Let them play! How to bring more calm into your family

Is it just me, or is being busy a badge of honour nowadays, not just for adults but for children too? Parents ferry their children around from one after-school activity to the next. They go to piano lessons on a Monday, tennis lessons on a Wednesday and art classes every Friday afternoon. Already exhausted new mums are putting themselves through the hassle of baby swimming lessons. Parents seem to be afraid that their brood misses out on becoming the next Einstein or Andy Murray and want every free moment in their kids’ lives to be ‘educational’. Otherwise learning apparently does not happen. And then there is of course peer pressure. How about some calm parenting?

Just playing freely without a grownup in charge almost seems rare in the lives of modern children. What ever happened to ‘freerange parenting’? Surely, most of us were brought up like that and it did us no harm. No constant supervision, no constant entertainment, no constant demand to achieve and produce visible results. Freedom to just be a child.

Today I want to make a plea for the return of mindful neglect.

mindful parenting

It is almost impossible to arrange a play-date on a weekday, because most kids have extra-curricular activities every day of the week, on top of homework. Why? Does it really set them up to become incredibly good at anything? Develop a life-long love for learning? The full diary in their young lives perhaps teaches them that life really just is a busy to-do-list.

Calm parenting: give the gift of time

When I was little I was a stubborn little girl who didn’t want to do any activity outside school whatsoever. Not that my parents didn’t try and encourage me. They did. I just did not want to do it. No tennis, no ballet, no music lessons. Go away. Not interested. And you know what, for my parents’ attitude I am grateful. They may not have pushed me to take private sports and music lessons, and I was unable to play the piano like fellow twelve year olds, but instead they gave me time. Time to play and to be bored. Time to figure out what I like. The opportunity to learn how to feel happy in just my own company.

Natural curiosity, taking action when ready

When I was about 10 years old I eventually asked my parents if I could join the local gymnastics club. I also wanted to do art classes on a Wednesday after school. I chose my own interests, when I myself was ready and motivated. Until that moment I sat quite happily at the kitchen table drawing. No adult intervention whatsoever. I played with Lego and my barbies, built dens with my sister or played hide and seek with the kids next door. As a teenager at fifteen I discovered a forgotten guitar in the attic and taught myself some chords. I have been in bands ever since. I didn’t have to be ‘exposed’ to music lessons from an early age. No, that doesn’t make me special, and maybe I would have enjoyed music lessons at 5, who knows, it just shows a different approach to parenting. Letting things be. I was always going to find the things that interested me. And having time to figure that out, made me love it even more.

calm parenting

So what am I trying to say with all of this? I believe (but who am I but a mother with a humble opinion) that the rise in anxiety among even primary age children, comes from somewhere. Whether it is a crazy busy schedule, too much competition, high parental expectations or watching too much rubbish on Youtube (let’s not go into that, right), I strongly believe in free play.

Keep free play sacred

So much playtime has already been taken away from them in school, with kids as young as 3 years old learning how to write their name and do simple maths. It makes no difference academically if they would start at 6. As parents we can at least try and make free play outside of school sacred. Have them join football or do ballet, sure, if they want to – but also build in that bit of calm at home. Downtime. No matter if they lie on the floor yelling that they’re bored. Don’t worry. Bored is good. It serves a purpose.

Calm parenting. The importance of free play

So much research says unsupervised playtime in childhood essential. It is more important for the development of social skills than any adult led workshop or extracurricular class in childhood. Still, as a society and as parents, we believe we’re at risk of falling behind academically. Learning to read and write and count is important and schools have their role to play. But children will struggle to become independent, happy and well balanced adults at the end of childhood if they never get a moment to themselves. How will they know how to be at peace with themselves without the need for constant reassurance, distraction and entertainment from outside?

calm parenting. the importance of free play

As a mother of two boys I try each day to be a good mum. Each day I wonder whether I did and said the right things and not screwed them up. It is not easy figuring out calm parenting and finding the key to motherhood. Still, instinctively I feel underscheduling is the way to go for my family. I want to encourage a calmness in my boys and an appreciation of the little things in life. I want them to be creative, resourceful and contented. Soulful living, right?

