toys…surely they could tidy up, right? If we ever have a family, I will never have so much junk.” *laughs hysterically*


Yeah. Scroll down a few years. I have two little boys who make a mess on a daily basis. They have a lot of stuff: toys, clothes, sticks. Every birthday and Christmas more stuff arrives. They also leave their pants and socks everywhere. Who wants to use all their time and energy to tidy up all day? You get the picture. Things get messy sometimes. Oh sure, I do try. I buy nice storage boxes (which subsequently get turned into mini bath tubs for toy cars – or used as helmets in superhero dress-up games) and sometimes it stays tidy for a while. A day maybe. Sounds like your life?

One day, when I am old and the boys have flown the nest, my house shall be clutter-free. Until then, I turn a blind eye, breathe deeply and browse Pinterest.


Easy storage solutions kids rooms

Hold on, I live here too

Childhood may be short, but 18 years of living in a dump is not a nice thought. So despite having to accept the messy years of parenthood, we can still try and make it pleasant for ourselves and hide some of that junk. Right?

Let’s start by showing you some lovely rooms

Here are some examples of kids rooms that just look great and probably are more stylish than your own bedroom. (Obviously no kid was allowed in them before the photo shoot was over and done with. I would love to see what they look like on a daily basis – ha!). What’s wrong though in the next two pictures? Right, impractical storage tables (let me just place my tambourine here, mum) and fragile ornaments. I mean, who would place a ceramic Bambi behind a swinging chair? Or a pretty swan planter on a children’s bedside table? OK, let’s move on.

storage solutions kids rooms
Nevermind the kids, I want a swing in my own room. How lovely is this? Via Style me Pretty
Easy storage ideas kids rooms
Great eclectic room for older children, for sure, or a guestroom. Via The Boo and the Boy

Storage solutions for kids rooms: open or closed?

Storage is the main thing you need to keep your house clutter-free. And no matter how kid-friendly open shelving is (so they can see and reach their books and toys), it also means a lot of it will usually end up on the floor at the end of the day, especially with preschool children. We are sometimes winning but often failing at getting our kids to tidy up themselves, but most six-year olds will just lift the mess one level higher, albeit on the shelves. So unless you are a montessori purist and only offer your child a handful of toys to play with, toy storage with doors or drawers will be a tidier solution, with added large buckets for bigger stuff. Big chests or baskets with a lid are also great. Or buy some useful under bed storage.

Easy storage ideas kids rooms
Beautiful Montessori style shelving by Hingi on Etsy
Storage solutions kids rooms
Open shelving, drawers, book shelves and a little display wall unit: a nice mix of storage possibilities here. Image: Pinterest

Pimp your storage unit with decals

The Trofast bins from Ikea are a firm favourite among parents wanting rid of kids toys and for good reason, as they are sturdy, practical and inexpensive. To upgrade your Trofast system (or the Kallax shelving units), how about adding these City roads decal stickers to the top? Cars in the bottom drawers, easy access and also easy for the kids to tidy up afterwards.

Easy storage ideas kids rooms
I love this! The Ikea Trofast system, pimped up with road decals. Play table at toddler height. Get the stickers here

Older kids need shelves for treasure display

Now my eldest son is eight, he is showing a keen interest in displaying his grand Lego creations, interesting found objects and other of his ‘valuable possessions’, away from the hands of his little brother. Shelves are therefore a good addition to a kids bedroom, for this reason. That way children can curate their own ‘changing exhibitions’ of the things they love and are proud of. A rock collection, trophies, delicate constructions they made. They will like having that bit of freedom and you’ll probably catch them showing their display to their friends.

Easy storage ideas kids rooms
A gorgeous room in blue, mustard and natural wood via The Boo and the Boy
Easy storage ideas kids rooms
Enough shelves to display all your toy figures. Image: Cup of Jo
Easy storage ideas kids rooms
Here I get serious house envy. Still, this was how it looked during the photo shoot, right? By the way, this house tour is worth taking anyway, over on Cup of Jo.

Arts and Crafts storage for kids

Another thing that creates mess and untidy shelves and drawers: the countless stationary items, colouring books, hammer beads, jewellery making kits, paint tubs, playdoh pots and paper stacks. We have had two rolling drawer units in our house for a while now and they are great. Handy for organising stuff, easy to access, and even easier to roll out of the room and out of sight when your done. This metal one from Ikea is a popular one, but plastic ones work just as well.

Easy storage ideas kids rooms
These units are great for many uses, including Arts and Crafts supplies. Find them at Ikea.

Shelves that encourage kids to read

Books are normally stored only showing their backs, but for a small child this is not very attractive. To increase their interest in reading, it is better to show the front covers of books. That way they are much more like to become curious and take down a book to look at. Browse kidfriendly book shelving here.

Easy storage ideas kids rooms
Displaying books like this will more likely spark interest in reading among children. This book case is from Etsy

For older children, ‘normal’ bookshelves are of course fine. I absolutely love the wallpaper in this bedroom below. They also included a shelf for displaying treasures and photographs and closed drawers in the storage unit to hide any small toys or other material.

Easy storage ideas kids rooms
Add some serious wow factor with a mural like that! My Domaine

Do you have kids rooms at home that you’d love to show off? How do you handle the clutter? Do let me know in the comments!

How to decorate with confidence. Free interior design advice

Got a room to do up and need some free interior design advice? During the time when I still had my furniture store and was buying and selling vintage, all I ever did was follow my intuition and try things out. Put things together to see how it looked. I still don’t follow a certain style, or even a trend, I just pick what I love and usually immediately see if it works well. You can’t help including things or colour schemes that are trendy sometimes because what is ‘in vogue’ can actually be very beautiful and you know you will still love it even when the trend has passed.

