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Friday 29 April 2011

Eight Hours of Fame

One of my worst habits is watching TV in bed until the wee hours. Nothing particularly interesting, either. I've been known to fall asleep watching shopping channels at 2am. I have no idea why I've got into this habit, but I do know it's very bad for me. So the TV in the bedroom must go. Before I start having crazy Ring-based TV dreams and never sleep again.

Instead, I'll buy these TV pillowcases from LifestyleBazaar for £24. They're snuggly and cute, and you'll get your mug on TV while you're sleeping (or you can frame your pretty face while you snooze instead). You'll get eight hours of fame rather than fifteen minutes. And I might get a decent nights sleep.

Cocktail Hour: It's a Gin Thing

Hooray for Royal Weddings, extra bank holidays and super long weekends.
The perfect excuse to partake in a fizzy drink or two, if ever there was one.

Even better if that fizzy drink involves gin, well you wouldn't expect anything else from the gin fiends here at Domestic Sluttery really now would you.

What's more you can bet your bippy that even Her Majesty will be enjoying a bit of a gin thing today, which is pretty much giving us all royal approval surely?

Gin Thing

You will need:
  • 1 measure of gin
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Ginger Ale
Shake it!

Fill a chilled highball glass with ice. Pour in the gin and lime and fill with ginger ale. Garnish with a twist of lime peel if you are feeling fancy!

Flickr image from
mccun934's photostream and used under Creative Commons license

Sluttishly Vegan: Passionfruit tofu salad

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I always seem to think of a pithy retort days after an argument has finished, get a brainwave moments after I've submitted my copy to an editor and suddenly figure out the answer to a brain-numbing question as I walk out of the exam hall.

Recipe writing is no exception to this rule - it's often when I'm eating the spoils of my writing that I think of something fabulous that would partner it perfectly. This salad is very, very simple. It's just something I bodged together for lunch one day. Pomegranate seeds would make a great addition - both for sweetness and for their pretty pink looks. Unfortunately, as you can tell from the picture, I only thought of this after I'd made (and wolfed down) this salad.

You could add any vegetables you liked really, although this dressing is quite punchy so it's great for livening up shy little vegetables like lamb's lettuce. Just make sure you think of them before you make it!

Passionfruit tofu salad (serves 1)

You'll need:
  • 1tsp olive oil
  • 1tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1tsp pomegranate molasses (optional)
  • 1tsp soy sauce
  • Seeds and pulp of 1 ripe passion fruit
  • A small bag of lamb's lettuce
  • A handful of tofu pieces (I used Cauldron marinated tofu)
  • Some mint leaves, torn up
  • Pomegranate seeds (optional)
Make it!
  • Stir together the oil, vinegar, pomegranate molasses, soy and passion fruit.
  • Dress the leaves with the passion fruit dressing. Sprinkle over the tofu and mint leaves. And some pomegranate seeds, if you thought to buy them.

Thursday 28 April 2011

Royal Wedding souvenir plates for Shelter

I'm unashamedly gripped by Royal Wedding fever - I can't wait to see the dress, the vows, the guests, the tears, and most definitely the flag-waving. Hurray for bank holiday patriotic fever!

The souvenirs though, have been terrible. Up 'til now I honestly haven't seen anything that comes close to my treasured Charles and Di souvenir cross stitch sampler, and that I rescued from a Sue Ryder shop.

Then I saw this wonderful series of plates on House to Home, which Living Etc had commissioned from nine designers to mark the wedding. All profits go to the housing and homelessness charity Shelter, which the couple would be rather pleased by.

A Right Royal Booze-Up by People Will Always Need Plates

Lovely! Such a nice change from that engagement picture writ large over mugs and flutes.

To Love and Companionship by Rob Ryan

These are my two favourites, but have a look through the other seven. I think I might just have found my perfect wedding souvenir.

You can get your hands on them by sending a sealed bid (at least £30) to [email protected] before midnight tomorrow.