Calm parenting and creating resilient children

I hope to see more unstructured play in the park without helicopter parents trying to join in. Unstructured play in the garden without a well meaning parent leading some kind of Pinterest activity. Building Lego without the instruction book. Making stuff out of rubbish without the help of a grownup. Letting siblings quarrel without immediately trying to solve their argument. Letting them figure it out for themselves before intervening.

No pressure. Trust. Mindful neglect. Conscious neglect with the sole purpose of creating happy, mentally stable, sociable and resilient children. Kids with empathy. Kids who know the world doesn’t only revolve around them. Good humans. It seems a no brainer and common sense, but we have forgotten how to put it into practice. Or we are afraid to put it into practice. Because all the other kids…

calm parenting. the importance of free play

Children are naturally curious. They don’t need to be taught how to learn. They know. Children have a natural desire to discover the world for themselves. Give them that space. Even though you as a parent may think your child is not learning much at a particular moment and you feel you need to teach them stuff, their brain is working hard. If they have questions, they will ask them (oh yes they will!).

Calm parenting: lead by example and stop overscheduling

Children learn by example and copy our behaviour. What example is a stressed out, tired parent making life way too busy?  Instead, show calm. Just be. Say nothing. Trust your child in his or her own learning. Silence and time are essential ingredients for stimulating creativity and imagination and they are so precious. Childhood is short, please let’s not take away the magic.

Further reading

An article that really resonated with me:

Why are our children more entitled than ever before?

Some great blogs and Facebook pages on the topic of free play and parenting:


@playcounts

playcounts.com

@amotherfarfromhome

@theteachertom

Velvet inspiration: soften up your decor

Velvet is the one fabric I can’t walk past without touching it. Can you? It is very much on trend just now and many home interior stores are selling cushions, upholstered furniture and soft furnishings in this luxurious material. Here is some velvet inspiration to soften up your decor. A roundup of some gorgeous products for the next season. Enjoy!


Velvet fabrics for soft furnishings

velvet in home decor
Image: Dekoria

Rich velvet-like texture gives a luxurious look with irresistible soft to touch feel. Go for a decadent interior or bejewel a room with a few velvety touches for a must have look of 2018. Embrace the velvety look and give your living room or bedroom an on-trend plush update.

Where to buy velvet fabric?

Dekoria has a fabulous collection of fabrics that are – very useful – washable at 30 degrees. Affordable too at £17.00 / metre.


Luxurious velvet sofas

velvet sofa chesterfield in home decor
The Wellingtone sofa from Graham and Green

If you are looking for a beautiful luxurious sofa to make that grand statement in your interior, Graham and Green have a good selection. The one pictures shows the ‘Wellington 3-seater, a timeless sofa inspired by the classic chesterfield, in a royal blue velvet material. Luxury meets comfort here. It has beautiful scrolled arms and a plush button back finish creating a decadent focal point for your living room. Request a free swatch of your favourite colours to see and feel the material up close.

grey velvet sofa midcentury modern homelia
Image: Homelia

 

I really love this one, looking very midcentury modern and sleek. A long, rectangular 3-seater sofa from Homelia, online destination for luxury & designer homeware and furniture. The silhouette adds structure and style to a room whilst its plump back and seat cushions offer sink-in comfort as you completely stretch your legs out along its length. The small, angled legs in varnished chestnut add design-led flair.


Make a statement with a velvet armchair

If a 3-seater sofa is bit too much for you, why not go for a single armchair to add a smaller sophisticated statement to your interior? There are many shapes and sizes and with just the one chair you could go for something a bit more daring and different.

Knoll velvet dining chairs
Image: Knoll

A true vintage classic, these gold Platner armchairs by Knoll. No boring interior for you if you invest in one of those. Place them around the dining table or add a single one to your sitting corner for a wow factor.


velvet armchair in home decor
Image: Made.com


MADE
has a great selection of velvet armchairs, in both minimalist and bolder styles. I like this one with the elegant copper metal frame.

