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Gardens: make a moss
wall hanging

How hard can it be to kill moss? This is one the sorts of indestructible sorts of plants that I need more of in my life (OK, I'm cheating - it's a special kind of preserved moss).

I love this idea from the inspiring new book about house plants from Isabelle 'Balcony Gardener' Palmer. And any gardening project that involves gluing the plants in place sounds like my kind of project.

The book also features a few outdoor projects and here's one: how to create your own moss wall hanging. Over to Isabelle...

"This is a simple project to set up and uses a rectangular piece of hardboard. I painted the hardboard white, but you can use any colour you wish and perhaps take inspiration from the surrounding garden plants. I used eggshell paint, but gloss paint would be better because the display will be exposed to the elements outdoors.

"Take some reindeer moss - I have used three different shades of green here. you could even spray paint some of the pieces of moss with different colours to create a more interesting scene. Use a hot glue gun to fix the moss to the hardboard. There is no right or wrong way to position the moss and, in fact, using different colours will mean you can be quite messy in your approach. This moss picture adds a lush feeling to the plain brick wall and brightens up a dark day."

Thanks Isabelle!

The book is full of other unintimidating ideas for brightening up your home with plants. And if you've always wanted to make a terrarium, definitely check it out as there are dozens of different ideas for how to make your own.

There are also ideas for hanging plants, growing air plants (which don't need soil – I never knew there was such a thing), nurturing indoor flowers and heaps of practical tips for keeping your plants looking good... and alive. Nice book.

The House Gardener by Isabelle Palmer is published by CICO Books and is available from

Post by Kate

Hinge sprucing #cheaphometricks

We've just redecorated the bathroom, and you can see from the cracked paint below how badly it was in need – but that's a story for another day. 

Because today I just want to focus on one tiny change we made to the room that cost just a few quid, a bit of effort and – in my opinion – has given our bathroom door a bit of a new, design-y lease of life (plus it's a more positive DIY story than last week's grout reviving disaster...).

In pretty much every place I've lived, the door hinges have looked like this. When it comes to redecorating, the choice is: spend an hour or so hacking away at years and layers of paint to clean the things up... to reveal a not very exciting grey, scratched hinge.

Or – and I'm guilty of this one – add another layer to that paint and hope it helps the hinge to blend into the background. (Never, of course, daring to think of the day you might need to get to the screws through a centimetre of dried satinwood...)

So credit to my boyfriend for coming up with a better solution: to replace all the door hinges in the house with brand new brass ones. It's a tiny detail but one with a potentially big impact. So, since we were painting it anyway, we started with the bathroom door. What do you think?

I think they look dramatically good, for hinges.

A bag of three butt hinge brass door hinges cost us £10.98 from B&Q, so it doesn't cost much for this pretty noticeable revamp, depending on how many doors you have of course (and it's the kind of job you might want to space out anyway – changing doors can be heavy and fiddly, and if you don't know how, you should definitely check out this excellent series of YouTube videos by Tommy the builder. They're my new favourite way to relax...).

But back to our hinges. Here's how the new ones look in comparison to those on the adjacent bedroom door...

Simple and inexpensive but brilliantly effective, I think. Love to know what you think – and also if you have any clever or simple #cheaphometricks, do share!

Post by Kate

Object of the day: Kimmy Hogan's sleeping Dachshunds

This is pretty much the cutest illustration of a dog you will ever have seen. Right?

The print is titled The Dachshund. Appendix 4: Sleep Study and it was drawn by (no surprises) a Dachshund-owning artist named Kimmy Hogan.

Sleeping dogs, especially little ones, are particularly endearing and Kimmy has captured that aspect beautifully, in this very simple series of line drawings.

Kimmy, who is based in Australia, based the sketches on her own miniature dachshund, Rio.

And the good news? It may only be for sale in Australia, but Kimmy's stockist Elk in the Wood offers FREE WORLDWIDE SHIPPING. Woo! The print costs $40AUD (£22) for an A4 sized version and $75AUD (£41) for the A3 version.