Design Porn: Bryony Lloyd's Colourful Collages

Art's a funny old thing. One day I was covering my walls in Blu-Tack and ripped-edge posters of Suede and Elastica, then the next I was having to buy £40 frames for £40 screenprints. Just as well that I've discovered Bryony Lloyd, who is the art world's version of Blair's Third Way.

Her bright retro prints will perk up any wall, and Lloyd's pictures range from a nudey Josephine Baker looky-likey in fine footwear to a glossy advert for LA and this psychedelically pretty Sixties lady with what looks like the English countryside on acid for a hairdo.

You can buy online or contact Bryony directly for a customised print; nothing's going to cheer me up more when it's a sleety dog day outside than imagining myself with cornfields/acid hair.

You Mug: Tee & Toast Royal Wedding Mug

Already over the Royal Wedding? Me too. But it's not long now until it'll all be over and some semblance of normality should be restored. In the meantime, though, this double-sided Alternative Royal Wedding Mug from Tee & Toast deserves a prize for being the most 'freestyle' memorabilia I've seen. I don't dare comment on the uncanny accuracy of the doodles on it in case the Queen decides to have us beheaded, but if you want something to remember Friday by, it can be yours for only £9.95.

Hotel Chocolat Easter Sale

For some reason, egg-shaped chocolate tastes better. It's just one of those facts of life (like buses turning up in threes) and the best thing to do is embrace the egg yumminess while we can.

Hotel Chocolat's end of season sales are always fantastic, here's a look at the Easter goodies you can buy for cheaps.

This FRICKIN' HUGE caramel chocolate egg has one cookie dough shell, and one smooth caramel one. It's got little Easter treats inside too. It was £24 on Sunday. Now it's £12.

Want little tiddy robots in your egg? These little guys are £7 instead of £14.

And there's even some little chocolate chicks for £2.50. Who cares if you've eaten eleventy six eggs this week? One more won't hurt.

The house that chalk built

If you asked me to draw a house, it would have four crossed windows and a front door, placed dead in centre. In fact, something very much like the below. I didn't actually do this one - clearly I have a dream house doodler double over at Cow and Co.

They are selling this very cute house blackboard, designed by James Shaw. Use it to chalk up your ideal home - and then to practice some pop psychology on your friends and family with the classic 'draw a house' test (according to the internet, drawing crossed windows means I want to live alone ... hum...). Alternatively you could use it to write up your shopping list. At £24.99, it's definitely my most useful and affordable dream house option to date.

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Wallpaper Wednesday: thornback and peel

We are pretty keen on both jelly and cake here at Domestic Sluttery so this wallpaper from thornback and peel was bound to catch my eye, tempting me with its resplendent Victorian-esque bounty.

But if jelly and cake is just a touch too whimsical for your taste then you may prefer the more gritty realism of their pigeons design.

The wallpapers both cost £65 per roll and are available by through the website via special order.

Sluttery Travels: Sea Spray, Brighton

Brighton isn't exactly short of a hotel or a seventy. But Sea Spray really stands out for me. Each of their boutique rooms has a different theme. Some of them have sea views, some of them have their own courtyard. All of them are reasonably priced.

This is the Marrakesh room. It's one of their small doubles, and it'll cost you between £49 and £120 a night, depending on when in the week you stay.

Like a bit of Elvis? This luxury double room is for you. You even get a guitar to play. Prices start at £69 a night for this one.

This Geisha room is from £69 a night, and while it's one of the simplest rooms it's still pretty stylish for the amount of money. Sea Spray market themselves as affordable boutique luxury, and I think that's exactly what they are. It's a little different, without you needing to take out a second mortgage to pay for your weekend. This is one of the best-value hotels we've featured on Domestic Sluttery.

If you like the idea of a budget design hotel, but still want your comforts, Sea Spray offers that and you're minutes away from the UK's favourite pebbly beach.

Sluttishly Savoury: Cheaty Coronation Chicken

Real coronation chicken is a bit of a palaver. There's poaching the chicken, chopping the onions, simmering the sauce. It may be royal wedding silly season, and we may want to stuff our chops with the best sandwich filler IN THE WORLD, but that doesn't mean we want to spend all day doing it.

