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

The crazy effects of lockdown on your mental health

Remember the first week of quarantine? It was all still new and you’d receive at least twenty Whatsapp messages each day with funny memes, homeschooling tips and hilarious or heart warming videos of life in lockdown. We were feeling OK, positive and were just going along with it all. Life was different, but OK. We could see the humour in it too. We are eight weeks at home now. And there is very little left of that optimism. The memes have dried up. We are all done with it.

Lockdown exhaustion

Last night I cried and emptied half a bottle of wine by myself. We thought after this weekend we would go into ‘phase 1’ of post-quarantine life, but last night the government changed its mind. Only certain areas of Spain are given that ‘freedom’ of going out a bit more than just one hour a day. We were beaten with a stick, back into our corner, at least that is how some people described it. Valencia and a number of other Spanish cities and districts were going to stay where they were, probably for another 15 days. Why? Reasons.

covid 19 mental health impact

An empty cup

I sound like a spoiled child. I know it won’t last, I know this is not about me and I can put it into perspective. I have food on the table and a roof over my head, my family is healthy. I know this is nothing compared to what other people go through. Exhausted nurses. People who lost their income. People stuck at home in abusive relationships. People in poor countries, starving. People fleeing from war. I know.

But I feel what I feel and I am not alone. It is Covid-19 depression. And I don’t normally get depressed. But as someone who likes her own company and loves her freedom…this is really hard. I am feeling anxious just knowing that I am not allowed out to do some exercise by myself until 8pm at night. That come September I will have had my beloved but very noisy children at home for nearly seven months. There is no escape. I am an empty cup and there is nowhere to get a refill. The homeschooling is draining, family life 24/7 is too much, not being able to be as active as normal is making me sluggish and fat and I miss seeing my friends. I miss my band, I miss walking around the city, I miss walking in nature. I miss putting my toes in the sand at the beach. It’s the little things that are becoming vital for mental health.

covid 19 mental health impact

Keyboard warriors

Beside feeling depressed and drained, there is another thing that bugs me. This crisis started out as something we thought we would tackle together as a worldwide community with good common sense and a few weeks at home, but it is developing into something more sinister. It is dividing the population. Suddenly everyone has an opinion about Covid, masks, health and what is going on and it is NOT helping the situation. The rebels and the compliant people. The freedom fighters and the rule-followers. The anti-vaxxers and the Trump fans. The conspiracy theorists, the whistle blowers and the scientists. Left and right. The ‘awakened’ people and the blind sheep. They are all disagreeing – online mainly, as keybord warriors. People are starting to spread fear. They become afraid. Distance is created between us, literally. Masks have replaced freedom and joy. Mistrust and anger have arrived.

The aliens are coming to get us. Or something.

Social Media is plastered in opinions and heated discussions. The longer this lockdown lasts, and with too much time to think, the more people are starting to share stuff. Crazy theories, conspiracy theories, reasonable theories, all kinds of stories, published on Youtube or obscure blogs and alternative websites. Some make sense, most are ridiculous. With so many ideas and possibilities, people start to doubt everything. They want an answer. They want something to hold onto and follow. This surreal situation is too much to grasp. Who is speaking the truth? Is the government lying? Is the corona-virus a hoax? Is Bill Gates trying to kill us? Is 5G to blame? Are we all going to get a digital chip rammed into us through a compulsory vaccine next winter? Are the Chinese taking over the world? Or are the powerful people secretly aliens? It is wild out there. Links with the past are being made. Fingers are pointed.

covid 19 mental health impact

Even well educated friends and family are sending videos and articles which they want you to watch because they “are really interesting”. You watch and read and wonder whether they have lost their marbles. Or have you? What if they are right? We are bombarded and are drowning in information. We start to worry. Are we missing a trick? So we read a bit more. Do we need to speak up? To whom? We mistrust the news, we start mistrusting each other. We don’t know who to believe anymore. We share stuff on Facebook without checking the facts. But what are the facts?

We need to stop this shit. right now. We are making ourselves sick.

I don’t know what is true and I am not trying to convince anyone. Believe whatever you want to believe in. But I tend to keep both feet firmly on the ground and not be swept away by all sorts of theories and stories coming out of the woodwork. Fear, uncertainty and an economic crisis are a breeding ground for unrest, hate and uproar. Politicians, especially the ones we don’t want to see in power, will take advantage of this tasty cocktail at the next elections. They need us to be divided. That is a thing we can learn from the past, whatever wacky conspiracy theory you choose to follow.



The planet is healing…but for how long?

