I am not a coffee expert, but I love drinking it. Frugal as I am, I once bought a secondhand £20 Krups espresso machine on Gumtree in Scotland and it lasted us for a good six years. And that machine saw some heavy traffic in our house. Unfortunately, during the 2020 lock-down this Spring, it gave up the ghost. Great timing, right? I almost lost the will to live. I mean, not being allowed out for a proper cafe con leche, home schooling two small children, not sleeping well AND no working coffee machine at home? You get the picture. The dragon was unleashed.
Rediscovering what you already own
But there was hope. My husband, clearly having had enough of my moaning, but too stubborn to just order a new machine online, did an emergency search through the cupboards looking for an alternative. He dug out an old stove top coffee maker. Not quite producing your creamy machine coffee, but it had to do. I still grumbled. But then my man stumbled upon a Youtube video that made all the difference. If you own a cafetiere or French press, read on.
The basics: selecting the right coffee bean
First up: a crash course in coffee beans. They make all the difference if you start making cappuccinos at home! There are two types of beans, namely the Robusta and the Arabica. The Robusta is also known as the “average supermarket coffee”. The Arabica bean is more highly regarded and has different qualities. It has a more refined smell, a soft, full taste and low caffeine content. Also, the acidity is higher in the Arabica bean, which is a good sign when it comes to coffee. You can make nice coffee with ground coffee from a package, but if you want to go all barista, you can of course grind the beans yourself.
Making great coffee in a machine or a stove top coffee maker
If you have a proper espresso machine at home, spread the ground coffee evenly over the filter holder. This ensures optimal extraction. Then press the coffee firmly and place the filter holder back in the machine. Then immediately brew the coffee, don’t let it sit there, to avoid a bitter, burnt taste. If you are using an Italian espresso pot for on the stove, you basically do the same: spread the coffee grounds evenly, press it down well and put it on the stove until ready.
Make the best cappuccinos at home with a French press
If you want to make the best cappuccinos at home on a budget, read on for the trick that totally improved our morning routine! Frothing milk is quite a job to make a cappuccino that tastes the same as in your favorite coffee bar. There are all kinds of machines and milk frothers for sale, but did you know that you can also use a cafetiere for this? Heat a little milk in a pan, until just short of boiling, and pour it into your cafetiere. Then go up and down with the plunger / whisk of the cafetiere and beat the milk for about a minute until it foams. Carefully pour the milk foam over the coffee, slowly reducing the distance between them. For the last layer, keep the cup straight so that the top layer on the inside is beautifully white and surrounded by a brown edge. Voilà, barista!
I have met many talented artists, makers and designers in my career, who make beautiful work, but have no clue about marketing themselves. They may have set up an online shop or are dabbling in social media, but are all struggle with the same question: how do we get seen and earn money online and offline? Digital marketing for creative businesses, where do you start?
Be social: network offline and online
Before we get into the online bit, here is tip one: networking is very important, both online and offline. Knowing lots of people helps. Go to local business events, workshops, talks. Speak to people, exchange business cards, ask questions, LEARN. Chances are you will always come away with at least one new idea, useful contact or a bit of info that will help you move forward. Not everyone is comfortable introducing themselves to new people at such events, but just remember that people are all there for the same reasons: they want to learn something new and meet new people. So don’t be shy, because you have something pretty cool to talk about: your business.
Tackle social media like a boss
Which social media platforms are best for your business? It depends on what you sell. If you own a design business, you obviously have plenty of gorgeous visual material to use in your marketing. Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook are therefore great media. On Facebook you can easily set up a Page for your business, sharing news and photos, videos and links. Nina’s Apartment currently has just under 5,000 Likes which didn’t happen overnight but grew through being engaging, entertaining – paying for some posts now and then (you can boost a post to reach more people) and just generally being active on it.