Kimmy also has an Etsy shop, but she's on maternity leave at the moment. But you can still catch her at her beautiful blog, As I'm on a bit of a houseplants tip right now, I particularly enjoyed her inspiring latest post, on that very topic.

Post by Kate

Real homes: when DIY
goes wrong

It was meant to be a cheap, quick way to give the shower room a spring spruce-up. 

We had a leak in there, and while I was shopping for grout and silicone to fix it, I was dazzled by the grout reviver on sale nearby (everyone else gets excited and over-shops at DIY stores too – right?). A sparkly new bathroom for just a few quid? Yes please. Only things haven't gone quite to plan...

This enticing tube was the thing to transform the tiled floor from grubby-even-when-scrubbed to good as new. It'd also help to make the bit I had just fixed (that gleaming white line on the right) less prominent. Here's a better look at what I was hoping to transform.

Grimy innit? Though I should add, for my dignity, that the floor hadn't been cleaned for some time as we have been using the main bathroom since the leak, and tramping in here in big shoes. Still, cleaning only ever went so far anyway.

But back to the DIY. The tube of reviver has a sponge-y top which you can see here...

It isn't designed so you can be precise – stage one of the job is just to smear it across those cracks messily.

I was excited to start to see how bright the grout was looking already, though wondering how exactly I'd be getting it off of the tiles. The idea is that, after about half an hour, you wash off all the excess reviver from the tiles themselves, leaving just the grout gleaming whitely back at you. Except...

...what is really far down the instructions, and which I hadn't seen, is a line that reads: not suitable for matt tiles. Do you notice how un-shiny the green tiles are? Oh yes. And I read this once I'd got about this far...

Uh-oh. Though I haven't used a product like this before, I'm far from a DIY novice – how could I have made such a monumental cock-up? I cursed the packaging designer and instructions copywriter because it was easier than cursing my own stupidity (though, fairly or not, I do still curse whoever decided not to put that bit at the top).

Before the damn stuff dried any harder, I had to start washing it off. 

And when that didn't work, I tried to scrape it off with a razor blade. Yes, each individual little tile. It took over an hour, gave me massive back ache and, even then, it only looked like I'd been painting the walls without a dust-sheet on the floor. I see that you can also buy a grout reviving pen, which I think is what dazzled me in the first place, as I'd seen it in this satisfying Apartment Therapy story.

I am guessing the pen is more precise and may do the job (though obviously, ahem, I'll read the label in full before I buy). I'll give that a go, and will probably be having nightly razor blade sessions for the next few weeks to get the rest of the white marks off.

Anyone else care to share a DIY disaster?

Post by Kate

Shopping: raiding the antique shops of Lewes

I had a lovely time recently visiting dear friends who have recently moved to Lewes, not far from Brighton.

It was brilliant to hang out and catch up (and eat fantastic fish and chips – well, just chips and a pickled egg for me – from their excellent local chippy). But what was almost as great? THE SHOPPING.

First off, I should highlight the one purchase of the trip (unusually restrained for me, and I didn't even buy it). It is this very beautiful and unusual etching of a duck in flight, which my boyfriend bought me for my birthday from one of Lewes's many antiques shops. I have put it up in the growing bird corner (see more on Pinterest), right by my side of the bed, so I can look at it while I'm lying there.

It appears to be in its original frame, as the artist details are on the back – it is by someone called Stuart N Pike, about whom I could find no information online, and it says it is etched onto calfskin. The mount is newer, made from some kind of thin wood. It's kind of odd, and I like it.

I also liked a lot of other things I saw. We spent ages at Lewes Flea Market, below.

It was packed with treasures.

I am still kicking myself about failing to buy this spectacular horse's head for £22. The rest of the stuff on this stall was a little dubious, I think it disrupted my usual shopping radar.

I can't resist things with compartments (anyone else?) and toyed with the idea of using these, above, to store shoes in by the front door. Not very practical since it would rule out all boots, hi-tops and heels. Couldn't think what else to use them for, so sadly they stayed put.