This is a cheat's version. It's even cheatier than Delia's, although I must credit the use of curry paste rather than curry powder to her (curry paste doesn't require cooking to taste delicious - genius). It's lighter tasting than the original recipe, although if you don't like the sour notes in creme fraiche you could switch for the same amount of the more traditional mayonnaise. Like the original, I don't bother with any of that raisin and almond malarkey, but if you wanted to throw a few in there's nothing stopping you.

You would poach a whole chicken if you wanted to be authentic, but if you're thrifty then just use some leftovers from a roast, or go to M&S and buy it ready cooked if you're shamelessly lazy. If you do the latter, then you won't even need to get a saucepan out to make this recipe. Now that's what I call cheaty.

Cheaty Coronation Chicken (serves 4)

You'll need:
  • A handful of dried apricots (about 10)
  • 400g cooked chicken meat
  • 250ml creme fraiche
  • 1tbsp curry paste (I used Patak's Madras)
  • Juice of half a lemon
Make it!
  • Put the kettle on. Pour the boiling water over the apricots and leave to soak for 20 minutes. You might as well make yourself a cup of tea while you're at it.
  • Slice the chicken into bite sized pieces.
  • After 20 minutes or so, whizz the soaked apricots to a paste in a blender or food processor.
  • Stir together the creme fraiche, curry paste, lemon juice and apricots. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Coat the chicken pieces in the sauce.
  • Serve as the filling for a doorstep sandwich, or with some green salad.

Paperback rider: Bicycleclips

Bank holidays - ah! What do you have planned for yours? My dream bank holiday goes something like this: bike off to the sunny countryside, grab an ice cream, and sit reading - alongside a loved one - under a leafy tree. In reality my bank holiday will go something like this: wake up grouchy and a bit hungover, have to go to the shops to buy milk, get caught in a downpour, spend the rest of the afternoon sulking on my couch.

At least these Bicycleclips will help me maintain my blissful thoughts just a little bit longer. Not only cute, they're also immensely practical paperclips that are cunningly twisted into the shape of bikes. Though I'll be sofa bound, with one of these marking my place in my book, my imagination will be cycling free and plotting what to do next bank holiday instead.

A set of four costs £3.50 from The Present Finder, leaving plenty of money for ice cream (even if it's just from the shop at the end of the road).

Baking for Beginners: Baklava

I didn't discover the wonder of baklava until recently. Now I might be slightly addicted to the sugary stuff. But I've been spoilt. My first baklava experience was at a posh stall in Borough Market and I tried every single kind. That was a very expensive sugar rush. I've never braved the dry-looking supermarket stuff. As I'm not made of millions and can't visit Borough Market all the time, there was only one thing for it: I was going to have to make my own. I used this recipe as a starting point, and then played about with it adding orange blossom.

Baklava is surprisingly easy to make, but if you're hoping for a healthy treat, this isn't it. It's basically butter with some more butter, with some syrup and then some more butter on top. Don't feel that you need to use all of your butter or syrup, you want moist and sweet not overly soggy.

The good thing is that this recipe will give you about 20 pieces, so you'll have lots to share. And while I wouldn't usually suggest sharing treats, you'll give yourself a heart attack if you eat the whole tray yourself.

You'll need:
  • 1 pack of filo pastry
  • 180 g butter, melted
  • 250 g chopped nuts
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 250 ml water
  • 200 g caster sugar
  • 150 ml honey (I used orange blossom)
  • dash of orange blossom water
Make it!
  • Preheat your oven to gas mark 4/180 degrees C and grease a small rectangular baking tray.
  • Unroll your pastry and cut to fit your tray (the pastry will probably cut in half to fit).
  • Layer two sheets of pastry in the bottom of the dish, then brush with butter. You only need a light coating. Continue buttering and layering until you've got about eight sheets layered up.
  • Mix your nuts with the cinnamon, and sprinkle around 3 tablespoons of the mixture onto your pastry.
  • Add another two layers of pastry, butter and then more nuts. Repeat again so you've got another six layers of buttery, nutty tastiness.
  • Brush the top layer with butter and then slice into squares. Pop in the oven for about 40 minutes, until golden brown.
  • Google Research tells me that you either want to put cold syrup on hot baklava, or hot syrup on cold baklava to stop it going soggy. That latter is easier as once your honey has gone cold it'll set, so wait until your baklava has cooled before making the syrup.
  • Mix the water and sugar in a pan on a medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the honey and orange water. Then simmer for about 20 minutes until gooey. Once you're done, and the baklava is completely cooled spoon over the top and allow to set.
  • When it's cool, cut into squares and serve with a side of sugar coma.