Saying you are ‘not into’ social media or online marketing is going to harm your business. You have to use social media – there is no way around it, if you want to be seen online. Again, perhaps a learning curve for some and a whole new field to explore, but it is fun and mostly free. I find it in fact quite a creative exercise, to design Instagram posts and blog articles. With the right approach it can really make your brand and product stand out and reach a big audience. Yes, it can be all consuming and rather addictive even, but if you choose your accounts wisely and set dedicated time aside to update them regularly (or use an app like hootsuite to schedule posts and update them all simultaneously for you), then it is not so daunting.
Design professional graphics with Canva
To create beautiful social media posts, or even e-books, flyers and business cards, I recommend Canva. The free account gives you many templates to design professional looking graphics. I couldn’t be without anymore!
Instagram, stories and hashtags
Instagram is a great social platform to share and promote your work, WORLD-WIDE! Post daily or a few times a week and make sure you use suitable hashtags to attract visitors looking for such topics. Use one of the online hashtag generators to find out which # are trending or popular in your field.
The stories feature on Instagram is a great way to post about your daily practice, behind-the scenes, things that inspire you or special offers, etc. The stories are only visible for 24h, but usually get seen by more people than the posts.
Twitter: connect with (local) media and journalists
Twitter is different and less useful for artists and designers in my opinion, with the added challenge of saying something worth reading in only 140 characters. However, Twitter can be good for following professionals, journalists and bloggers in the industry. If you are active on Twitter and start to reply to tweets by people you want to connect with (or be seen by), it is not too difficult to all of a sudden be speaking to a celebrity! Or perhaps a magazine that may be interested in featuring your work.
Be human, show the people behind the business
Social media is about showing the human face behind your business. It is about connecting with your customers, lowering the threshold, having a conversation. Smile, be nice, be yourself. Your website can be more static and informative – your social media activity however should be fun. An informal, friendly voice talking about what you do and why you do it, rather than a one-way stream of information about opening hours and what you have on offer this week. Listening to people as much as talking to them (and not at them – get it?) is a helpful way to find out what your customers need and think of your business. The ultimate goal of being on social media is to make people want to be part of what you do, to love your brand and tell others about it. Because once you get the ball rolling, social media really is ‘word of mouth on steroids’.
To establish your business name and brand (and remember, a ‘brand’ is not the same as a logo, it is the whole package: from type font to customer service!) you want to create recognition. A consistent use of logo, colours, images, type font and tone of voice are therefore pretty important in order to come across as someone who knows what she’s doing. Decide how you want to be seen, what look or style you want to portray and stick with it across all of your marketing. It will make your material online and offline look professional, coherent and recognisable.
I am not talking about your looks here. I mean the way your business is portrayed in everything you publish. If you design or craft things you want to sell or get seen, make sure your photography is up to scratch too – and consistent. Ever been on Etsy? You are probably drawn to those pictures that are really making the product stand out: white background, no clutter, beautiful styling. Keep this in mind when taking photos of your own products.
Don’t make things complicated though, just use what you have already and your imagination. You can easily take photos on your smartphone, against the same background (consistency!), and then edit them with the built-in image app or putting filters on them on Instagram. There are lots of great free mobile apps available to turn photos into videos / slideshows, add text, or turn them into collages. All very useful to make your product look pretty and be great at digital marketing for creatives.
Having an actual website is still important despite having your social media accounts. A website is your base, your home, the place where all your social media lead back to. This can be an online shop or a blog (my website/blog is built on WordPress). But everything you put out on social media should lead back to the base. And make sure you can be found.
Spend time on SEO
Spending time learning about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is pretty useful if you want to drive organic traffic to your website. After all, you want lots of people to visit your online business! If this kind of techy web thing dazzles you, I recommend hiring a cheap freelancer on Fiverr, to put things in place for you pretty quickly.
SEO Basics? Pay attention to all descriptions, words you use in titles, image captions, links – and get others to link back to your website too. Find out what popular keywords people type into Google on sites like Keywordtooland use them on your website.