First tip!

Go with your instinct. If it speaks to you, especially when you have thought about it for a few days, get it – or do it.

Today I am sharing some tips to help you in your own interior design projects. Next time you are redecorating your living room, or in fact any room, try and follow these steps. They may help you see things differently and choose a colour scheme, furniture and accessories with confidence.

free interior design advice

Interior design tip #1: Start a Pinterest board

This is a no brainer really and I am sure most of you are doing this already. Create a dedicated board on Pinterest and gather images of rooms you like, furniture you like, colour schemes and images that inspire you and ‘fit’ within the look you are thinking of. While pinning your favourites, think about the function of the room too: are you going to spend time in it during the day or mainly in the evening? Which family members will be using it most? Does it need a play area, a library, a desk? Will it have a TV in it and where would it go?

free interior design advice
When collecting images for a style board, think about the paint colours, accent colours, types of furniture, different textures and also images you like that may give inspiration for a style or colour scheme.

Once you have built a bit of a collection, stand back and look at it as a whole to see if you can see a cohesive style. Is there a certain colour that is dominant? This might become your wall colour or accent colour in textiles or upholstery. Are there certain patterns or textures you pinned in more than one image? Then this is another element you can use, when choosing perhaps wallpaper or accessories.

Delete any images that you feel are just too different from the rest, as this helps you narrowing it down. You can always save the image in another board, for future projects and ideas. As you do this (fun!) exercise over the space of a few weeks, you will slowly see a cohesive style board emerging, which can serve as a very helpful guide when choosing colours, furniture and accessories for your redecoration project.


Interior design tip #2: Look at the features of the room

When it comes to styling living rooms, I always start by looking at the features of the space. I try and picture it without anything in it. What is the light like? Are there any focal points like fire places or alcoves? Are the ceilings high or is it a cosy room with small windows? It is a good idea to measure up the space and draw it out to scale on a sheet of paper with written dimensions of walls, windows and doors. This helps you choose the right size furniture later on.

free interior design advice
Drawing your room to scale on a piece of paper is a useful  exercise to help you plan. Write the dimensions along the walls and bring it along with you on your shopping trips, so you know when a sofa or sideboard actually fits in the space you have in mind for them. Cutting out little miniature piece of furniture (to scale) can help you picture the room, while moving them around on the plan to see what they look like in different places.


Interior design tip #3: What to do with the flooring

Next you look another very important permanent element: the flooring. What is the flooring like? Is it staying? Depending on the ideas on your Pinterest board (and budget) you may choose to replace old carpet with wood flooring, paint your old floor boards or leave it as it is and work with rugs later on. Carpets can add a lot of warmth to a room, especially in old houses or if the floor boards on their own are just too draughty.

free interior design advice
If you have nice old floor boards, show them off! Sand them, stain them or paint them white. A rug will add warmth.


Interior design tip #4: Walls and woodwork: wallpaper or paint?

Next up are the walls and woodwork around the room including windows, skirtings and doors. If you are going for the ‘Scandinavian’ bright look, keep it simple and choose different shades of white as a calm background for your more colourful furniture. If you are thinking of a more traditional or ‘cottage/farmhouse’ style, you may want to look at darker, moodier colours such as deep blue, sage green or dark grey for the walls, creating a cosy sitting room for the evening. It may feel scary to go dark, but you’ll probably be surprised with how good it looks.

free interior design advice
A deep blue colour for the walls will make a small room feel cosy and great for snuggling up in during the evenings. Add contrast by choosing a white for the woodwork and picture frames, combined with blue-white throw cushions as accessories.
free interior design advice
For a modern, Scandinavian look, choose light wall colours and neutral flooring as a basis to form the perfect backdrop to show off your nice furniture and more colourful accessories or artwork.

Whatever paint ideas you have collected on your Pinterest board, it is a good idea to get some tester pots first as you may change your mind when seeing colours in the actual light of your room. Woodwork can also look beautiful just stripped and waxed if you live in a period house, or go for a contrasting colour to make a modern statement. If you go for wallpaper, most people choose to use a bold pattern on just one wall as a feature, rather than plastering it on all four.

free interior design advice
Wallpaper on all four walls can become a bit overpowering, but use it on just one or two and it makes a beautiful statement. This blue patterned wallpaper makes a lovely contrast with the white window frame and the circular pattern is similar to the cushions on the sofa. See also how the bronze accent colour is repeated in the accessories.

interior design tip #5: Lighting

Lighting is super important in interior design and needs proper attention. On your drawn outline of the room mark where you think you will need light. Where are you going to sit and read? What aspects need a spotlight (pictures, a bookcase)? Is a central ceiling pendant light necessary or can you just go for standard lamps, wall fitted lamps and table lamps to light the room in the evening? Perhaps consider putting in a dimmer for a ceiling light to change the mood of the room.

When choosing lighting, don’t buy lamps that are all very busy or different in style and pattern, but perhaps go for a standard and a table lamp with matching shades combined with some stylish wall mounted lamps. Or have one heavily patterned shade combined with more minimalist lighting. Also look at what type of bulb you are using in each lamp: white light creates a cool, contemporary atmosphere while yellow light gives off a warmer glow.

free interior design advice
Lighting doesn’t all have to match or be of the same ‘series’. In this room the lights do all have the same warm yellow light (bulb) and are fairly plain in design. Instead of the simple white shade on the standard lamp, a patterned shade in the blue and grey tones would also have made a good combination.


