My most treasured things are second hand. Even though new things are very nice, there's nothing like the character only a second hand find delivers.
This second hand cane lounge suite is my favorite possie to drink my morning coffee. I looked everywhere to find an affordable romantic looking outdoor setting for this space, without any luck. This second hand suite was given to me after my sister sold her beach house. Her husband originally found it in an op-shop. I find that to get the character I want, second hand is most often where I find it.
When searching for a shabby-chic mirror, I went online to the usual home ware sites, like Ikea. I had no luck at all, but in the second hand Facebook market place, I found the one I adore.
The roses and ribbon that crown this curvy mirror say romantic, shabby-chic to me. Although I love the gold, I need a light and bright color scheme in this room. There are veranda's outside both windows which can make it quite dark. I have plans to paint it white using a little pot Annie Sloan chalk paint. The dark brown lounge is too dominant for the space. I'd really like a new one but I can't afford that. I'll make do with what I have and recover it in a cream or beige fabric.
You can see the chandelier refection in the mirror. This will also get painted white.
I've been visiting op-shops (thrift stores) in search of cardigans for winter. I did find some, but I also found some shabby chic picture frames and some very pretty tall glasses. The picture frames will be painted white and I'm going to get out my paints and create a still life of pink roses from my garden to go in them.
When walking in my garden I love noticing my second hand plants that add character. Plants I've taken from diving clumps of iris in Mum's garden and lambs ears from my sister's garden have taken off very well.
Cuttings of hydrangea, a neighbors gave me, have all grown well this year. A little burnt in our very hot summer, but they are budding up beautifully for next spring.
Dad gave me his grandfather's crown of rhubarb. It makes a lovely show of foliage in the border and I think of Dad every time I see it. Recently, I harvested some for a Rhubarb sponge desert to have for Easter lunch.
I harvested about a dozen stems and washed them well before cutting them into one inch peices. I placed them into a saucepan, covered them with water and added half a cup of sugar. I let this come to the boil and simmer until the Rhubarb was soft. I overcooked it a bit but it still worked out great. I added a little cornflour dissolved in water to thicken the syrup before turning off the gas. I spread it into a greased lasagna dish and then set it aside to cool a bit while I whipped up a packet mix of GF sponge cake.
I tipped a ribbon of cake mix over the top of the Rhubarb, moving the bowl up and down until the top was almost all covered. I lightly filled in the gaps with a spoon.
I baked it for about 40mins on 175C until the top was golden and the sponge bounced back when pressed in the middle. I can't believe how nice it tasted. As I'm writing this I'm sorry to discover that I don't have an after picture to post. It was Easter Sunday and I'd had a few glasses of wine so I'll hope you forgive me.
Imagine the sponge puffed and golden with the sweet and tart stewed rhubarb base steaming hot. I served it with whipped cream and it was very popular.
Because I feel bad, I'm posting this pic of some Easter eggs instead. By the way, they are sitting on a marble table that I bought second hand.
Creating a romantic home and garden doesn't have to be prohibitively expensive. Not only do I get to have fun seeing how far I can make my money stretch, decorating and creating a garden in my romantic style, but I also find the character filled pieces that bring my home and garden to life.
It's not something you can achieve quickly. A romantic home and garden is curated over time, but it's absolutely worth it and you always have a reason to drift through your local thrift store and see what treasures you might find for a song.
I hope you all had a lovely Easter and I wish you happy thrifting for items that will add character to your romantic home.
Dora Bramden writes heart-melting, passionate romance.
When I need some calm and beauty I head to a garden center, preferably one with a cafe. 'Lillies on Brougham' has long been a special place for me to visit. It's french provincial garden, cafe and shop are a delight for my senses so it's here I headed when I wanted to take the afternoon off.
I love this muted pink linen dress.
Balance is what they do so well. That is what makes it so calming and serene for visitors. The shop contains, soft textured clothes, dolls and cushions which contrast with and shiny pottery, glass and jewelry. Even a meal in their cafe is gorgeous to look at. Of course it tastes amazing as well. A perfect balance of sweet, savory and acidic flavors married with herbs and a mix of creamy and crisp textures to entertain the palette.
The seating area is a long space with views through to the established gardens that beckon diners to wander the pathways after breakfast or lunch.
After browsing the shop and eating a delicious lunch it's time to walk the grounds and take in the carefully considered, elegant garden.
An ornate urn draws you down the path toward a stand of pencil pine and globe shaped shrubs. Here the path turns and leads the wanderer to the area where plants are for sale, so you can purchase a little bit of French flair for your own garden.
Even this area is laid out in a way that shows style and balance has been carefully considered. A decorative pond provides a stopping point before rambling among the permanent plantings interspersed with bays of pots of trees and shrubs for sale.
There are a few concrete garden ornaments in the classic style which can be purchased to give your garden a distinctive French Provincial character.