 


Snuggle up under a velvet blanket

velvet quilts
Image: Graham and Green

Because the evenings are getting chillier, little feels more luxurious and comforting than to snuggle up under a super soft blanket. These  Quilts With Printed Reverse (240 x 220cm) by Graham and Green are double sided and welcoming in every way. Besides that, the two colourways, Coral Red and Slate Blue are perfect colours for the winter months, treating your bedroom to warm tones while while the nights are getting colder. The quilt is soft to touch and showcases a neutral cotton reverse that has been embellished with hand block print work in a pale blue, inspired by floral Indian patterns. I’m sure I’d be loving these for a very long time, possibly forever.


 

Because life is more than just Decor. Soulful living.

So you probably noticed I have mixed things up a bit on the blog, writing about more serious things in life as well as interior design. Soulful living, right? Life has changed for me in the past two years and although I am still madly passionate about eclectic decor, vintage furniture, art and design (oh yes!), I would like to build my blog into something more wholesome than just pretty pictures of beautiful homes and gardens.

Some have suggested I might have entered a midlife crisis (I am hitting the big 4-0 next year! Eeek!), looking for the meaning of life, but I wouldn’t call it a crisis. On the contrary, I’d like to call it a wonderfully delicious midlife adventure! Are you coming?

Nina's Apartment. Blog about Lifestyle, Interiors and Soulful living.


From upcycling to mindfulness: it is all soulful living

Whether you love upcycling and buying vintage or meditate each morning and grow your own veg, whether you bring up your kids in a mindful way or support local artists and designers… to me it is all soulful living: giving meaning to your life and that of the people around you, trying to be a good human and not wreck the planet.

Vintage chair in Valencia. Soulful living.
Image: a vintage shop in Valencia @colourofvalencia

Buying consciously, thinking critically, keeping an open mind. The world is not always what we like it to be but we can at least try and make our own little bit of difference while we are here. With my blog ‘new style’ I want to still offer my creative view on things, share inspirational ideas and decor projects but also write about life in general (because I love writing!), personal stories and stuff that has come on my path as an expat – from Holland via Scotland to Spain. Life as a mother, an adventurer, a creative soul, an eternal optimist. Check out the Life & Soul section of the website for the latest stories.

Some of you readers may say goodbye because of my ‘more real life – less decor’ blogging approach, but I hope most of you will stick around! And perhaps I will attract more like-minded souls on the way. As always, THANK YOU for being by my side.

Nina x

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Mindful Walking: Finding patterns and textures

Have you ever tried Mindful Walking? To take the time to look at the buildings, walls, nature, patterns around you when you are walking from A to B?  I can’t believe how much I was glued to the seat of my car back in Scotland, totally missing that connection. I am doing a lot of walking and cycling right now since moving to Spain. It is really energising, as well as making me much more aware of my surroundings and being in the moment. What have you noticed today on your travels?

Mindful walking. Noticing textures


ground hog day

We are all so busy rushing from home to work and back, dropping off the kids, picking them back up, going home, cooking dinner, bath time, bed time, squeezing in an exercise class if we’re organised, and then it all starts all over again the next morning. Ground hog day. Days fly by, life seems monotonous, we’re being lived by our never ending to-do-list. Sounds familiar? I bet it does.

Mindful walking with children

the joy of just walking

Do you remember how you used to enjoy the little things as a child, walking slowly beside your parents, kneeling down to study a bug on the pavement, staring at the clouds, noticing funny shapes in them? Running your fingers along the textures of the walls and fences, touching leaves, rocks, sand, just to know what it felt like. No rush, just taking it all in. We didn’t need a mindfulness course to learn how to do this, as a child is is your second nature. We must have lost it on the way somewhere.

Mindful walking. Finding calm and patterns

mindful walking to reduce stress

Do you own a mindfulness book? Signed up for yoga classes, fancy going on a meditation retreat? All these things are all super popular right now and why? We must be stressed out and out of balance. We’re seeking a solution to feel in control again, to feel alive and in the moment. Nobody enjoys feeling under pressure all the time. Life is rushing by and we want it to stop. But rather than scheduling in another organised activity in your busy diary, why not just put on those walking shoes  and go outside for a little walk?