Back in March, when this lockdown started, none of this felt so heavy. It just looked like the rat race had stopped and we were all slowing down. Many of us felt more creative, calmer and even saw the Covid quarantine as a positive change for the world. Planet earth was healing. And yes, it has in some ways had good things coming out of it. The seas are quieter, which encourages dolphins to come closer to the beach and even into the waters of Venice. The Himalayas are visible again from India, for the first time in many years because of less pollution. It was lovely to live in silence for a while here at home too, without the noise of traffic and instead hearing birdsong. Eight weeks later I am not so sure anymore how much of this change will stick. Big business is dying to get back to normal, as much as we are all dying to escape the house. Flights are on the horizon come June. I am an optimist by nature, but I don’t expect that pure capitalism will make place for a different, more balanced way of life any time soon. Here’s hoping.

covid 19 mental health impact

Stories in our head

My mother once taught me a lesson, to keep things close to home when the world feels too much to bear. “Keep it small and go from there.” Look after yourself, your loved ones and your immediate community. You can’t carry the whole world on your shoulders, but you can make a difference at home. We can allow ourselves to be suffocated by the endless stream of news and information, becoming fearful and worried. We can allow ourselves to become angry. We can shout at the world and people on social media, we can point fingers, we can keep scanning all the articles on the net and searching the millions of videos on Youtube, looking for ‘the truth’. Or we can choose not to. Instead, we can choose to hold what we have, look at what is reality around us and live in the now. We can lie awake worrying about what could happen, what the future could look like, who or what could be behind it all. But these thoughts are only stories in our head and are not real.

This lockdown and any other abnormal situation, play tricks on the mind, that’s for sure. Because so much is unknown, unfamiliar and just plain weird, people panic and look for answers. Call me naive, blind or someone who keeps her rose tinted glasses firmly in place, but I don’t think it makes any difference to the world whether I spend all day scanning the web – or not. It does however make a huge difference to my health and well-being. Anxiety lowers the immune system. That doesn’t mean that I am not critical, or don’t make informed decisions in life. But right now I just need to look after my sanity.

Smiling at strangers

In times like these I believe it is better to turn off the TV and the internet and all the distractions in the media and go back to basics. Hard I know, for me as well, when we are stuck at home with too much time to kill. Let’s go outdoors and smell the flowers. Exercise. Work. Sing. Meditate. Focus on things we do have control over. Smile at strangers, even with a mask on. Life is precious. Breathe and feel the sun on your face.


Home schooling in times of a pandemic. Worth it?

In week one of lockdown due to the coronavirus we were having a lot of fun at home with the kids. My boys are just 6 and 8 years old and generally have heaps of energy but not an equal amount of patience to sit down and do school work. So we were dancing, baking, drawing, singing, playing, dressing up and cuddling. A LOT. It was lovely. At bedtime we’d read a book and the next morning we would again come up with brand new ideas. I felt I was catching up on lost time. In Spain they are normally at school five days a week from 9 till 5. You hardly see your children during the week.

Then came week two. First an email from the teacher of infantil for the 5/6 year olds, then swiftly followed by another one from the teacher of Primaria 2. Five, six, seven or even eight attachments for several subjects, accompanied with a plan for the week and I’m sure well meant suggestions for how to focus your day around your children’s education. Your DAY yes, not hours, or a morning, but DAY. Because, sure, us parents in lockdown are suddenly all jobless and twiddling our thumbs and dying to get retrained as our children’s dedicated primary school teacher.

covid 19 mental health impact
We are lucky to have a little bit of outdoor space. Many families in Spain live in apartments, sometimes without even a balcony.

I knew it should not make me feel stressed, after all we are all in a very unusual situation, worrying to say the least, and the main objective surely is to stay calm and love our family. I admired my friend Marie who bravely emailed school administration to tell them they wouldn’t be doing any home education whatsoever (read her very funny blog post here). Good, I thought, let’s all jump on the barricades! But another friend pointed out to me that “Nina, you are rebellious, but you also want to please the teacher”… Damnit, I’m caught out, I admit it, I suffer from a split personality and it’s bugging me.

You cannot get a bunch of high wired children to do a week’s worth of maths, when they haven’t been out running outdoors for over a fortnight. Anybody who is a parent of young children and boys especially knows that these monkeys need to be ‘walked’ in the fresh air regularly just like dogs, to regulate their energy and emotions. Now in other countries with less restrictions around lockdown you can still escape to a nearby field or forest as long as you are pretty much on your own, but not in Spain. Unfortunately dogs currently have more rights to public space here than children, so the poor puppets are stuck between four walls for the next foreseeable future. Imagine living in a tiny apartment on the fourth floor and not having a balcony. Seven Spanish million children are not allowed out. It’s like a high pressure cooker.

covid 19 mental health impact
Quarantine action shot. Noise, mess and multiple activities going on all at once.

So yes. Homeschooling dilemmas. We try to find a compromise. Our children normally have week plans at school with their various assignments they have to finish by Friday, so I decided to copy this concept and make up my own simplified plan per child. In week one I got them to make up their own plans, which included anything from cuddling mummy, joining an online dance class to eating an apple in ten seconds. I mean, essential life skills right there! Last week I incorporated a few more ‘educational’ tasks from the teacher’s email. But I also happily skipped others, such as ‘sing these traditional Spanish songs with your children while dancing together’ and “do page four full of problem sums” (key: meltdown – I’ll leave that for the classroom, thank you very much). But it turned out that my children were actually OK with an hour of doing a few sums and/or spelling exercises, followed by an hour or longer of drawing (Art for Kids Hub is now a firm favourite here) and of course investigating weird and wonderful stuff on Youtube. I mean, who doesn’t want to know everything about megalodons or how cars are made? And why do animals not have belly buttons?

covid 19 mental health impact
Who needs to know about Picasso when you can learn how to draw a poop emoji?