Interior design tip #6: Furniture

You may want to start from scratch if the budget allows or you just want to make a clean break. The likelihood is that you probably have some things you want to keep, so it is a good idea to photograph them to include them on your Pinterest board to see them in the mix. Then it is important to make a shopping list, not the least because you likely want to know what it is all going to cost.

Invest wisely

Invest wisely and think long term. It may be better to spend a bit more on a quality sofa than splash out on that super stylish vintage drinks cabinet you have spotted but are unlikely to use on a daily basis – although, I know, sometimes you just gotta have something. Shop around and mix and match. Don’t be afraid to buy your brand new sofa at a high street store, then combine it with an upcycled vintage coffee table and compliment it all with a set of cheap plain bookcases from Ikea. Your house is not a show home, make sure it is you and that your style shines through.

Eclectic living room with burnt orange and vintage furniture
Don’t be afraid to mix styles. If it speaks to you, it is meaningful and will still be liked in the future. This room shows the unusual combination of a sleek midcentury sofa with a chesterfield, a vintage cabinet, a modern glass coffee table, traditional table lamps and a Persian rug. But it works! The orange of the sofa comes back in the velvet cushions on the chesterfield as well as the in the rug and the very large artworks. Eclectic but very stylish!

How much furniture do I need in my living room?

How much furniture should you get? Less is more, you can always add something if you feel there is something missing. Just don’t cram a huge corner sofa into a small front room. Keep it airy, make sure there is still room to move. A 2-seater sofa and two matching midcentury modern armchairs on either side of a low table may be a good solution if you want to create a good ‘conversation space’ in a lounge. When it comes to upholstery, a safe bet is a quality lasting plain wool fabric or leather for the sofa. A grey herringbone is a timeless choice, and so is tan leather. Armchairs can add colour and contrast or even go for patterns to jazz it up.

grey sofa with two matching blue armchairs in a white living room
This calm living room combines a plain grey linen sofa with two matching midcentury armchairs. The blue upholstery creates interest and a bold contrast against the otherwise neutral interior. Imagine them being grey and you would have a much more boring effect. The warm wood tones also go very well with the dark fabric.


Interior design tip #7: Soft furnishings

Curtains, blinds and rugs. What does the room need? Plain grey or off white full length linen curtains are always a lovely choice, and go with both modern and traditional styles. Combine it with painted wooden venetian blinds or a patterned linen roman blind for some sophisticated layering.

When it comes to a rug (if you have wood flooring), choose a bolder pattern if your furniture is muted and calm in colour and texture. If there is already a lot going on in your upholstery or colours and patterns on the wall perhaps, select a large natural wool rug in a light colour as a base.

layered window treatment
These large windows lend themselves well for some layered window treatment. This room shows a nice light patterned full length curtain combined with a mustard yellow roman blind. The fabrics are repeated in some throw cushions.


Interior design tip #8: Accessories

Finally, accessories. Pictures, mirrors, cushions, vases, clocks, baskets, etc. Cushions are a good way to start. Combine contrasting colours, different patterns and textures. As long as they all fit in more or less with your image collection on the Pinterest board, they will add welcome interest.

>> General cushion pairing formula:

TEXTURE + LARGE SCALE PATTERN + SMALL SCALE PATTERN + LUMBAR

Cushion pairing example
Combine a plain coloured velvet texture with a large patterned monochrome cushion. Add a lumbar shaped one and perhaps a fourth cushion combining the orange and black and white, but in a smaller pattern.

When it comes to choosing artwork, don’t be afraid to get a big frame. A large painting or photograph can make a great statement in a room. They also look good over a sofa or sideboard. Alternatively a gallery wall can add a lot of interest and a great opportunity to show off family photos. Maybe even show off your collection of fabrics.

Play around and learn what works

Play around with placing accessories like vases and other loose objects. Does it look good where you placed it? What composition have you created, is there a good balance? Use other things as well to create interest such as some of your favourite books, found objects like shells or a rock and don’t forget plants! Plants literally add live to a room (as long as you keep them alive of course).

mustard yellow and grey
Buy some large indoor plants to add life and atmosphere to your living room. Imagine this room without the plants, it would look pretty plain.


Good luck!

I hope this list is helpful in guiding you, whatever room you may tackle. What do you find most difficult in your redecorating projects?

House Tour: a 100-year old Spanish villa with sixteen-foot ceilings and a dumb waiter

I still squeeze myself daily, waking up in the beautiful villa we managed to rent for the next few years. I did a house tour on the blog last year of our first rental here in Valencia, a new built, not knowing that just six months later we’d be moving into something completely different. We are currently the caretakers – not just tenants, as I really feel privileged to hold the keys to this house – of a monumental villa from 1915, with 5 meter high ceilings, an abundance of original Spanish tiles and a view to die for. I am excited to show you around this amazing building.

The paella that changed our life

It was by accident we got it (or was it…? “…You manifested this place very well, Nien!” said my sister, who is a firm believer in creating your own reality). My husband and I had been looking around for a while, trying to find a more traditional house in the town centre, but they are hard to find on the rental market. The previous tenants of the villa, who we are friends with, invited us over for a paella one Sunday afternoon last summer. Having studied architecture history at uni, I had always been impressed by their house, one of the most characteristic mansions in the town we live in. I had just shown my husband around before dinner, pointing out all the incredible features, when back at the table our friends announced that they were moving out. I didn’t hesitate one second and blurted out: “Then we are moving in!”

