The best places to buy houseplants


Since I've moved out I've been on a mission to turn my home into a mini jungle and I'm slowly getting there. My houseplant collection is building up slowly but surely and I've even managed to keep them alive. Lets just not talk about when I killed a cactus within my first few months of being in my new home. I've got so much better! But I've discovered not all house plants are created equal and some companies will try and make you take out a bank loan in order to afford to buy them. So here are a few good-value places I've discovered along my quest.

IKEA
This Swedish giant is so much more than just flat-packed furniture. It also boasts a killer house plant selection. They aren't the cheapest I've found but they're definitely not the most expensive. The plants on offer always look really lush and well looked after. I picked up my Aloe Vera plant for just £3 which was a completely bargain considering how huge it is. It's getting so big to that I'm going to have to re-pot it soon.

Lidl
Lidl change their houseplant selection around quite frequently so once you see one you like, you have to buy it straight away. It might not be there next time you visit! The selection isn't massive so its a place you have to have patience with. Keep popping back until they have one you like. My beloved cheese plant is from here and it's gone from strength to strength. Not bad for around £4!

Bloombox Club*
I did a piece on houseplant subscriptions at work and as a result I got to try out Bloombox Club. My comped subscription has now come to an end but I loved it. After we've paid for Vegas in the New Year, I'm going to sign up for it again. You can choose to sign up for every month or for a maximum of three months and Bloombox will send you a plant. It costs £17 for one without a ceramic pot and £35 for one with a pot. I have loved all three plants I've received and the pots have been great too. All so different from the last one.


Homebase
It almost becomes the law that once you move out you start to spend all your weekends in Homebase. It was during one of these many trips that I became obsessed with the house plant selection. They have so many to choose from and again they don't cost the earth. This is probably one of my favourite places for the sheer number of different species.

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How to include snippets of memories in your home


One of my favourite things to do in the world is to travel and I love to have little memories of my trips around the house to remind me of the places I've been. It could be a trinket from a place far away, a Polaroid picture from a city we've been to or a guide book I've poured over as I extensively researched where exactly we're going to eat. Always the most important thing when visiting somewhere new!

Long before we moved out I started to collect prints for a gallery wall. It's been years in progress and I don't get them for every single place, just the cities that have had the biggest impact on me. Sometimes I buy them overseas but sometimes I buy them online here in the U.K. I don't always have time to trawl through shops whilst I'm on holiday!

Desenio got in touch with me to see if I wanted to add to it with some of their own prints and frames. I went straight to their Maps and Cities and came across some gems. 



First up is this Barcelona travel poster of the famous Sagrada Familia. Sometimes you can take beautiful architecture for granted and it starts to all look the same. One European old town tends to blend into another sometimes doesn't it? But the first time I saw this cathedral it took my breath away. I don't think I've ever seen such a stunning building, I was in awe. I'm still gutted we got our times confused and missed our time slot to go inside. One day!

Next up is this Berlin 69 poster. The cool retro design really caught my eye and I thought it summed up the German city perfectly. Berlin was the city that kickstarted my travel bug and it has a very special place in my heart. It's just so unbelievably cool and filled with incredible history and the best food. I'm a sucker for hipster cities!


Finally, this Washington DC skyline poster was my final choice. Washington DC was one of those cities that I am so glad I visited but I'm not sure I would ever visit again. It has a strange vibe that I just can't put my finger on. But I loved seeing the White House in person and the Lincoln memorial. It felt like I was in Forest Gump and was a real pinch me moment. 


The code “ASTORYOFAGIRL” gives 25% off posters* on all of our sites between October 23rd and 25th. 
*Except for frames and handpicked-/collaboration posters

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Buying a house 101: why you should opt for a house survey


Buying a house is a minefield and it can be hard to navigate through. There's a hell of a lot of things to tick off the list as you're going through the process. One of those things is to decide if you would like a house-buyer's survey.

There are three different surveys to choose from and you will be able to arrange them through your bank with whom you have you mortgage with. The three include:

1. Condition report
This is the most basic and cheapest survey you can have. It won't provide you with too much detail but it will let you know a summery of the property's defects and possible risks that may occur in the future. It usually costs around £300.

2. Home buyers report
This is the one which we opted for. It will immediately let you know of any obvious major problems such as rot, subsidence and structural damage. Keep in mind the surveyor will not investigate too deeply so they won't lift up floor boards or move furniture top get a closer look. This option usually costs around £450.