Tuesday 26 April 2011

Design Porn: Julia Davey

Julia Davey is a ceramicist with a bit of a thing about robots (rightly so). She studied at Central Saint Martins (swanky) and now works in a small studio in Bath.

This teapot is based on Julia's drawings of 1950s tin robots. It's a little one-person pot, and it's £30.

Robots not your thing? What about caravans and campervans? I really want this milk jug. It's £19.

I'm always going to balk at paying £19 for a mug, no matter how pretty it is. But I do really like this beach hut collection. £14 for a soap dish doesn't seem so bad. I wish I had a beach hut.

I still like the robots best, obviously. Especially this egg cup which I really hope is back in stock soon. Seen any cool robot-stuffs recently? Tell me about them in the comments so I can slowly create a robot army in my kitchen.

Tea Towel Tuesday: Rockett St. George Butterflies

It's so hard to resist butterflies in spring. They're fluttering all over the shops, without being as irritatingly ubiquitous as floral prints.

But this butterfly tea towel isn't just pretty, it's a butterfly bargain as well. It's only £6 and it adds an instant splash of colour to you kitchen.

I'm not entirely sure that they're an accurate and scientific portrayal, but rather than thinking 'ooooh, there's a red admiral', and 'look! A peacock butterfly' (the only two butterflies I can recognise). I'm basically just thinking, 'look how pretty and fluttery they are'.

Like them? You can pick up this tea towel from the wonderful Rockett St. George.

Afternoon Tea: The Met Bar, London

All this pomp and ceremony around the royal wedding making you want to unleash your inner rebel? The Met Bar in London's Mayfair is dishing up an 'An-Tea Establishment' afternoon tea, featuring contemporary twists on retro Brit classics.

Available until 8th May, you can expect trifle served in shot glasses, rhubarb and custard cupcakes, and strawberries and cream macarons. There'll also be all sorts of savoury treats, including warm Wensleydale and pickle muffins, plus a punk-rock soundtrack to accompany your cocktail-supping.

If you want somewhere to avoid the hype and hysteria on Friday, you could do much worse. Prices from £27 per person.

Sluttishly Vegetarian: Crunchy Cous-Cous Wraps

Hot weather means we need to rethink our packed lunches. Sandwiches will wither and curl, anything too carb-heavy will make us sleepy, and hot food? No thanks. Keep it simple, and leave room for ice-cream. A Cornetto is practically medicinal when you've got to return to your desk when it's 21C outside.

Cous-cous is my new favourite store cupboard essential, and perfect for a light lunch. Cheap, filling and easy to prepare, these tiny grains of steamed and dried durum wheat are ready to eat after being soaked for five minutes in boiling water. Supermarkets sell pre-flavoured cous-cous, but it's cheaper and tastier to make your own. This recipe keeps it plain because of all the other flavours going on, but you could soak it in stock, or add your favourite spices to the water, or squeeze a lemon over it for a zingier taste.

This cous-cous salad is a variation on a Middle Eastern salad. The crunch comes from the chopped veg. Don't slice them wafer thin, you want to add some chunky texture. The herbs are no mere garnish in this dish - they're the real star of the show, so don't skimp on them. Ditch the dried stuff in jars and buy the fresh stuff. This Gordon Ramsay video taught me how to chop herbs perfectly every time, without leaving half of them on the chopping board.