A mud brick cottage creates an overflow space for diners and a focal point. It creates planting opportunities and is positioned so that the garden can't be viewed all at once. The meandering path encircles it.
The time passed quickly and eventually I needed to get back home to normal living but the serenity and elegance of Lilies on Brougham is inside me and is coming home with me.
A last view of the main building before I leave. I just love the simplicity and elegance of those box plants in white urns.
Wendy Fraser-Boyle and Melissa Walder run Lillies on Brougham, they stock the shop with their Lily and Lulu collection procured from France. They also run exclusive ladies tours to France. Oh my goodness, how I would love to do one of those. Maybe one day.
You can find Lilies on Brougham at 62 Brougham street Eltham in Victoria, Australia. Their contact details are T: 0394316622 or E: email@example.com
Dora Bramden writes Heart melting, passionate romance
How I Got My House Ready For Sale
When I sold my house at auction, I was thrilled when the hammer fell on a price at the top end of my hoped for range.
In the first year after buying the house, I did some updates.
I painted throughout and put down new carpet. I had a kitchen face-lift and laid laminate wood look floor boards over the pink and white kitchen tiles. I also cleaned out the garden beds of dead and overgrown shrubs but kept some things that might come back with a good prune.
I had a massive tree in the front yard that was undermining the footings, so that had to go also. Two years later and it was time for me to move on. Sam and I were buying a house together so my dear little house went on the market. But first, I needed to make sure it would appeal to buyers. As much as I loved how it worked for me, I needed to look at it through other peoples eyes.
The first thing I did was get moving on making the garden look nice. A cottage needs a cottage garden and that doesn't happen in two weeks. I started planning the sale in autumn so that when spring arrived the garden would be looking it's best. I planted standard roses and a Silverbirch tree in the front lawn to give a timeless appeal. A garden arch leading to the side way is planted with a yellow climbing rose. Not in full flower yet but some blooms had opened. I planted lavender when I moved in so they'd had a couple of years to get established. in the four weeks leading up to auction, I only needed to add a few plants to fill bare spots.
I put an iron bench on the front porch, flanked with identical standard Lillypillys in black urns, to give a welcoming but traditional, formal feeling.
You walk directly into the lounge room from the front door, so I needed it to act as a reception room. The furniture is placed away from the walkway but again creates an inviting space. I took down the framed family photos and kept styling on the crystal cabinet and piano similar. Note the lamps are of similar style. I removed one side of the sectional sofa and borrowed a wing back chair to give the room some character. I'd decided on using the French Provincial Style as inspiration for the theme of my home, a combination of old and new.
The coffee table is also simple, following the rule of three. A candle adds ambiance and being scented it created a lovely smell when people walked in the door. You'll notice I had every light turned on. I carried this out in all the rooms. It makes a huge difference. Most importantly, I followed advice from the real estate agent, to make sure there was enough open floor space for a small crowd of potential buyers to walk around during the scheduled open for inspections.
Kitchens sell homes, is what I've heard, so a face lift for my tired pink melamine kitchen was something I'd done knowing if I ever sold the investment would be worth it. While it was done at the time for me and not resale, I think it's worth sharing what I did because it did help me realize a good profit on the house.
The cupboards were in great shape and didn't need replacing, also I loved the splash back and wanted to keep those tiles. All I replaced was the bench tops and cabinet doors. I had new appliances installed and had laminated wood flooring laid straight over the old cracked pink and white tiles. I added a couple of black stools for a hint of farmhouse.
When sale time came, the agent suggested fresh lilies on the bench top. It was a little expensive to replace them each week but they added a touch of elegance and made the house smell beautiful. In the month leading up to auction, I enjoyed those flowers so much .
The clock on the wall in the dining area came from good ol' Kmart. It could have been bigger but I had a focal point on the table.
I kept the colors neutral and restful, in the master bedroom, creating interest with texture instead. The tufted bed head, embroidered pillows, fluffy rug and center pillow contrasted with a basket in the corner.
The shades on the ceiling light fixtures were broken in all the bedrooms, so I replaced them cheaply with batten fix light shades from Bunnings, hardware. I just threw away the fittings and kept the shade, at $9 each it was by far the cheapest option.
The second and third bedrooms were decorated simply with a picture of Paris above the bed in the double room and a birdcage filled with flowers and a battery powered candle sit's on the desk in the single room/study. The real estate agent suggested white doona covers and I think he got it right.
The bathroom needed a little spruce up. I replaced the taps and put in a clear shower screen door. The wire unit on the wall holds decor to add interest to a plain wall. An orchid next to the vanity gives a touch of class and a fluffy white towel hanging behind the door invites.
The last area to get a makeover for sale was the courtyard. It also was the most effort. I had to paint the fences, it was quite a job but, I got there by painting a section or two each day.