Today I am showing you around a gorgeous 100-year old Spanish villa...with an abundance of original tiles, en rich history and chubby cherubs playing billiards lining the ceiling. Come on in, enjoy the tour!
This photo was taken 11 years ago, when the house had just been restored. Photo: SMBarcquitectura

An ideal summer house on the outskirts of Valencia

The changeover was quick, moving in hardly six weeks after we shared that paella. It was August, so it was a sweaty move. ‘Villa Maria’ however, was originally built on a hill, as a summer residence for a posh family from Valencia city back in the days, and its terrace enjoys a refreshing sea breeze. There is no air conditioning in the house, but when you open the tall windows, the wind just blows through and keeps it cool. We live here year-round though, and the winters are cold in this house with such high ceilings! I have now adapted the Spanish habit of throwing on my fleece bathrobe and cosy slippers as soon as I enter the house in the cooler months. Luckily winter doesn’t last long here.

The fact that it was built as a summer house for recreation and holidays is still visible in the decoration of the hallway. There is a decorative band at the top of the wall depicting many delightful chubby cherubs playing games. Chess, snooker, fencing, cards, dancing… If you didn’t look up, you’d miss it!

A fiesta of Spanish original tiles

The tiles are something else. In a way the combination of tiles is slightly hysterical and totally over the top, but what an abundance of pattern and colour! Every room has a different tile design and the living room even has very bold wall tiling. Most traditional Spanish townhouses in Valencia have incredibly wide hallways, all tiled in bold patterns, both floors and walls. Often they are even used as living spaces with seating. Bedrooms and bathrooms are situated on either side of the hall. It is peculiar to have such a lot of floor space dedicated to a hallway, but it sure gives a spacious feeling and these parts are the coolest areas in the house.

Spanish modernismo meets neo-baroque

It is interesting to see the mix of styles in the interior and exterior of this 1915 building. The beginning of the 20th century was after all a transitional period in architecture. The architect, or perhaps the family who had the house built, were clearly inspired by the most progressive style at the time: Spanish modernismo, similar to Art Nouveau in northern Europe around that time. A style recognisable by its floral details, decorative tiling and organic shapes. Barcelona architect Gaudí is by far the most famous ‘modernismo’ architect, whose style rubbed off on many Spanish contemporaries, albeit often in a less flamboyant, more toned-down version. Especially the living room tiles remind me of this style. For the outside of the building, the architect of Villa Maria seems to revert back to neo-baroque details, the going style during the late 19th century in Spain. The house, like some of its neighbouring properties, certainly looks like a delicious cream cake with curly icing on top. Lots of garlands and roses. Very kitsch, but very pretty.

beautiful spanish home interiors

Restoring its character

The current Spanish owners bought the villa around 12 years ago and found it in desperate need of restoration. Cobwebs hanging from the tall ceilings, many rooms unused and just one old age descendant from the original family still living in it. The buyers hired an architect, selecting the firm on the basis of a good understanding of the building and importance of respecting its original details. They gave the house a facelift without losing its character. Installed a new kitchen and bathrooms, but most of the original aspects kept intact and restored. I think they did an excellent job.

An old chair we originally got reupholstered years ago in Scotland looks right at home in our hallway.

Hoisting up your dinner

The whole villa consists of an upstairs and downstairs – very ‘Downtown Abbey’ – with the upstairs part originally meant for the rich family back in the days, and a downstairs part where the maids and cooks stayed. A reminder of this history is the ‘dumb waiter’ that can still be found in our living room: a cupboard with a pulley, from where they used to hoist their dinner up. It is unfortunately no longer in use! The house is again separated into two apartments at the moment, with the upper part rented out to us and the downstairs part only used by the owners when they come back from abroad every now and then. In the future, it may become used as one villa again.

beautiful spanish home interiors
The dumb waiter in the corner of the room. And Buster, our 12-year old Scottish cat.

A lively plaza

The villa is situated on one of the old plazas of this town on the outskirts of Valencia, next to a 17th century ‘ermita’ or church. It is a lively square, with children playing, teenagers smooching, weddings held, religious processions taking place and there is the wonderful fresh organic market on Saturdays where we do our weekly vegetable shopping. I love living here, watching Spanish life happening right outside our front door.

beautiful spanish home interiors
beautiful spanish home interiors

Watching the sunrise

The back of the house is probably the best part of the property. A large terrace with a view onto both the sea and the mountains in the distance. I can just imagine the posh ladies in 1915 standing here in their long dresses and hats, overlooking the countryside while chatting in the breeze. Nowadays the surrounding countryside is nearly all built up with the ever-expanding towns and suburbs of Valencia, but it must have felt like you were far away from the city buzz 100 years ago. The view is still fantastic though and sometimes when I get woken up by our cat at 6am, I sit on the terrace, listen to the birds and watch the sunrise.

beautiful spanish home interiors
Sun in the morning, shade and sea breeze in the afternoon. On a clear day you can see the sea in the distance. Photo: SMBarcquitectura
beautiful spanish home interiors

An eclectic mix of furniture

The only downside of the house is the fact that it is rented out semi-furnished. But hey, you can’t have it all. We just had to try and fit our own furniture around the pieces that came with the house. The interior is, therefore, a bit of an eclectic mix of their dark cabinets and tables, an old piano, and our own collection of mid-century vintage and Ikea pieces. Probably not my ideal decor, but really, who gives a hoot when you are living in a castle! The bold tiling in the living room also means it is tricky to hang your artworks and make it all look good.