Build an email list
An email newsletter is a great tool to directly contact your customers and keep a relationship with existing fans and clients. Collecting email addresses is therefore a good idea online, but also if you sell at fairs or other physical events. Software Like Mailchimp is free up to a certain amount of addresses, and easy to use and makes your newsletters look professional and attractive. These apps also offer very useful reports in who opens and clicks on links. It also tells you a lot about what campaigns work and which not.
Pinterest: the visual search engine
Pinterest…oh Pinterest. My favourite! Great for inspiration and highly addictive, but also be another tool for yourself to promote your products/business – linking back to your website. I have found that good, original images and graphics pinned from my blog, drive a lot of traffic back to my website. People look for certain colour schemes, products and ideas, so if you can give them what they want on Pinterest and make them click, you have just got yourself another website visitor. Now, make sure you have plenty of high quality content to keep that new visitor on your site. And don’t forget to tempt them to subscribe to your newsletter.
Video tutorials, e-courses and e-books for digital marketing
I know a lot of people who successfully use Youtube or Vimeo as well to boost their reputation and follower numbers. How about creating little ‘how-to’ videos or demos about what you do? Or a tour around your shop or studio? Videos have the added bonus of rating higher on Facebook, reaching more people. Video content is very effective and keeps people’s attention much longer than just a picture. Try it. You can post video content on all platforms.
If you are doing OK selling on Etsy or perhaps you have a physical shop, but would like to earn a passive income too, look at creating an e-course or e-book. Teachable and Listenable are great platforms to create both visual courses and audio courses on. If you fancy creating an e-book, I recommend Designrr, which helps you design beautiful e-books which you can start selling online.
Digital marketing for creatives: add an SEO blog
Last but not least: start a blog. A blog is very useful to increase visibility online. Why? Because Google and other search engines LOVE fresh content. Adding a blog post to your website once or twice a month will really help your website to rank higher. Use the right keywords, and people who are searching for something, will arrive at your website for the answer. What do you write about? Make sure it is something useful, beautiful, entertaining or informative. Around 500 words is enough. And break up the text with two or three gorgeous images.
don’t try to sell your products and services constantly on your social media platforms. use those creative skills in your marketing too.
Aim for high quality content that makes people want to come back to again and again because they like hanging out with you and your brand. What would you find interesting to read yourself? Getting them to subscribe to your newsletter is a great idea to keep the readers with you.
The key in all social media: be social, not pushy. And just be yourself.
Looking for more support? Join my dedicated free Facebook group for connection, resources, and advice on how to grow your creative business.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 rugslater 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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).
I hope this list is helpful in guiding you, whatever room you may tackle. What do you find most difficult in your redecorating projects?
Shampoo bottles, make-up wipes, toothbrushes, period pads, shower gel and razors…go and count the amount of plastic and wasteful items you have in your bathroom today. I know, right? But do you know it is actually not that hard to choose plastic free bathroom products and avoid single-use and plastic containers? I mean, people went without plastic for centuries before us, so surely we can do it again. Next time you need to get some new supplies, consider not buying your usual brands and products, but instead try this. Here are five easy zero-waste suggestions for your bathroom.
1. Shampoo bars
Lush has been selling plastic free bathroom products such as shampoo bars for years. I am currently using Lush’s Seanik shampoo bar, which smells lovely, gives plenty of lather and leaves my (slightly oily) hair clean and soft. There are plenty of other shops selling them too and you may also find shampoo bars on your local craft markets and Etsy, handmade by soap making fans. Or why not have a go at making them yourself?. Shampoo bars are basically are soap bars, with natural ingredients good for cleaning hair. Rub them on your wet hair in the shower and wash your hair as normal. It is handy to buy a metal tin with it to keep the shampoo bar clean and intact and make it easier to take with you to the gym or trips away. And not just shampoo comes in bars, conditioner is available too, as is of course normal soap. Nothing needs to come home in a plastic bottle no more. Let’s go back to the bar!