3. Building Survey
Priced from £500, this is the most expensive one out of the three. It is the most extensive and will provide you with a detailed report once they have completed it. the surveyor will go into the loft, check behind walls, check above ceilings and look between floors. They will also include the best advice on repairs and provide estimated timings and costs.

I couldn't recommend having a survey done enough. When you go to a house viewing it can be very overwhelming especially if you're being shown around by the vendors. You don't want to appear rude so you don't really investigate, instead taking the house at face value. Even when you go view it a second or third time you never really take it all in. And unless you're a tradesman, how on earth are you suppose to know about the roof? Or the wiring? Or the boiler? The survey investigates all of this and can really help you when you start budgeting. You will know exactly what you will have to replace and what can wait a few more years. The information will be invaluable.

I hope you're enjoying this house buying series! Is there anything else you would like to know?

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Buying a house 101: the pros and cons of choosing a 5% deposit mortgage


We ended up opting for a 5% deposit to secure our mortgage. It was essential for us to get on the property ladder. We saved £12,000 in order to buy a £240,000 two-bedroom 1950's terraced house in Essex. Keep in mind not all banks or building societies offer this so it really does depend on if you'll be eligible. This was the perfect scenario for us at the time and I don't regret it one bit. As with all things there are pros and cons with it. Here are just a few pearls of my wisdom of what I found out. I really hope this new house buying series is helpful!

Pros
You can get on the property ladder a lot quicker as you don't have to save as much. At the time we bought, the house prices were going up so quickly that we could barely keep up. If we had stuck it out to save a 10% deposit there was a chance we would have been priced out. We just knew we had to take the plunge while we could.

By saving less for a house deposit, you have more of a chance to save extra to spend on doing the house up. Our house look quite a while to go through so we had four months between having our offer accepted and getting the keys. In those four months we were able to save some money to help with the renovations.

There are quite a few Government Help to Buy Schemes to choose from so there is great variety to find one that works for you. Some are only suitable for new homes. Sometimes we all need a little helping hand!

Cons
Your mortgage repayments will be higher each month as you are borrowing more so you need to really think about how this will effect you. Buying a house is a massive financial strain and it can be very hard to adjust. I still think you need enough money to be able to venture out  for a social life a few times each month.

The main Government's Help To Buy scheme only applies to new builds. Which is great if you're after a new build! But we wanted to avoid a brand new house. My dad and boyfriend both work in the construction trade and were adamant an older house is always best.

You can only use certain lenders as not all banks and building societies offer the opportunities. This can quite limited who you use.


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Buying a house 101: what to consider when you buy a doer upper home


When we were looking at a home to buy, we came to the conclusion that we could either buy a really nice flat which didn't need much doing to it or buy a house which needed a LOT of work. We came to the conclusion that we would eventually have to move from a flat within a few years, it was never going to be a 'forever' home. Whereas we could buy a two bedroom house and really be able to stay there and build a home. We could take our time really doing it up to our tastes without having to worry about spending all the money and then having to room because we would outgrow it.  Taking on a doer upper is a huge task and at times it can feel too much. It's not for the lighthearted at all! But if you want to go down the same path as us then there are a few things I think you should consider...

1. Work out what your budget is to do the renovations and double it. We were pretty lucky that my dad is very handy so we have saved a hell of a lot on labour costs. But not everyone has this resource! Labour is probably the most expensive part of saving for a house and it's very easy to forget about it. Costs tend to spiral out of control and you have to be prepared for it!

2.  Dealing with structural issues is so much more expensive than dealing with cosmetic issues. make sure you have a full survey if you're buying a doer upper. That way you don't have any nasty surprises waiting for you when you start the work.

3. Consider which rooms are the most important to you and which rooms you can live without doing. For us we wanted to make sure the downstairs looked ok so we decided to concentrate on the kitchen and the living room. You'll have to accept that it won't all get done at once and it will be a work in progress. You have to order each room in importance.

4. Be prepared to live in a building site for a while. The reality is you simply won't have the money to overhaul the house completely - unless you're very lucky! We ran out of money within a few months and now have to live in a half done house for at least a year in order for is to save up to do another project.