I do love how our own large painting by a South American artist of a jazz band looks like it belongs in this house. I always found it looking slightly out of place in our Scottish home, it just lacked a more vibrant environment. What better house to be in than in a historic ‘summer residence’ with no doubt plenty of parties, now owned by a professional clarinet player (our landlord)?

beautiful spanish home interiors
beautiful spanish home interiors
There is a permanent display of hot wheel loops and train tracks in our house…
beautiful spanish home interiors
In progress last year…Hanging up artworks… ladders essential!

A grand Spanish dame

We don’t know how long we are going to rent this house for, as the owners are planning to move back in the future, but for now I am very grateful for the opportunity to be the resident of such an interesting and beautiful house. We would never be able to afford to buy anything like this, and we wouldn’t want to either (imagine the cost of maintenance!). It will also be quite hard in the future to find another house as great as this one – we are now spoilt forever. But what a treat and honour it is to share a few years of our life with Villa Maria, this grand Spanish dame with her rich history, beauty and charm. I wish she could tell us all her secrets. Soulful living in practice.

beautiful spanish home interiors
Manifesting journal
A little corner from a journal I kept three years ago…manifestation in action.

The best online stores for sustainable fashion

The clothes shops were shut the past few months while were all in the pandemic lockdown, and it was nearly impossible to buy even a pair of socks. Although my growing children ran out of clothes to wear after week 8, I myself enjoyed rediscovering old items I still had hidden in my wardrobe. I even upcycled and ‘reconstructed’ some old pieces. Now the shops are slowly opening up again, have you changed your shopping habits? Are you more conscious now in how you consume? Are you choosing sustainable fashion over fast fashion?

Retail therapy and the fast fashion trap

I am no saint. I will start by admitting that I bought a cheap summer top in a local boutique in my neighbourhood last week. Made in China. Nothing eco-friendly about that. Yep, guilty. But I supported a little local shop during the lockdown… At least I didn’t queue outside Primark before throwing twenty items in my basket without even trying them on, just because they were cheap. I know very well how tempting this is when you need a bit of retail-therapy. And when you are on a small budget and you need to dress your kids, you simply have no choice – I do not judge anyone for that. But a lot of people just buy for the sake of buying, because they are bored and they want something new every month. Fast fashion items often don’t hold their shape after washing them even once. Or you may regret buying something when you’re back home. But who is taking back a 3€ t-shirt? You’d pay more on the parking fee.

The ugly truth behind our fast fashion shopping habits. Image: pinterest

Let’s make sustainable fashion mainstream

A top costs little more than a take-way coffee these days. A pair of jeans less than a tenner in some stores. No surprise that fast fashion is so popular. Did you know that even in 2014, six years ago, because of this, people bought 60% more garments than they did in 2000? That Fashion production makes up 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions, dries up water sources, and pollutes rivers and streams. Worse even, 85% of all textiles or £140 million worth of clothing goes into landfill each year. Even charity shops are becoming overwhelmed by the amount of cheap clothing and have to refuse a lot of donations. This cannot continue. We have to stop and change our behaviour.


For more reasons than one I am leaning towards buying quality over quantity and supporting sustainable and ethical fashion brands. Clothes that still look good after wearing them dozens of times and are made of natural materials that are nice for skin and planet. But are they not super expensive? Well, some are, but luckily, as it is becoming more mainstream, there are more and more options out there that don’t cost the earth – excuse the pun. Here are some sustainable brands and stores to check out when you next need something.

Eco-friendly Stores to check out:


El Naturalista, vegan shoes that are biodegradable

You know what I dislike about cheap shoes these days? That many contain plastic, or are even made from plastic instead of leather, and you just know they will end up in landfill forever eventually. I was very pleased to recently discover the sandals by El Naturalista, which are not only amazingly comfortable to wear but are also completely biodegradable! How is that for a feel-good factor. I ordered them online, which is always a bit tricky with shoes, but they fitted perfectly. If you are vegan, this brand is especially interesting as the ‘leather’ is fake, but looks and feels natural. They are a bit pricey when you buy them from the site itself, but google them and you may find the brand in other stores for a lot less.

El Naturalista


Wearth London: Ethical clothing by British makers

Many of the fashion pieces by cool online concept store Wearth London are made ethically in the UK, a number of which are handmade to order. The company helps to reduce waste, whilst also bringing British makers back into the fashion industry. They stock some very beautiful designer pieces, from bags to clothing to accessories, toiletries and even furniture.

Wearth London


Earth Wardrobe: sustainable fashion without the hefty price tag

Earth Wardrobe specialises in nice, every day basics such as tees, sweat shirts, men’s hoodies and kids wear, made from fabrics that are organic and sustainable, often made from recycled materials. When you first arrive on the homepage of Earth Wardrobe however, you notice the low prices. This immediately made me wonder how they can produce their clothes at such low cost. Well, they are quite open about it on their ‘Where is it from‘ page and the short answer is: Bangladesh. A country whose economy depends heavily on the textile industry. Their mission is to provide high quality organic clothing essentials at a price everyone can afford and explain that “In order to fulfill our mission (…), we must continue to use traditional supply chains.”. They claim they only use companies who have had their facilities certified by an appropriate authority such as WRAP or SEDEX and have a Modern Slavery Disclosure to comply with the UK Modern Slavery Act of 2015.