2. Bamboo tooth brushes
Imagine how many tooth brushes you have used in your lifetime. Now imagine where they all are in the world right now. Because they are not biodegradable. Time to rethink the brush! If you are using an electrical brush, this won’t be an option (or maybe yes!), but these lovely bamboo tooth brushes do an excellent job in caring for your teeth and for the planet. I have just started using my first ever bamboo brush and it works perfectly.
3. Metal razors
My husband needs to shave pretty much daily and recently decided to ditch the plastic throwaway razors in favour of an old fashioned, durable metal safety razor, with doubled edge blades. Of course it also comes with a bowl, soap and a nice brush. Take extra care, these double edged blades are sharp and shaving may turn into a bit of a dangerous act if you expect the same job as your plastic razor. But a lovely smooth shave it gives. You’ll never want to look at Gilette again. Try specialist shops in town or online, the better department stores or Amazon.
4. Plastic free periods!
Someone on Facebook posted a funny video about menstrual cups a few years ago, so I got curious and decided to buy one. My goodness, what a life changer! Best thing since sliced bread. Day 1 still requires a backup pad, but that would be the same with tampons if you have a heavy flow. For this I have just bought some pretty fabric washable pads or you can get organic pads that are biodegradable. There’s even period-proof underwear. You don’t notice the cup at all, making your period a complete breeze. You empty the cup once or twice a day, clean it under the tap, and use it again. The cups are made of silicon, a very safe material that does not contain chemicals nor harbour bacteria like tampons would. It does take a bit of practice and some brands may suit you better than others. There are quite a few different ones on the market (here is lots of information on how to choose the perfect one for you. There are also heaps of videos on Youtube explaining the use. I am personally very happy with my Divacup.). Also, you will get very familiar with your female body parts, which you will have to feel comfortable about. But I will never go back to tampons, that’s for sure.
5. Make-up removal pads
This is another easy plastic free bathroom swap. Do you use throwaway face wipes to get your makeup off at night? Maybe time for a rethink, especially after reading this article. How hard is it to just have a jar of reusable cloths and make-up pads sitting in a jar or basket on your dressing table? Throw them in the wash and use them again. Not rocket science and really something we should all be doing right now. No more throwaway plastic wipes. Not difficult to make yourself some washable face cloths, from some jersey fabric or old towels cut into squares or circles. Or just use simple shop bought terry wash cloths.
A few online ethical / organic stores to check out
Zero Waste Home : The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste. Bea Johnson
In Zero Waste Home, Bea Johnson shares the story of how she simplified her life by reducing her waste. Today, Bea, her husband, Scott, and their two young sons produce just one quart of garbage a year, and their overall quality of life has changed for the better they now have more time together, they’ve cut their annual spending by a remarkable 40 percent, and they are healthier than they’ve ever been. PRICE 15,54 €
Are you always looking for inspiring interiors? Do you love flicking through a beautiful book full of pretty homes? So do I. There is just something nice and wholesome about an actual printed book on your coffee table, rather than scrolling through millions of images on a screen. I love buying books by interior stylists or about certain topics like midcentury design, to brush up on my knowledge. The nice thing about these books is that they also make rather pretty and thoughtful gifts for fellow design enthusiasts amongst your friends (Christmas anyone?).
inspiring interiors: from boho to Scandinavian minimalism
This month I am recommending a few books by stylists who I have been following on social media for quite a while now and whose style I really like, plus a book on beautiful styling with plants. Enjoy reading!
1. Styled. Secrets for Arranging Rooms, from Tabletops to Bookshelves, Emily Henderson
Emily Henderson is a rather charming home and lifestyle blogger based in California (www.stylebyemilyhenderson.com). She seems down to earth, friendly & fun and honest and has a great flair for styling and decorating. I get very inspired by her eclectic but beautiful mixing of vintage and new. ”Perfection is boring. Let’s get weird” she says in her tagline, and I can very much sympathise with that!