5. We used a few tradesmen for jobs that my dad couldn't do such as plastering and electrics. Always make sure you get a tradesman that someone has used before and has been recommended. Don't just pick one out of the yellow pages. Ask around friends and family to find people you can trust.

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Buying a house 101: Things to look out for during a house viewing

I thought I'd introduce a little house buying series on the blog for those who are looking to buy. I seem to have reached that age where my friends are starting to look after finally managing to save a hefty deposit. We were amongst the first and now I look back there's so much I would do differently but you only learn don't you?

First up is house viewings. You're finally in the position to buy and start organising some house viewings. But it is so overwhelming! I felt like I wasn't quite old enough to go and felt completely out of my depth. But here are some questions you should ask and things you need to look out for.

1. The chances are you'll go to your first house viewing during the day. The area will be the least busy it ever will be in the middle of the day thanks to children being at school and adults are work. To really get a feel for an area you have to see it at night too. I'd recommend driving round in the dark if you can.

2. Always check the shower pressure. You do not want to find out it's a bit pants after you move in.

3. Some areas sometimes have rubbish 4g so make sure you check your phone to see how the signal is.

4. Open windows. We didn't open any windows and one of ours was broken when we moved in. Lesson learned!


5. Parking can be an absolute nightmare where I live so we made sure to drive by at different times of day to see how the parking was. You don't always want to have to park round the corner and have to get a bus to your front door!

6. Make sure you open the cupboard doors in the kitchen. We moved in thinking we could wait a few years before we replaced the kitchen. But, on moving day we realised the kitchen was in a terrible state with mould inside. We could have found this out on the viewing day if we thought to check!

7.  Be sure to give the bathroom a quick once over to ensure you can't see any obvious mould.

8. If you know someone in the construction industry then we sure to bring them with you on the second viewing. They will help to make sure it looks structurally ok. My dad spotted things on the roof that I never even thought to look at!

9. Drive around the back if you can. We saw a beautiful house and my dad suggested we take a drive around the back to look at the garden and it was then we realised the next door neighbour had no fence, broken glass, terrible overgrown grass and didn't not look like a neighbour we would want to live next too!

10. Ask questions about the boiler. These are very expensive to replace and if you buy the house you'll have to factor in the cost if it's old. Our boiler was 20 years old and we're currently saving up for one!
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Getting into bed with Leesa


There's an in-joke in my family which is if I can't be found then it's usually because I'm laying in bed. At any hour during the day. It's true. I absolutely love my bed, my bedroom is my favourite place in the house. I think because I live such a busy life that I associate my bed as my safe haven. A place where I'm away from the hustle and bustle of every day life and alone in my thoughts. This only child really enjoys her own company at times! So when Leesa got in touch with me to see if I wanted to try out one of their mattresses I obviously couldn't type yes fast enough! A foam mattress is the dream.

Vacuum packed, the mattress arrived in a cardboard box about three feet tall. It got delivered to our local corner shop, we got a 'sorry we missed you' card through the letterbox and went to collect it. It was really handy to be sent a tracking number so we knew where the mattress was at all times. I couldn't believe a double mattress could fit into something so small! Once its unrolled out of the box, it magically lays on your bed and inflates before your eyes. I loved the cool, Scandi vibe of the grey and white stripes. Usually mattresses look quite ugly but this doesn't even really need bedsheets. It's certainly very easy on the eye! I really do appreciate a company who try to do some good in the world. One mattress is donated for every ten sold. How cool is that? Over 30,000 mattresses have been donated so far. They also plant a tree for each order and donate employees' time to volunteer in the local community.





Designed with three layers of foam, the combination of all three aim to cool, body contour and offer pressure-releving core support. I have terrible posture and it's something I need to work on. So as a result sometimes I suffer from quite a bad back. After trying the mattress out for the past month, I've really noticed a difference in my quality of sleep. I'm waking up each morning feeling really refreshed after having a great nights sleep. It's amazing how much a broken night of sleep can affect your day.

Offering free delivery, each customer gets a 100 day risk-free trial so if it isn't right you can send it back free of charge.

If you fancy treating yourself to a mattress then I have a special £100 off code. Just enter ASTORYOFAGIRL at the checkout  and voila. You won't regret it - trust me!

This post was created in collaboration with Leesa, who provided a Leesa mattress for review, but all views and opinions expressed are my own.