Earth Wardrobe


Smallable, swoon over sustainable design

The ‘Greenable‘ collection of the family concept store Smallable includes some highly covetable pieces for both women and children / babies. I have to admit, not the cheapest in the range, but the pieces just ooze quality and beautiful design, both the clothes, accessories and home decor products. And when something lasts, it is worth it.

Smallable


Planet Warrior Yoga Wear

Planet Warrior use plastic waste, eco-rubber and more to produce gorgeous looking active wear such as yoga leggings, bras and even yoga mats. It’s a small UK based company run by two sisters who love the beach, oceans and yoga and decided to combine this passion to combat the plastic problem. One outfit apparently uses 50 recycled plastic bottles collected from the ocean. Not only do they recycle bottles, their packaging is alse eco-friendly using tissue paper and biodegradable stickers and packing tape.

Planet Warrior


Ethical Superstore: fairtrade and sustainable fashion

Ethical superstore is an online shop that not only sells groceries, cleaning products, homeware and gift items, but it also has a great clothing department, including shoes and accessories. Worth a look. They stock fair-trade fashion, organic cotton and eco-friendly hemp from brands like People Tree, Komodo, Marzipants & Thought Clothing. A great one-stop shop for all your eco products.

Ethical Superstore Fashion Collection


H & M Conscious: sustainable fashion in the high street

Eco-friendly clothing doesn’t have to mean spending a huge amount, nor does it mean wearing purple and looking like a hippy. High-street store H&M recently was in the news for raking highest in the 2020 fashion transparency index. Transparency is key to developing a cleaner, greener fashion industry, so consumers can make better choices. The annual report, now in its fifth year, ranks the amount of information companies disclose about social and environmental policies, processes and effects within their operations and supply chains.

H & M Conscious


Disclaimer: some of these links are affiliate links, which means you would support this blog as well as the sustainable brands, if you choose to buy from them, at no extra cost. They usually pay people like me a small percentage of the final price, as a thank you for helping them spread the word. So it would be awesome if you did, as I write my blog posts for free. As always, I only promote brands I like and (would) use myself. Nina x

Review: Silk mustard yellow kimono

Lockdown was miserable and I think we were all looking to cheer ourselves up a bit, while we were – and maybe still are – limited from going out and seeing our friends and loved ones. Did you buy something nice for yourself? I am not one for luxury items, but I decided to order a silk kimono on Etsy. Why? I had enough of my baggy yoga pants and if I have to be at home most days, why not lounge around in something a bit more stylish and sexy? I can honestly say, I am now looking forward getting out of bed in the morning and throwing it on. My husband thinks I am nuts, but that kimono makes me feel HAPPY so I don’t care. Ha! How is that for self-care.

Floaty and airy

Etsy is usually a good bet for finding unique handmade gifts and items for your home and wardrobe. As I still had some gift vouchers to spend, I finally decided to go and buy something with them. I had been wearing a fluffy, fleecy bath robe around the house for most of the lockdown (on top of those baggy yoga pants – oooh mama), but as it was heating up here in Spain, I needed something a bit more summery. I searched for kimono robes on Etsy and found this beauty by Wear the World Label, a UK based Etsy shop specialised in oriental robes, trousers and other clothes made in cotton and silk, with floral prints. Lots of rich colours to choose from. And she ships to Spain and other countries!

A little gift in the post

The fun thing about indy sellers on Etsy is, they often wrap the items beautifully, add it a little personal note or a card, so it feels like a real gift arriving in the post. Try to get that personal service on Amazon! I am therefore a big fan of Etsy and continue to support all its wonderful, hard working and talented sellers on there. It is true to say that nowadays the platform has grown a lot and it is sometimes hit and miss depending on what you look for, but if you use the shoppers guide or editor’s picks as a help, you’ll get some great suggestions.

Silk kimonos for breakfast…or a night out?

The ochre, or mustard yellow, silk kimono I ordered, is perfect. Loose fitting, down to the knee, with the a long waist band for fastening. It is very comfortable to wear in the morning at breakfast, or throw it on after a shower in the evening. In fact, just wear it out as a dress. Style it up with a big belt, a statement necklace and some heels and you’d be glam as anything.

All glam and chuffed to bits in my new kimono, haha!

The kimonos from Wear the World Label are all priced at around £39, which I felt is a good price for something of such great quality that I’ll be wearing for years to come. I am glad to be out of strict lockdown now, but that kimono will still be worn every single day.


Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links, which you probably figured out already. I only ever promote brands that I use myself, like and love, so anything I say in this article comes from a good heart, and I only share things that I feel are worth sharing and could be of value to my readers.

Creating colourful, eclectic kitchens for happy homes

When choosing a kitchen, most people nowadays will play safe and buy a white one. Bright white, off white or cream. Either sleek and contemporary or a shaker style to create a more traditional look. A super expensive one or a cheaper version from Ikea. This is then usually combined with some neutral, grey or cream tiles, a slate floor and some rustic natural wood shelving and furniture. Nothing wrong with that, it’ll look fab for years to come. But how about stepping away from the white and throwing in some colour?