Her best-seller book Styled is the ultimate guide to thinking like a stylist. It contains 1,000 design ideas for creating the most beautiful, personal, and liveable rooms. How is that for finding ideas for inspiring interiors? She also uses a lot of vintage in her styling, which of course makes it all the better. The book shows you ten easy steps to styling any space. It also teaches you how to edit out what you don’t love to repurposing what you can’t live without and how to arrange the most eye-catching displays on any surface.
”Even a few little tweaks can transform the way your room feels”… now that is some helpful, practical advice right there.
2. Urban Jungle: Living and Styling with Plants, Igor Josifovic and Judith de Graaff
House plants have really made a comeback in recent years and they sure make a room look good. I love them, even though it is an upward struggle to keep them alive sometimes. This beautiful thick book from the founders of the Urban Jungle Bloggers community is a fantastic. resource full of stunning inspirational photos. The book shows endless styling ideas, making you want to rush straight out and buy some greenery. It guides the reader through different ‘green’ homes in five European countries and shows how beautiful, unique, creative and even artistic living with plants can be. The book also offers easy help for taking care of the plants, which is a bonus.
3. The Scandinavian Home: Interiors inspired by light, Niki Brantmark
Oh, you can’t beat Scandinavian styling, now can you? Although I find some of the interiors in this book a bit too monochrome (I like colour!), they are absolutely beautiful. Plenty of inspiring interiors here. White or white washed flooring, white walls, blond wood furniture, vintage finds, black and grey accents, contemporary art, you get the idea. And light, plenty of light, which is the main focus in this book by Niki Brantmark. And I guess that’s what the Scandinavians have in common with Scotland, where I currently live: there is not a lot of it half of the year, so we better make the the daylight we do get.
Nature and the weather are major influences in Scandinavia: homes are made warm and cosy for the freezing winter months – not just literally with log burners, but also through incorporating wood and natural materials. In her book, Niki Brantmark, owner of the interior design blogMy Scandinavian Home, presents a wide-ranging collection of these beautiful homes and explores how the Scandinavian lifestyle is reflected in them all.
Do you hang out at Pinterest a lot, pinning images of beautiful, eclectic rooms and wondering if you are ever going to be able to recreate something similar? Where do people find all these perfect vintage pieces of furniture and objects? How do they put it all together?
Here are 5 Tips to Decorate with Vintage:
Buy what you love.
Your home should be pleasing to your eye. You have to live there. If you don’t love your decor, you will not feel comfortable in your own home. If you love those crazy antlers or that old travel trunk, use them!
Don’t be afraid to mix wood tones.
Many people think that if they own one piece of oak furniture, the rest has to match. But wood is just a colour. Vintage furniture that was meant to last was made of wood. Check for tones in the wood grain that may be complimentary to one another.
Be patient. Shop often.
My furniture did not come home with me in one weekend. That’s one of the luxuries of buying new – you can get a catalog looking living room in one shopping trip. But in order to achieve decor with character, you may have to be patient for the right piece to come along. Check your local vintage traders, charity shops, flea market, Gumtree and Ebay, often.
Mix it up.
True design comes from mixing unexpected elements, colours, and textures. With vintage furniture, you run the risk of looking like you live in a time warp – same goes for vintage clothing. Don’t be afraid to mix decades, vintage and modern, and shapes. A very ornate antique cabinet can look amazing when given pride of place against a fresh white wall, next to a fairly inexpensive standard lamp from Ikea.
Don’t be afraid to re-purpose.
The goal of decorating with vintage is two fold – owning quality constructed pieces and creating a unique, eclectic look. If you happen to find a fabulous dressing table, but have no room or need for one, try re-purposing it without the mirror as a storage sideboard or desk in the living room. A double door antique wardrobe could turn into a fabulous kitchen pantry with new shelves top to bottom, and painted in a vibrant blue.