The garden beds were a bit bare but I had potted up ferns that had grown under the fence from my neighbors, so I sat those in the garden beds. I planted the birds nest fern on the right and put up some hanging baskets. I also added the succulent tower to the bed which gave it some architectural interest. The tree ferns were existing as was the Mondo grass. The back corner was empty and I planted several shrubs to fill it in. The statue was there also.
I put two outdoor chairs and small table in the back corner to invite people out into the space.
Some time ago my girlfriend gave me some fairy lights which we strung up under the eaves. I left them in place for sale so that they'd provide a nice ambiance to this area during the evening viewings. They made this space looked magical with the lights on. So nice that I couldn't bear to take them down and disappoint the new owner , so I left them behind as a gift.
Aside from opening up spaces and clearing out clutter, I made the most of what was existing. I did any maintenance jobs that were required, cleaned and updated worn out things. I created space for the buyers to imagine where they might put their furniture and personal items while keeping the charm of the cottage.
I saved money where ever I could which meant I had funds to spend where I knew I'd get a good return on my investment, like making over the kitchen. I didn't go for stone bench tops because I felt it wouldn't be money I got back. I chose instead a stone look laminate which worked really well.
Keeping the color scheme neutral helps buyers to visualize the colors they like layered in. I tried to keep similar color and style in each room of the house so that it felt cohesive and made the home feel more spacious. I also added interest with pretty decor items that didn't take over the room, more like earrings rather than a crown. Understated decorating again enabled buyers to visualize their own things.
It sold at auction after a couple of keen buyers drove the price up. Most of all I feel really happy that I've passed on a home to someone that is ready for them to just move in and enjoy. In getting it ready for the next owners, I feel I was also able to begin the process of letting it go.
Since selling my house, Sam and I have bought a house together and renovated it. It's a little more modern than the cottage but I have decorated it in a similar style. My furniture looks very nice in our new home. I've already posted pictures on my blog (in the decorating category) and on Instagram and or Facebook if you're interested to look at those.
As a romance author, I love all things romantic in my home and lifestyle. You can also discover more about my love of romance through my writing. Find my contemporary romance novels and short stories on my amazon author page or visit my Books page on this website.
Thanks for stopping by, until next week,
Winter Garden Hightlights
Since finishing the garden landscaping in Autumn, I've been busily planting some Glauca pencil pines and other plants I've been given. But not all the plants could go in. Low rainfall made the clay soil beds very hard. But now that the winter rain is softening the ground I'm looking forward to improving the soil and getting the rest of the pots planted and putting in flowering annuals this spring. Until then I have been planting up pots to make sure I have flowers when everything else is still making buds.
Pansies, a very dear little bloom that bobs it's velvety head in the breeze, are mixed with hard working white Alyssum. The pots are set into wooden crates. They're tiny seedlings now but they'll be overflowing the crates in the spring. My other love, Roses have been planted and I can't wait to see what they do this Summer now that they can get their roots down into the clay soil.
Begonias were loved by Mum. She had pots of them on her back patio. They've come to live with me and I've planted most in the front yard. Every time I come in my front door, I'll see them there. She used to say that they were easy care plants. Even if they dry out they hang on until you can get some water to them. I adore the tiny little rose like flowers and the array of pinks they come in. I also love the large rose begonias but I don't have any at home. I go to the begonia shows in March. Keep an eye out for that post next year.
Some of the plants I love most in the garden were already here. A gorgeous Apricot rose that I can't bring myself to prune yet, She still has blooms and buds, as if it were the start of spring. The fig tree and the Liquid Amber tree, an old gnarled and twisted trunk-ed rosemary and a couple of lovely Camellias. Oh, of course I can't forget the huge Fuchsia that flowers for nine months of the year. She has finally packed up and taken a rest for winter but still provides a green backdrop for front of the border plants.
Still waiting to be planted are a Gardenia and Daylias. They are doing it tough in the pots but I think they'll be better off if planted when the soil is more workable and I can introduce some organic matter.
My daughter gave me a Camelia which is going to be gorgeous when it flowers and a pink foliage Coleus which creates a much needed bright spot in the Winter garden.
It's hard to wait until everything grows. The larger shrubs will need a couple of years before the make much of an impact, and there are some quite small Hydrangea, Snow Ball tree and Geranium cuttings that won't look anything much for a long time, but they will. Eventually. I hope. But that's part of the joy of a new garden, seeing what works and what doesn't. Transplanting and replacing those that don't thrive. Thankfully, most are hardy plants that can cope with a lot and reward me with lots of lovely flowers which are a passion of mine.
Thanks for stopping by on my blog this week. Feel free to share this post with anyone you know who likes gardening and leave your questions in the comments and I'll answer them as best I can.
Romance author and lifestyle blogger
My whole life is inspired by romance. I write romance novels of course but also love creating DIY's and decorating in a romantic style. I'm rejuvenating an old garden, including rescuing a couple of old rose bushes and planting new ones.