Accent walls, painted cabinets, bold artwork and colourful tiling

A wall in a bright colour, a bright yellow vintage cabinet, colourful mosaic tiles or a mixed bag of old painted chairs. Colourful accessories like pendant lights, large framed posters and things like kettles and toasters in bold colours are great too for contrast. Be brave, make it unique! Choose a colourful kitchen. Green, like the one in the picture above? Why not?

colourful kitchen ideas
colourful kitchen ideas
colourful kitchen ideas
colourful kitchen ideas
colourful kitchen ideas

Splash out on some expensive wallpaper for a feature wall

A feature wall with colourful, patterned wallpaper can make a bold statement in a dining room or kitchen. Imagine the room with just a white wall…not quite the same, right?

colourful kitchen ideas

Go for an eye-catching splash back

Don’t want to change the kitchen itself? Mosaic tiles, Spanish tiles or even tile decals can really change the look of a kitchen. A colourful back splash will make a huge difference. Decals or stickers are ideal if you are renting and cannot make huge changes to your kitchen.

colourful kitchen ideas

Add some bold artworks to your eclectic kitchen

Bold contemporary, graphic artwork can also add some real style to your kitchen-diner. It combines well with white furniture and a white washed floor. Look on Etsy for inspiration and ready made sets.

colourful kitchen ideas

Black kitchen cupboards instead of standard white

A black kitchen can be abold alternative to a standard white one. Black looks sleek, dramatic, modern and goed perfectly with splashes of colour such as chairs or artwork.

colourful kitchen ideas

Barn doors as an alternative

Adding sliding (barn) doors to a kitchen can also add a difference to a room. How about adding one to an alcove you use as a store cupboard/pantry? Turn it into a blackboard for a real eye catching element. 


Accent colours in the kitchen

Another example of bold wallpaper and accent colours in a great space.



Want to see more eclectic and colourful kitchens? All images and more can be found on my Pinterest board. 

Enjoy your garden year-round with these roofed patio areas

Having lived in Scotland for over twelve years I know a fair bit about its summers and how they are usually over in a flash, if you get one at all. You may get a gorgeous day or even a week where temperatures hit the upper twenties, but the rest of the year you’ll be wearing a jumper and probably a coat. There actually is a saying up in Scotland: ‘There is no bad weather, just bad clothing’. But do you know that feeling, when it’s been a sunny day, you have just laid the table, ready for a nice al fresco dinner or a BBQ, cushions on the chairs, wine poured…and then it starts to cloud over…and rain. Yes? Let’s look at how we can create beautiful roofed patio areas to enjoy the outdoors in all weather.

roofed patio area
This roofed patio has glass screens to close in cold weather, which can be opened in summer. VTWonen

Roofed patios and verandas to enjoy your garden year round

Thank goodness there are solutions (other than moving), including building some useful roofed structures in the garden or as an attachment to your home. People seem to like their wooden summerhouses in the UK, but they are usually not very big and may only have space for two seats at the most. Larger roofed outdoor spaces, like verandas, would give people a lot more opportunity to sit and entertain outside while getting shelter from the weather. Create comfortable lounging areas or place a dining table for al fresco eating.

roofed patio areas

Verandas for shelter and outdoor seating areas

I love verandas. Just a little bit of roofed area alongside your house can give great shelter from some rain or a chilly breeze. Even if it is just to dry your washing. Place a comfortable outdoor sofa alongside the wall to relax and enjoy the view onto your garden.


Indoor flooring for outdoors

This great roofed patio area even has space for a swing. And who says you have to stick to traditional garden tiles? Use large kitchen tiles for a nice feature and don’t forget you can also place rugs for additional colour accents and comfort. Read more about washable rugs.



Installing wood burning stoves for cosy evenings outdoors

In my home country the Netherlands, where the weather can also be quite variable, large roofed patios or ‘garden rooms’ are very popular nowadays. Often combined with a shed or garage, these sheltered areas are great for creating a relaxing corner with outdoor sofas and even a wood burner to add some heat in the evening.

Small roofed patios for shelter

A roofed garden area doesn’t need to be big, it could be just a small space to cover your favourite comfy seat, or a small table and some chairs. I love the space below, with the large swing and the outdoor rug.

Apartment Therapy


Large garden rooms and roofed patio spaces

What a fabulous big garden room this is in the image below. Again an example of what is quite popular just now in the Netherlands. Great decor, including lighting and artworks, and still space for a tool shed beside it. I would happily sit here with some friends and a glass of wine, wouldn’t you?

Aluminium pergolas for sun and rain

Ever hear of aluminium pergolas? Biossun is a company that makes these things out of recycled materials and they are pretty cool, especially if you prefer something a bit more sleek and contemporary instead of the ones with heavy wooden rustic beams. The Biossun is a swivelling slat pergola that ‘regulates the temperature in all seasons and protects against heat, wind and bad weather.’ Basically, it can be fully open to let the air through, half open to give some shade from sun or shut when it is a rainy day but it is still warm enough to sit outside. They can be built against your house or freestanding in the garden. Looks like a neat solution. If you live in Scotland, our friends over at Papillon Landscaping are the only local supplier of this structure, so get in touch with them if you want to know more.

roofed patio area
roofed patio area
Also great shelter for a hot tub (oh, doesn’t this look inviting…?)

Upcycled water bottle carrier tutorial

This coronavirus lockdown of 2020 has encouraged a lot of creativity in our household, including the upcycling of old clothes. If you can’t go to the shops, you got to be resourceful! Upcycling is an old hobby of mine and I had a lot of fun making these super quick water bottle carriers out of an old pair of jeans. How I did that? Read on for the DIY tutorial.

DIY water bottle carrier
The upcycled denim water bottle carrier!

Easy DIY water bottle carrier

If you have kids, then as a mum you know that on trips and hikes you are basically a packing donkey carrying everybody’s junk. Right? Now on a hot day, it can get a bit heavy dragging around litres of water for everyone. You also get fed up having to take out the bottles again because little Johnny needs another drink, even though it was only five minutes since the last one. Solution? Let them carry their own water!