How do you style with vintage? Do you find it easy or do you have difficulty creating a ‘together’ look?
I love house plants. I think it must be a bit of a Dutch thing, as they seem to be far more popular in The Netherlands than over in the UK. Drive down any Dutch street and you’ll find most windows full of flowers and plants. Luckily bringing the outdoors indoors and surrounding yourself with greenery is very on trend this year, so I decided to dedicate a blog post to it.
The trusted Sansevieria, easy to grow and healthy for your house.
My grandmother used to have the greenest fingers ever and had wonderful lush plants all around the living room. I inherited her ‘sansevieria’ or snake plant after she past away, which amazingly survived my student years in my small bed sit, and I am pleased to say it is still alive – and thriving – now living with my sister. She re-potted it into a larger pot and it has grown much since. The plant must be well over thirty years old now as it appears in many childhood photographs. Strong little fella.
Air purifying plants
Another amazing bit of knowledge? Sansevierias improve indoor air quality. This plant is one of the best for filtering out formaldehyde (ugh!), which is common in cleaning products, toilet paper, tissues and personal care products. Put one in your bathroom — it’ll thrive with low light and steamy humid conditions while helping filter out air pollutants. Who knew. Here are some other low maintenance plants with amazing air cleaning properties:
Peace Lily (Spathifyllum)
Rubber plant (Ficus elastica)
Img: My Domaine
Green fingers, me? I don’t really have green fingers, or at least I have never put much time and effort into learning about plants and how to keep them healthy. I think I am probably not alone on this one when I say I am always a little scared to buy a house plant as they usually die. You too? Well, here are some more useful tips and advice from around the net on how to care for house plants, as well as how to make them look uber stylish in your interior.
A lot of these plants have kind of ‘fatty’ leaves, which means they are forgiving when you accidentily forget to water them. If you are short of space, succulents are an example of this type of plant, looking very cute and pretty and small containers or cups lines up on a shelf.
A cute way to upcycle those vintage teacups! Plant a succulent in them. Img: Brit + Co
Another great idea if you are looking for low maintenance house plants is to buy a ‘terrarium’: basically a glass bowl with succulents and other draught tolerant plants, nicely arranged like a kind of ‘mini garden’. We are currently stocking some by The Potting Shed. Have a look here.
The fiddle leave fig plant or ficus lyrata keeps popping up in all of my favourite images on Pinterest just now, so I want to share some tips with you on how to care for one at home. I own one and mine has started to show some brown spots and edges, so I am definitely going to try some of the advice mentioned here. Important tip: clean the leaves, as they get very dusty! Wiping them down with a mixture of water and milk apparently works wonders.
Gorgeous sideboard surrounded by the fiddle leaf fig and other plants. Img Topista
Who says plants need a window? As long as they get the right amount of light, you can place them anywhere. Img: Blood and Champagne
Plants in the bathroom look great and help purifying the air img: Design*Sponge
Love the hanging gardens look that is very trendy right now? You can hang any plant of course, but some are more suitable if you want to have them trailing down from their pot, such as the spider plant or ivy. If you fancy having a go at DIY-ing your own macrame planter, click here.
Boutique Wilderness in Amsterdam img Lili in Wonderland
If all else fails, buy a cactus!
Still too scared to buy a plant with leaves? You could of course go down the artificial route, but not sure if having a plastic plant in your bathroom will have the same air purifying properties as a real one! There’s always the option to buy a cactus. Looking cool, and surviving on very, very little.
“Oh my goodness, my mum had one just like that!”…. “It’s like walking into my auntie’s house”…. “I know folk who burnt a whole lot of these on the bonfire, that’s what they used to do”
Yep, that’s what I hear in my shop almost on a weekly basis! I sell old furniture that for some people is too much ‘like their childhood’, or is ‘too recent’ for others. But I love it. And this is why.