I have an inherited biscuit jar in the Hornsea Pottery range – like the coffee pot on the left of that glass shelf, above. I keep meaning to buy more Hornsey stuff when I see it cheap, like this (it was £6), but I am hoping I'll find a whole bundle of it together in a charity shop. We went to a beautiful cafe in a local park over the Easter weekend and all their crockery, on tables and displaying cakes and stuff on the counter was this gloriously homely brown, 70s Hornsea stuff. I was inspired, it looked fantastic.

This was another antiques emporium on the high street, it was over several floors and is the place the bird etching came from. A little less random than the flea market, it had carefully curated shelves of Fat Lava pots (below)...

... and collectible (and always pricey) Clarice Cliff china, below.

Next we went to Wickle, Lewes's smallest department store (possibly anywhere's smallest department store, in fact).

What a beautifully designed interior it had. Love the colours of the battered wood panels above, and the elephant's head.

It's got its own little cafe at the back of the shop.

And another at the front, just serving take-aways. What fantastic signage!

Spotted this clever idea for a children's light, too.

And ogled these colourful blankets. 

This is the exterior, modelled by Anthony, baby Rudy and Reggie the dog, looking a little disconcerted – Anthony is the other half of my creative friend Holly who has featured here before.

And aside from all that shopping, Lewes is just ridiculously pretty. Can't wait to go back.

Post by Kate

Real homes: a designer's £800 total renovation

Bobby Petersen's amazingly thrifty warehouse flat in north London filled me with inspiration when I went to nose around it a few months back.

I was there to write about his place for a piece published in last weekend's Guardian Weekend mag. You can read that here, but here are some bonus pictures of his insanely creative ideas.

The flat was a derelict, one-room warehouse space when Bobby, then a Royal College MA student, moved in a couple of years ago. It had long abandoned by its original manufacturing tenants, and used since only by some shady characters requiring nothing but the concrete floor and some privacy.

Now, just £800 later, it looks like this.

Bobby has created two raised bedrooms, a kitchen, a wholesome glossy floor, a whole workshop area and a lovely, airy feel. Oh, and there's a boat hanging from the ceiling (one of Bobby's pieces, designed for the American Hardwood Council: he made pretty much everything in the flat that he didn't find on the street or get given by college friends – it's handy studying alongside a bunch of product designers). AND the brilliant cardboard lampshades you can see over the big table, made with plain old cardboard boxes stuck together with a glue gun, some rice paper to reduce glare and – importantly – very low-heat bulbs so as not to cause a massive fire.

Isn't the bedroom door – that giant turquoise flap in the image above – clever?

The stairs (also made by Bobby) were rather hairy. Beautiful, though.

And the ceiling height is perfect for growing indoor climbers. This idea – of hand-built shallow boxes either up against a wall, with wires extending upwards – is something I aim to steal shamelessly for my mad, fat empty wall.

I love how simple things can be: the wires don't even have to be attached through drilled in holes (great if you're an impatient DIYer like me). Just get busy with the bulldog clips.

And who needs plant-pots? Good to see another fan of plastic animals around the house too.

This beautiful cast iron stool weighed a tonne. It was made Bobby's friend and sometime design collaborator, Tom Gottelier.

The baking trays are part of a design experiment Bobby is collaborating on, coating metals with inexpensive industrial treatments. Nice effect.

Love the leafy, light work nook. A bit of clever zoning and you hardly notice there are no walls.

The designer by his scarily vertical stairs.

And the excellent entrance gates.

Some of Bobby's designs, in collaboration with Made by Works appeared at Heal's Modern Craft Market earlier this year. You can also read about Bobby's inexpensive-themed collaborations with his friends Tom Gottelier and Elliot Hartwell, who also took part in the Heal's event, at Going Into Business. (Do seek out his marvellous Polar Bear Puzzle.) 

Words and photography: Kate