Week three has commenced and suddenly the teachers are ramping it up. Four separate emails with attachments (our printer is broken, but “if you don’t have a printer, just let your child copy the text by hand in their notebook”. Yeah right.), and basically the same amount of tasks they normally get in class. Just as I felt I had cracked it during the very laid back and enjoyable second week of semi-homeschooling, the knot in my stomach was back. Nina, please, I told myself, just ignore them, these people are crazy. But what if, I kept on thinking, what if all the other children are neatly keeping up with their tasks in their notebooks and so when school opens again, my children have nothing to show to the teacher? If you’re like me, you will have surely had a similar non-stop stream of Whatsapp messages from anxious parents about the various assignments, showing off their kids in photos sitting at the kitchen table working and seemingly being a much better home-schooler than you’ll ever be.

covid 19 mental health impact
Need your child to write? I asked mine to make up a recipe. A favourite task that day.

Bullocks of course. First of all, for all we know, we may have our kids home until September. Yes, let that sink in. It doesn’t matter if they do the homework that is being sent. They’ll start afresh once they are back. They are not going to fail in life because of this. Secondly, while any curriculum school work is put on hold, or lessened, suddenly an opportunity is created for children to discover a wide range of other things and have control over their own learning. Indulge in their current crafts obsession, learn how to cook, find fascinating facts about nature and science on Youtube, enjoy baking cakes, help out with daily chores, read lots of comics, have a disco in the living room each night and have heaps of snuggles with their favourite people in the world: YOU. And just chill. The modern world asks a lot of our children. This morning I read this awful article in the Washington Post about how ‘homeschooling during the coronavirus will set back a generation of children‘ and how long breaks end up in ‘learning losses’ and a ‘mess’. Ugh. How about adding some extra pressure to us parents while we are already stuck indoors and worried about our health. Because, oh wait, why are we all indoors again? Yes, a deadly virus.

covid 19 mental health impact
The best way to play a knight is with a waste bin on your head of course and a laundry bin lid as a shield.

Of course I can see what the article was also saying: theoretically there is a risk that those children who live in homes where parents have no time for, or even interest in spending time playing with their children or do any kind of reading or revising with them while in lockdown, may be worse off than their peers in a more stimulating environment. Children are always learning, in their own way, every day, but if one child keeps working hard on their maths, with a private online tutor if one can afford it, and another sits in their bedroom only playing Fortnite for two months… You know who will likely pass their maths exam. But that would mainly be an issue for children in secondary school. Also, more importantly, this kind of inequality will always exist, with or without a pandemic. I don’t think in any case my 6 and 8-year old will ‘academically fall behind’ by keeping on reading daily, doing the odd sums and spelling words after breakfast and for the rest just playing and bonding with their family. You might just end up with happy and resilient children.

It is great to ask your child to make their own work plan for the week. You’d be surprised what they come up with.

So what are we doing as a family at home every day? I made up a bit of a day plan, which we all religiously try and stick to or else we’d still be in our pyjamas by 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Normally it’s 8 o’clock wake up time here and straight away getting dressed, 8.30am breakfast, 9am school! We work on sums or spelling for an hour, then do another hour or more of art or science if the kids are not moaning too much yet. Around 12 we’ll take the school papers off the kitchen table, make lunch and let the kids play. We stick to this schedule as much as we can. But we are only human and sometimes we change our plans. This morning we all felt tired and grumpy and the boys just really wanted to go and build a city out of Kapla. Who then am I to drag them to the kitchen table to do sums? I may as well open the gin bottle straight away. One rule we do try and stick to is no computer games before 4 o’clock. These things are fabulous babysitters, I know all too well, but enough is enough and 2 or 3 hours a day of square eyes is plenty!

covid 19 mental health impact
Who wouldn’t rather build a parking lot than do a sheet of sums at 9am?

Balance, it’s all about balance. And while some children love having homework, doing sums and writing stories, others would be better off using this lockdown time to indulge in things they have a keen interest in, whether that is cooking, crafting, building or dancing. While the numbers of infected people with the coronavirus are still on the rise, and many people are dying from it, we surely need to have our priorities right. We need to stay stay strong and healthy, all of us. Not just physically, but mentally too. No child benefits from parents at home who are losing the plot, getting frustrated by the amount of school work while also trying to hold down a job and working from home, who are turning into alcoholics in the process (right!) and literally missing the opportunity to just ‘be’ with their children. If you can, relax. (Yes, I am also taking note!). We are not teachers, we are parents. We are doing enough, we are doing our best, we are not expected to copy a normal school day. Let’s guide ourselves and our families through this storm on a calm ship and let our children remember this time as special, despite the crisis going on outside.