Do some mindful walking straight after the school run, in your lunch break, after dinner. Feel the fresh air, breathe. Even if it is a ten minute stroll around the block, your mind and body will thank you for it.

mindful walking in nature

Mindful Walking. Eight tips on how to start

mindful walking with toddlers

Product review: Mad Men rug by Louis de Poortere

Today I am reviewing the Mad Men rug by Louis de Poortere. Louis de Poortere is a Belgian company that’s been around since 1929 and is still doing all their design and manufacturing in Belgium.

Now a rug is probably one of the most important elements in room design. It’s a pretty dominant feature, so you have to have a good idea of what you want for the room. Is the rest of the room busy with patterns and colours? Then opt for a calmer, plain rug. In a calm colour palette and little going on in terms of patterns on walls and furniture, you can go to town in choosing a rug with some more eye catching designs.

8925_SohoCopper_detail036

Midcentury feel

This particular rug caught my eye, not the least because of being part of the Mad Men Collection, which in itself makes it a rather cool rug of course. If any of you has watched the Mad Men series on Netflix, you will have spotted the amazing midcentury furniture that featured in it.

Mad-Men-Drapers-Office-9
Scene from the series Mad Men, featuring the most amazing midcentury interiors.

Abstract design

The design of the Mad Men rug is edgy, abstract like a work of art and the colours are a soft, moody black with a sophisticated copper. Louis de Poortere says about this design on their website: “Here we find an indication of pain and disorder, of the rifts and big changes like Women’s Liberation, Vietnam, and May 68 but also of the creative energy of action painting in the late sixties.” Now, that is a lot to live up to if you are a rug! Great description though, showing the amount of thought that has gone into the design.

The Mad Men rug: distressed areas and a vintage look

Being a big midcentury modern fan, I love the design, which goes well with my interior and has “multiple layers of texture and distressed areas to give a true vintage look”. I normally prefer authentic vintage rather than something that is pretending to be old, but this rug is so beautifully made that I am persuaded. The natural material of the Mad Men rug is a mix of a velvet like cotton chenille and pure new wool, which gives it a super soft feel. The colour changes depending of the light. During the day it looks more like a cooler black, while at night it warms up and has hues of indigo blue.

Mad Men rug Louis de Poortere

Styling a room with the mad men rug

Before the rug arrived, my living room was still in ‘summer mode’, with bright patterned cushions and colourful accents all around the room. As soon as I saw the dark Mad Men rug I knew I’d have to change the colour scheme to something more seasonal. Based on the colours of the rug, I went for a more monochrome palette, with black and white cushions (and a copper/burnt orange velvet one) and a sheepskin rug on the sofa. The tan leather chair by Scottish designer Hugh Parsons picks up the copper in the rug and so does our trusted walnut coffee table. I hunted around the house for more muted artwork and I added my copper wire lantern that I still had in storage from last winter. Perfect to get back out for this season.

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Monochrome combined with copper accents

Other accessories that make a nice match with the rug are a 1957 black vintage US trailer plate, an original black screen print by Scottish designer and adult colouring book giant Joanna Basford and a green glass demijohn vase I picked up an in a charity shop once. House plants make any room look good.

The Mad Men rug has completely transformed my living room and I like it. Giving it sophistication, warmth and interest. We’re ready for winter.

monochrome combined with copper accents

Mad Men rug Louis de Poortere

Find your local stockist of Louis de Poortere on their website www.louisdepoortere.be/find-store

How to create cool kids rooms (without the clutter)

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

Storage solutions for messy rooms

Yeah. I have a three-year old and a five-year old now. Boys. They have a a lot of stuff: toys, clothes, sticks. Pants and socks everywhere. And I ain’t got a lot of time. Or energy. You get the picture. Things get messy sometimes. Oh sure, I do try. I buy nice storage boxes (which subsequently get turned into mini bath tubs for toy cars – or used as helmets in superhero dress-up games) and then it stays tidy for a while. A day maybe. One day, when I am old and the boys have flown the nest, my house shall be clutter-free. Until then, I shall give them a warm, loving home while I browse Pinterest and Instagram and dream of stylish, tidy rooms.