Danish architect and designer Arne Jacobsen,
who made the famous ‘Ant’ chair
In Groningen, The Netherlands, where I am originally from, I studied Architecture History with the emphasis on the 20th century. Modernism was a big part of the course and that is most definitely where I got my passion for form and design. A lot of architects, such as Juhl, Eames, Mies van der Rohe, Jacobsen and Le Corbusier are not only responsible for revolutionary buildings, but created some of the most iconic pieces of furniture too. If you have ever visited Barcelona you might have come across the gorgeous pavillion by modernist Mies van der Rohe (pictured above). Would you believe this was built in 1929?
The Eames DSW chair
A lot of great chairs have been produced by these guys too. Who doesn’t know the famous ‘Eames chair’ from the 1950s, that is still being produced and more popular than ever? Mies van der Rohe’s ‘Barcelona chair’ is still in such high demand that there are now numerous companies around selling reproductions.
It is the attention to detail, the love for material and the belief that ‘form follows function’ rather than to adorn a piece of furniture – or building – with unnecessary decoration, that make these ‘vintage’ designs into timeless classics. Buildings are ‘light and open’ instead of dark and heavy and so are the chairs, tables and sideboards.
A 1960s tallboy that may have ended up on the bonfire if I hadn’t
rescued it, polished it up and painted the outside grey to cover
the stained top.
The key to a great looking interior with these vintage pieces though is to create a cool mix. Don’t buy a complete matching set of 1960s teak furniture or you will recreate your auntie’s house (especially if you get that orange Hornsea coffee pot out as well). Buy a good solid mid-century sideboard, hang a large bold painting or photograph above it, invest in a great new sofa from a designer shop (or get a budget one from Ikea 😉 and add old and new accessories you find on your travels to make the room truly your own. And keep it light and airy.
When you visit my little shop you will often find teak sideboards and chests of drawers, 1960s dining room sets and Scandinavian looking armchairs of at least 40 years old. Some pieces I paint when I think they look better in a different colour or are too damaged to sell as they are. Some chairs I recover to give them an updated look. But all items are chosen because I really liked them.
The word ‘vintage’ is terribly trendy at the moment and the word ‘retro’ always reminds me of brown and orange psychedelic wallpaper (and that matching Hornsea coffee set). When I select furniture for the shop I go for pieces that have a beautiful shape, are well made and would look just as good in a modern home as they did 50 or so years ago. While I can’t promise you that all pieces found at Nina’s Apartment are designed by famous architects and designers (but I do my best to hunt them down!), I do promise that they will be great examples of beautiful & classic design.
It must be that nesting instinct setting in now I’m about seven months pregnant, but I can’t help feeling the incredible urge to make things. Sew, paint, recycle, upcycle, revamp, refurbish, you name it. I am still working my day job though, so I am just collecting lots of ideas in the meantime while still doing the 9-to-5!
Here are a few great ideas you may want to try yourself, whether expecting a baby like me, having a day off or looking for stuff to do with the kids in the holidays.
To cheer up any party or kids room, you could make a pom pom garland. Remember those? We used to make them in primary school all the time. Now it’s time for the grown-up version! If a garland looks more like a week’s work than something you’re able to do in an afternoon, why not keep it simple and make a few to dispense from the ceiling? If you’re really lazy you can of course just buy them from other creatives down at Etsy.
This tutorial from Craftaholics Anonymous (great name!) shows you how to make fluffy pom poms made from t-shirt yarn (you know, ‘wool’ made from old tees – see how to make your own yarn here). Very nice.
Another cool looking project is the ‘hula hoop rug’, woven from t-shirt yarn. I’d love to give this a try. Looks pretty easy, no? I am crazy about those chunky knitted rugs and poufs at the moment, but I have no idea how to knit them. This seems to be an easy way to create something similar. Not sure about the bold colours in the one pictured, but I’m sure you could turn it into something quite sophisticated by using greys, deep purples or reds instead. Here’s the How-To