Crispy Cous-Cous Wraps (serves 2)

You will need:

  • 100g cous cous
  • Small handful of fresh mint
  • Small handful of fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 3 spring onions, diced
  • 1/4 cucumber, deseeded and diced
  • 1 tbsp sunflower seeds, lightly toasted
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Wholemeal wraps
Make it!
  1. Make the cous cous according to the instructions on the bag. You generally cover it with twice the volume of water (200ml for this recipe) and leave it to soak for five minutes, until it's all absorbed.
  2. Fluff up the cous cous with a fork and stir the olive oil through. Add the chopped vegetables, seeds and herbs, mix well and squeeze the lemon over it. Season to taste and set aside.
  3. When it's reached room temperature, spoon some of the mix onto a wrap and roll it up tight. If you're taking it to work, pack the wraps and salad separately so the bread doesn't go soggy.
Flickr image from cookipedia's photo stream

Sluttishly Snug: M&S Men's Cashmere Jumper

Sorry, what? Where's all that lovely sunshine from the last week gone? I am not amused and need to cover my airy-fairy tea dress with something warm, sharpish.

This is a man. Handsome though it is, I am not suggesting you wrap up warm in him (very Star Wars, very messy). Look, instead, at the jumper. Borrowing men's knitwear is the one aspect of the 'boyfriend fashion' thing that I really get. Men's jumpers are extra cosy, extra roomy without being tents and look freaking amazing teamed with a little dress and heels. Very often though, men insist on your giving their knitwear back which is most unfair and not the point at all, so buying your own is a good second choice.

M&S men's cashmere (or 'mashmere' as I've been rather uninspiringly calling it for years is perfect for weather like today. It's light enough that you won't expire if the temperature improves, while being as cosy and soft as a giant teddy bear, and gifted with nice long sleeves.

You can choose your mashmere in crew or V-neck, and it being spring there are a number of girl-friendly colours like lavender, pink, serious purple, black, silver, or this gorgeous mid-blue. Not bad for £59. The only thing you'll have to worry about once you're cosy is how to fend off the men trying to nick it off you.

Monday 25 April 2011

Wise Owl says eat more Cookies

I didn't know that my kitchen was missing a winking owl until I saw this owl cookie jar. (Why does adding 'winking' to anything instantly make it sound rude?) This cheeky little fella is from Anthroplogie, and he's nothing short of adorable. He's £48.

I would totally let this guy guard my cookies. He looks friendly. He's basically telling me to eat more cookies. And look at his little tail:

How cute! Keep his belly full of tasty things, won't you?

Shoe Porn: Pretty Shoes For Unruly Feet

Seeing as we've bypassed spring and hurtled headlong into summer, it's time to retire my clompy boots and brogues and step out in flimsy, pretty shoes. However, my feet are problematic: flat and skinny and unable to tolerate heels. I need to be firmly strapped into my shoes from every possible angle so they don't fling themselves off my low arches. This rules out ballerina pumps, slingbacks and most sandals (sob).

I can't be the only one with unruly feet, so I've gone hunting for shoes that are light enough for spring, sturdy enough to stay on my feet, that don't look orthopedic or like fetishwear (all those straps can get a bit kinky).

You all loved Miss L Fire, so here's another pair. These Maitai wedges are covered with umbrellas, and thus perfect for British weather. £42.54 from Javeri.

Rocket Dog specialise in adorable slip-on pumps, and this flowery pair is no exception. They're £28 from Schuh, and that includes the cute ladybird resting on the front.

More polka-dots? Sure! You can pick up these t-bar flats for £25 from Schuh. They come in leopard-print and gold if you prefer something more vampy.

Irregular Choice is really spoiling us with these ones, available in five colourways. These are £54.99 and I can already predict I'll be wearing them til it starts snowing.

Finally, if I want to brave a small heel, I might go for these Bertie Siene sandals with their rather lovely tapestry finish. They're £85 from Schuh.

Dream Dresses: Dahlia

Dahlia is a curious little fashion label. Like Fever and Closet, they seem to pop up all over the place and before you know it, every dress you've got your eye on is made by them. A little off-beat high street never hurt anyone. Especially not when all of their dresses are so wanty.