Here are some examples of kids rooms that just look great and probably are more stylish than your own bedroom. (I also bet no kid was allowed in them before the photo shoot was over and done with. I would love to see what they look like on a daily basis – ha!).


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

kids room ideas
A gorgeous room in blue, mustard and natural wood via The Boo and the Boy
kids room ideas
I want a swing in my room. How lovely is this? Via Style me Pretty
kids room ideas
Sweet. It even has a little plant on the bedside table. I love the midcentury modern lamp too. Great eclectic room for older girls. Via The Boo and the Boy
kids room ideas
Lots of cuteness here in this vintage style bedroom. The Boo and the Boy
kids room ideas
Gorgeous wallpaper used in this room. Oh, how I wish to be a kid again! Via Fawn & Forest
kids room ideas
Simple, but stylish and a bed on a budget. Buk & Nola
kids room ideas
Who says kids rooms have to be in pastel colours? Add some ‘oomph’ with black and mustard yellow. And bears, you need bears. Via The Boo and the Boy
kids room ideas
Add some serious wow factor with a mural like that! My Domaine

We’re at the Scottish Home Show!


As part of the rebranding and promotion of Nina’s Apartment’s  Interior Design services we are at the Scottish Home Show this month, at the AECC in Aberdeen. It is on from today until Sunday 25th of September 10am-5pm. Architects, designers, kitchens, bathrooms, retailers and builders all under one roof. Great!

Here are a few snap shots of the stand!

House tour: a small converted farmhouse in the Netherlands

On my travels through the Netherlands this month I popped into my friend Frederiek’s house in the tiny village of Huizinge, north Groningen, who lives there with her partner Wimer and their three-year old son Teun. Huizinge is a beautiful characterful village surrounded by endless flat green fields and far horizons. Frederiek and Wimer recently bought one of the old houses and brought it right up to date with a gorgeous interior full of vintage finds, contemporary art, minimalist touches and plenty of house plants.

Although the house inside doesn’t look anything like it originally was, Frederiek and Wimer didn’t have to do a lot of structural work to the building themselves when they bought it. “We bought the house casco (Dutch for a ‘shell’ building ed.), so it was mainly the inside that still needed to be finished. That way we were able to make the interior just the way we wanted which was great because we were looking for a blank canvas to work with”, Frederiek says. As a result the house is now much more suitable for modern living. The small rooms in the front of the house were originally living room and storage but are now the two bedrooms and the old animal barn got converted into a spacious and very bright kitchen-dining room.

Frederiek (here pictured with my husband)

The couple, who both work in the creative sector, have a keen eye for finding design on a shoestring budget and were lucky enough to salvage the large globe lights from a building in Groningen that was about to be demolished. Other vintage finds are the mid century dining chairs, sofa and armchair and the beautiful old tall glazed cabinet that came out of a cafe. Teun’s nursery is an eclectic collection of heirloom furniture from Frederiek’s family.



Despite the huge transformation there are still many original features which give the house a lot of character, such as the old barn windows, wooden doors and beams, now all painted in a fresh duck egg blue and warm greys. The seamless minimalist grey Egaline floor was poured throughout the house and forms a nice contrast. This type of floor is normally only used as under flooring but when mixed slightly different and coated it works well as a finished product too. Oh, and it is highly practical – what else would you expect from the Dutch?

A glass fronted extension looking out onto the garden and adjoining fields forms their bright ‘sitting room with a view’ including a wood burning stove, wall to wall book shelves and plenty of space for little Teun to play.

Their drive to make the house their own doesn’t stop here though. Having only moved in last December the energetic couple is already working on their next design project: the garden studio / guestroom. No doubt this will look just as stunning as the rest. I can’t wait to see it!

Vintage shops in Scotland: Louis Little Haven

I help you discover vintage shops in Scotland. This month we are putting the spotlight on yet another vintage shop that not everyone might have heard of: Louis Little Haven in the small village of Durno, a few miles outside Inverurie.