It is super easy to make this DIY water bottle carrier out of denim. I don’t claim to be a neat sewer, I am a quick results, practical kind of person, but feel free to make your own improved, beautiful version of this bag. Mine looks pretty good I think, is sturdy enough to hold a bottle and wide enough to carry your phone or small purse too on your walks. I added a little pocket for a snack (or your public transport card!), which took a bit more time, but otherwise, you will have this made less than an hour.

What do you need?

  • An old pair of ladies jean trousers, ideally stretchy and tapered at the ankles. It needs to fit snug, but not too snug around your water bottle. You can, of course, use a wider trouser leg for a larger bag that holds more.
  • A thick, wide ribbon or fabric belt of a dress or something for the shoulder strap.
  • Optional pocket: a different piece of fabric or denim and a button for decoration
My eldest monkey, normally asking me for water every two minutes when out on a walk. No longer!

Step 1. Cut the trouser leg

You will be using the bottom part of the trouser leg. The best thing is to place your water bottle on top of the leg before you cut. Cut the fabric about 2cm (1”) longer than the bottle is. The hem of the trouser leg will be the top of the bag, so that bit is already done.

Step 2. Sew the bottom of your water bottle bag

Turn the fabric inside out and sew the widest opening (and not the existing hem) shut. Sew a straight line about 2cm/1” from the edge. Cut off the excess and sew a zigzag to finish to prevent the edge from fraying.

3. Add elastic through the top hem

Next I cut two small holes in the top of the existing hem (which of course is a ready-made hollow tube!) and used a safety pin to pull a piece of elastic (19cm) through. Now you could choose to pull a drawstring through the top, but I chose to put elastic in instead. A wider strap is more comfortable on the shoulder than a drawstring, but that doesn’t fit through the small holes of the top hem. Once you have the elastic through, tie both ends together. Tie it so that it makes a slightly smaller, stretchy opening without making it too hard to fit the bottle in. The elastic is really just to keep the bottle in place rather than to close the bag completely.

Step 4. Sew the pocket on

You can leave the bag like it is and skip straight to sewing on the shoulder strap, or you can embellish your DIY water bottle carrier with a handy pocket. I cut out out a piece of around 12 x 10cm of blue denim for contrast, using the bottom hem as the top of the pocket. With the square being quite small, I decided to zigzag the edges instead of folding them over, as that would become too bulky. Once you have done that, sew the pocket onto the bag, either using your machine or stitch it by hand. I added a little button just as a colour accent.

Step 5: Sew on the shoulder strap

The shoulder strap can be pinned onto the bag along the top across the full width. I sewed a straight line both along the top and the bottom of the strap to secure it. The ends of the strap can now be tied around the shoulder, adjusted to the person using it. It will be shorter for a child than for an adult obviously.

And you are done!

Washable rugs for beautiful outdoor spaces

Summer is on its way and you may be looking to give your outdoor space an upgrade. Some new plants, a few new seats, perhaps you are retiling the whole area. Washable rugs are a great way to give your balcony, terrace or patio a new look. They are not only practical, they add a touch of comfort, colour and style to your outdoor space. There are many washable rugs available nowadays and the nice thing is that you can use them indoors as well in areas such as the kitchen and bathroom. Great for when you love durable, practical products, without cramping your style. Here are some of my favourites.

Is your terrace looking a bit tired? This roofed patio area will certainly cheer you up! Great use of a washable rug to add a splash of colour and tie in with the cushions on the bench. Source: Apartment Therapy

Why choose washable rugs?

  • Most are machine washable, so very practical
  • No more expensive carpet cleaning products needed
  • There are many beautiful designs available
  • They are very durable
  • They are kid-friendly and pet-friendly!
  • Washable rugs can be used both indoors and outdoors

Mustard yellow outdoor rugs

Washable outdoor rug
This large woven rug ‘Oblique’ of 160 x 230cm is a great choice for both indoors and outdoors in an uplifting mustard and light grey. Buy it at MADE.com for £149

mustard yellow rug
Yellow & Grey Geo Washable Indoor Outdoor Runner – Habitat
Available in the UK at Kukoon from £14.97
mustard yellow rug
Place your washable rug on tiles or decking to make a great lounging area. This one is available in the US from Rugs.com
mustard yellow rug
Great combo with the black patio set, this mustard yellow chevron rug, available from £35.00 from The Rug Warehouse.


Beautiful blue washable rugs

Blue always makes a modern, fresh statement on a terrace or balcony and goes well with the colour of natural wood and other neutrals.

washable rugs
A gorgeous rug designed by Habitat for Kukoon. This Blue Flatweave Tribal Durable Outdoor Rug is priced from £49.95
washable rugs
Here pictured indoors, this great rug us durable and washable and suitable for outdoors too. Find the Coastal Outdoor Teal Rug at Kukoon from £49.95

Pink washable rugs

washable rugs
A lovely soft pastel for this runner of 77 x 200cm. You’ll feel extra good about this one, as it’s made of recycled plastic. Available at Made.com at £79
washable rugs
This beautiful Kilim indoor/outdoor rug is from Crate & Barrel and available from $171.97

Another alternative for outdoors: the stenciled rug!

If you have a decked or tiled patio area, this could be a great idea to give your garden a unique style. It doesn’t come any more washable than that! You could do an edge only or a square underneath your dining table or sitting area. Be creative! You can find stencils at your local DIY or craft store or browse the stencil collection on Etsy.

For a great project example check out this blog: The Other Side of Neutral
Image: Pinterest