This pink dress is so cute. The slightly dropped-waist means it's not for me, but it's very gorgeous indeed. It's £68.

Usually I'd be bored to tears with any dress with a ditsy floral print on it. But this one avoids the usually prom shape, or tea-dress style. Instead, it's short enough so it doesn't look dated. Loving the curtain tie-back style belt too. This one is £60.

I'm a sucker for an animal print dresses (I've got about eleventy billion), and this one is adorable. I love the coral trim, it's a really pretty touch. I basically can't decide which of these I like the most. Can I have all of them? And this skirt? And this scarf?

Thursday 21 April 2011

Cocktail hour: Hoxton Gin

The bottle says it all really. Bold and colourful, it's emblazoned with the words: 'Warning! Grapefruit and Coconut'. If you want to frighten your traditional gin drinkers, perhaps shove a bottle of Hoxton Gin under their nose. And if you want to induce some embarrassing flashbacks in someone whose first tipple of choice was malibu, again try giving them a bottle of Hoxton Gin. They smell remarkably similar.

The drink has been developed by Gerry Calabrese of the Hoxton Pony and pushes the boundary of the humble gin a bit further. Yes, it's got the juniper but add onto that a dominant taste of grapefruit and coconut, with added ginger, tarragon and iris. Open the bottle and the predominant smell is the coconut: hence those malibu flashbacks. At £36.50 a bottle from Harrods (who kindly sent me a bottle), I'm not sure if that's the first impression I'd want to get from such a pricey bottle. One of the Hoxton Gin's serving suggestions is The Naked Martini: pour it straight from the freezer to ice cold martini glass. In my home improvised version of this, the spirit was just too sweet for my tastes by itself.

Once I added tonic however, it was a different story. The fruits worked with the tonic to create a really refreshing drink - I think I could even taste the juniper. In fact, it's been the perfect thing to quaff over this lovely warm week. Next week I think I'm going to use the bank holidays to experiment a bit more with it: normally I'm a big fan of a spot of gin and juice but I wonder if that would just be too sweet with this gin. And I'll definitely mix someone up a Hoxton gin and coke - while I can't stand coke, I am interested to see how close it will taste to a malibu and coke, and whether any traumatic teenage moments result from the drinking. There's some tasty sounding cocktails on the hoxton gin website too - how about a Garden Spring Collins?

It's an expensive tipple and a bit of a risky purchase unless you know you are going to love the taste. If you are a gin purist, I advise you look at one of Harrods' other available gins instead for a special juniper treat. If, on the other hand, you like your drinks with a total tropical flavour and fancy a bit of experimentation, you can buy Hoxton gin for £36.50 in-store at Harrods, or online from The Whisky Exchange for £27.50.

Bag Lust: Miss Selfridge Bow Satchel

Today has been a day of treats. Treats for me involve not getting dressed until far too late in the day, eating a shocking amount of crisps (and not sharing) and hiding my Giant Chocolate Buttons from everyone. As we finished our book yesterday (coming to a bookshop near you in November), I decided today was a treat day. My best treat for myself today was this bow satchel from Miss Selfridge.

I spend way too much money in Miss Selfridge, but Sluttery HQ only has a few shops nearby, and it's by far the best of the bunch. This satchel is the perfect size for me. It's the same size as my favourite bag in the world. But as my favourite bag is a couple of years old, it's getting a little bit worn. An upgrade was needed, and this is a very pretty upgrade indeed. There's a cross body strap, as well as the cute handle. As it's not leather, it was only £28 too. Bargain treats are the best kind of treats.

What are your favourite treats?

Thorntons Chocolate Liqueur: the stuff of (boozy, chocolatey) dreams

Oh, Easter. I might not be a God-fearing type, but I approve of any holiday that encourages me to enjoy the sun and stuff myself silly with chocolate. But sometimes these two things don't always go together. Like some horrible twist on paper, scissors, stone, sun melts chocolate. Nooo! But wait - those clever types at Thorntons have come up with a new way for us to enjoy the tasty brown stuff this Easter in the form of their Chocolate Liqueur.