A lover of dogs and vintage

When I think of the true meaning of ‘vintage’, I feel this shop embodies it perfectly with its pretty romantic florals, pastel colours, dainty tea sets, quirky collectables and solid old wooden furniture. This gem, tucked away in rural Aberdeenshire, is owned by Melanie Wilson who not only has an obsession with old china but is also a great lover of dogs. It was opened in 2013 and named after her beloved labrador Louis, who sadly passed away last year. Her new buddy bassett hound Briony has since joined her on her treasure hunts and can usually be found sleeping in the corner of the shop.

louis little haven

How did you end up having this shop, Mel? Where does the treasure hunting bug come from?

I’ve collected since the age of ten, starting off with handbags and hats and moving on to teacups where I became obsessed! My mum would often take us around Thainstone (carboot sale ed.) on a Sunday and in addition to that I come from a family who can’t throw anything out as “it could be useful”. Growing up across from my grandparents’ farm also had an influence. I loved having a “nosey” to see what treasures I could find. I still can’t help myself when I see a shed!

Louis Little Haven


What makes your business special in the area?

I am breathing new life into the old village shop in Durno and we have found some great black and white photos of what it used to look like. I feel I am bringing something to the local community here. Everyone is always welcome to pop into Louis Little Haven for a look around or just a chat.

Louis Little Haven


What is the weirdest and most beautiful item you have ever had in your shop?

I have had a few strange items in stock as I like picking up unusual things. At the moment it is definitely a Victorian Scottish pottery spittoon in the shape of a shell. I have had lots of beautiful things as well and those are really hard to part with! I’d say two of the items I loved are a gorgeous blue 1940s Paragon tea set and a stunning 19th century 8ft kitchen larder cupboard.

Louis Little Haven


What is the best thing about doing this job?

I don’t consider it a job, rather a passion I have had for as long as I can remember and I feel lucky to do what I do. I love meeting new people, hearing their stories and finding out the history behind the items I’m buying. I’d like to think I am a curator of beautiful things who finds them their new home, their next chapter in life.

What is the hardest part in running a vintage shop?

Finding good quality, beautiful pieces and trying to keep them at a reasonable price.

Louis Little Haven

Why should people buy vintage, in your opinion?

There is a charm to vintage items, they don’t make things anymore like they used to. Buying vintage also means buying a little piece of history. I always think that if the tea cups I sell could talk about all the stories and gossip they have heard, wouldn’t that be wonderful!

Louis Little Haven


Louis Little Haven, Mel and her dogs are here:

Durno, north of Inverurie (off the A96)
Open: Friday 10.30am-3pm, Saturday 10.30am-4pm, Monday 10.30am-3pm
Online:
Facebook
Etsy

And at vintage fairs in the area.

Treasure hunting in France: brocante!

I am just in my second week of a four-week long trip through France and boy, am I loving it! It was a long drive, but it’s great to have the car with us to go wherever we want. I am thoroughly enjoying the warm climate, the food, the old villages full of character and oh yes – the brocante. What’s brocante you say? Well, it’s basically French old junk with some real gems amongst it if you look for it. You can find rural barns, town shops and Sunday fleamarkets full of vintage, antiques or just second hand, usually advertised by a hand painted sign on the side of the road.

Brocante market near Auch,  Midi-Pyrenees
Brocante market near Auch, Midi-Pyrenees

You come across plenty ‘brocante’ signs while driving across the country, but if you really want to plan your treasure hunting while in France there is a useful website listing loads of local markets by area called www.brocabrac.fr

I have just downloaded the app that goes with it. An app? A brocante hunting app. Amazing. 

Wish I could bring home some more of the fabulous pieces I have spotted so far. Shame the car is packed full of camping gear, two kids and my husband’s racing bike in the roof box. Quelle dommage! Need to plan a future trip with a large van – on my own next time. 

Au revoir, I will keep you posted!

Vintage and retro brocante shop in Mirande, France
Brocante shop in Mirande, Midi-Pyrenees