Alex S and I tried some last week and we can confirm that it slips down a treat; a boozy, chocolatey treat that works well on even the sunniest day. Happy Easter!

Sluttery Interview: Nina Campbell

Nina Campbell is a goddess of interior design. When I told a friend I had interviewed her about her sterling work renovating the gorgeous Ellenborough Park hotel, she screamed, went "My mum and I are OBSESSED with her wallpaper!" and then said she'd already advised a friend to stay at the hotel based purely on the miraculous interiors I photographed in my review.

I spoke to Nina about wall paintings vs murals ("a Muriel - too frightful for words"), where to buy a truly awesome peacock lamp, stretching a budget to breaking point and got her tips on thunderbox loos and how to bring Ellenborough Park's jewelled, Indian influences to our own homes.

What’s your first step when faced with a new project?

The most important thing is to discover how the people, or the hotel, are going to live. Are they young? Children? Dogs? How is life lived in their house? I believe designing a house is all about making life for someone super comfortable and practical. You’ll get irritated by not having somewhere to put everything.

How did you start Ellenborough Park?
I was taken to see it, and it was so unbelievably ghastly. The building was potentially beautiful, but it had some additions which were pulled down. I knew the person who had bought it so I knew he would allow the most fantastic job. There was one room repainted and the person had gone all round the outside of the furniture with the colour. Your heart was bleeding for this beautiful building in this diabolical state.

Shortly after that the teams moved in and took out what was allowed. It was a big restoration job, and reorganizational, so that everyone had bedrooms and bathrooms, and then two new wings. The wonderful thing about the Cotswolds is the stone is fantastic. There’s one room which had been small little attic bedrooms but which is now a massive room. We put in a four poster, so you walk behind it and go into the bathroom behind it. It’s slightly whacky and modern, but then it’s got little windows, a tiny fire place and all these beams.

The house has the most wonderfully scandalous past. How much did you draw on that?
I was rather obsessed with Jane Digby running off with all those men, living in the Bedouin and in the 19th century too! We have easyJet now, but then she’d have been on a camel. I used plenty of Indian references in the great hall, from [the Duke of Ellenborough’s] Viceroy times. So much has happened to that room over the years, there was a strange bit off centre to the fireplace, so I decided to have a mirror made to go completely above the fireplace.

We took a rather wide brush and used a lot from a shop called Mr Blowie, in Morocco. We painted the small room in gold leaf, then put oriental rug pictures on the walls and a huge banquette. It’s a lovely place if there are six of you.

The peacock lights were from Maeve Watts in Burnham Market, she lives half the time in India. I saw these peacocks and thought, “We’ve got to have those.”

What was your biggest challenge?
We thought whatever we did here would be 1000% better. The challenge was the time. We had to get it ready by Cheltenham (the racecourse is next to the hotel). It was a massive work. I had to make it warm, I’m not a natural countrygoer, so if you go, you want to be as warm and dry as possible, an oxymoron in Gloucestershire! I want to feel so invited, so cosy, my bedroom’s got to be so comfortable that if I want to spend all day in bed watching telly, I can. It’s air conditioned because you can’t sell a room to an American without it. One always slightly giggles, but it’s there.

What’s your favourite part of the new interiors?
I like the minstrel’s gallery above the great hall. I love the Moroccan part with the gold leaf and peacocks. The owner had wanted to take it down. I said I could imagine having my own getaway place. Sitting in a room, all groups of people is one thing, but if you can sneak away... Then there’s a little private room in the dining room which has green walls with brasses. A friend wanted to sell them so I put them all on the wall which is marvellous.

How long did the refurb take from start to finish?
Eighteen months. I thought, I’m going to restore it as a country house, or better than. Really good beds are vital. We took about eight colour schemes. The balance was trying to not let it be too old fashioned but at the same time, it’s a building from the 16th to 19th century. I didn’t want it to be too fuddy duddy, so I used aquas, yellows, some rooms had wallpapers, some had plain walls and printed curtains. We always have this idea that foreigners who come to England expect four posters and panels – so some of the rooms in the new wings do.

For me the real scream was finding the thunderbox loo in our bathroom – where did you find those?
The soil pipe was listed! We couldn’t put a built in loo. I’d seen this thunderbox in the back pages of House and Garden and thought this is exactly how we’re going to get round it. You couldn’t believe you could list a soil pipe!

The painting on the main staircase is glorious. Is there a failsafe way to doing a mural, or is it trial, error and paint over?
I think the word mural reminds me of the 50s when people live in tiny flats and do a mural of people waving, called a Muriel and too frightful for words.

Ha! A wall painting then?
They’ve got to be slightly non-specific, slightly wishy washy. That’s what I loved about Flora Roberts’s (the artist) work, she’s a young girl and relatively new in her career. The staircase was very boring and had curtains which looked like tragic remnants because they were too long and not wide enough. It’s quite a difficult staircase to find, so it was important to make it the main staircase and she did it really well. It’s a loose, magical forest, bit of whimsy, Arcadian.

Then there's the ceiling in the great hall. The brick walls were stone, I didn’t want to have three walls in a vibrant colour and then a brick wall, so did all the colour of the bricks. I found that collection of rather Hogarth heads. We decided to do a dark colour in the ceiling to bring it down and make it more understandable. Mark Done did the ceiling with blue and a tracery of gold in each box to make it more fun and more glamorous.

Could you give us some tips on how to add a jewelled effect on the cheap?
If you knew the budget and how far it stretched you’d think we were magicians! If you have a plainish sofa, put the cushions on in mixed colours. We might have a blue piped in red, a yellow piped in blue and then mix them all up so they become less paired. Also, get a lamp in a wonderful colour. You can certainly find them in antique places: in my own house I bought some wonderful glass jars from a glassmaker in lime green, purple and aquamarine. If you go to craft shows, there’s quite a lot of people working with interesting materials.

Find out more about Nina Campbell and Ellenborough Park

Get saucy with your pans

We've been doing a lot of recipe testing for the Domestic Sluttery book. There's been some delicious food stuffs produced but my poor saucepans - already a bit battered - have been tested to their limits. As I washed up their silvery sides for the umpteenth time, I wondered why you couldn't buy saucepans that weren't a bit more ... you know ... interesting. I've got a sneaky eye on my parents set of classic Cathrineholm pans though, as I don't think they'll pass them over any time soon, I turned to the internet with the aim of saucing up my kitchen a little...

The budget option is definitely Ikea's Kavaklad. Flowers! leaves! blue! and for just £4.99. This will give you something nice to look at while you're doing your dishes.

How do you know you're getting old? When you start swooning at something like these cast iron pans, maybe. Classic, hard-waring, these would see you through some serious cooking (I'm swooning). They come from the Cast Iron Pots and Pans Company. You pay for the quality though, as prices start at £51.78.

They don't make them like they used to: I know, writing this post means I've looked at a lot of saucepans. With the lack of too many interesting contemporary options out there, perhaps the best option is going vintage. And behold this enamel number from H is for Home for £28. Dating from the 60s/70s, it's cute and colourful. If the rest of your saucepans are silver, I'm definitely awarding this one the gold prize.

How pretty are your pans? Let us know in the comments.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

The Perfect Pout: Lipstick by Rockalily London

I love lipstick. Especially red lipstick. Although I don't wear a whole lot of makeup you will rarely see me out without red lippy on. However, with a complexion nearing that of a creature of the night *and* copper red hair, I do seem to be on a perpetual quest to find just the right shade.

So I was delighted to stumble across the newly launched makeup range, Rockalily which offers three shades of retro red (plus a perfect pink) along with a rather handy guide for finding the perfect shade to suit you.

I plumped for the Rockette Red, a wonderful long lasting matte shade that proved to be the perfect choice for my complexion. After many years, it takes a heck of a lot for a lipstick to really impress me but, by jove, this one really has.

I was also incredibly impressed by the friendly and efficient customer service. They were more than happy to offer advice about shades and delivery was super speedy so no mournful gazing at the postie required.

The lipsticks cost £14 each and available direct from Rockalily.
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