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Welcome to my dining area


Like I mentioned in my living room post we knocked down the partition wall to create some more space. We knew we wanted a big table but didn't want the room to feel small. Opening up the room that was once used as a bedroom was the perfect solution. I'm really proud of this corner of the room and love sitting down each night for dinner.




I'd be eyeing up dining tables made from scaffold boards but bulked at the price. They were coming up at nearly £800 and we just couldn't afford it alongside renovating a house. I had resigned myself to having to eat from a camping table and mentioned the dream table in passing to my dad. He asked to see a picture and then declared that he would be able to make it himself! He managed to get some scaffold boards and we were kindly given the metal hairpin legs as a housewarming present from Connor's sister and her boyfriend. After sanding them down, my dad put it all together in my house and oiled it three times. He also did the same for a matching bench. I'm so in love with it and it looks better and better each day as it gets more worn. I know it's something I'm going to treasure forever.

My mum found this mirror for a fiver second hand and she thought it would make a perfect upcycling project. Turns out mums know best! We had some Farrow & Ball downpipe paint shade left over from our feature wall so decided to sand the mirror down and apply the paint. I thought it was a great way to help bring the room together and it really stands out against the white wall.



I'm a crockery addict so couldn't resist these zebra plates in Homesense. I was kindly given a voucher to spend and these were the first things I picked up. I found the dinner plates in the sale on Habitat's website and was over the moon to find out they matched. LSA International is one of my favourite interiors brand, I've been lucky enough to pick up a few of their pieces in Homesense and worked with them on my blog a couple of years ago. I love the simplicity of their products and the great quality. This glass bowl is such a gorgeous piece and makes a great statement for the middle of the table. I love the idea of keeping old gin bottles and using as vases or for candles. It remind me of this old-fashioned French bistros with the wax covered wine bottles.

We've hit a bit of a stalemate with the house now as we've run out of money so this will probably be the last interiors post for a while!

Mirror: Bootsale find with Farrow & Ball paint
Glass fruit bowl: LSA International*
Yellow table runner: Sainsbury's
Grey chairs: ebay
White chairs: Dad's friend
Table legs: eBay
Bench legs: eBay
Dining table: Made by dad
Bench: Made by dad
Zebra plates: Homesense*
White dinner plates: Habitat
Round placemats: Rinket
Glassses: Zara (old)
Silver cutlery: TK Maxx
Tall planter: Maisons Du Monde (old)
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Renovating a bathroom - options I'm exploring

Now that our kitchen is finished, out next big project in the house to save up for is our bathroom. Replacing a bathroom in a home is one of the most expensive jobs to undertake so it's so important to really think things through. Mistakes can be very costly! One of the ways to ensure things go to plan is investing in professional help when it comes to finding your dream design. After all, they know the bathroom industry inside out! Innovative & latest bathroom designs with a variety of products are available in Harrogate showrooms.* Make sure you talk to someone as sometimes they come up with ideas you never thought of!


Image from Pinterest via Elle Decoration Sweden


Image from Pinterest via Living Extra 


Image from Pinterest via Sheer Luxe



Image from Pinterest via Harvey Maria

I'm toying with a few ideas when it comes to deciding on a design. I'm keen to keep in with the colour theme of grey as like the rest of the house. I really like the idea of having one colour which pulls the whole house together. I'm thinking light grey patterned tiles on the floor to help make a statement and white metro tiles in a chevron pattern on the wall. Maybe spilt the wall with tiles on the  top half and a dark charcoal grey on the bottom half. Grey and white are such great colours to use as a base because you can change the accent colours quite easily. When you're spending so much money on a renovation it's not ideal if you get bored of it easily and then can't afford to switch it up.

I'd love a whole new bathroom suite as our one has seen better days. At the top of my list is a huge, round waterfall head shower and a rounded bath. Ideally I'd love a freestanding bath but alas, we just don't have the room. Storage is also something I'm extremely keen to incorporate because space isn't at a premium and I have a lot of lotions and potions to keep hidden! I'm hoping to get a cool sink cabinet in a charcoal grey. Storage doesn't have to be boring! Finally I'd love a luxurious glass basin and huge statement mirror on the wall to help finish it off and hopefully make the room feel bigger.

I guess we better get saving!
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Welcome to my new living room


It's been a long process - and still ongoing - but we now have our second room complete. That feels good to say! We've finally completed our living room and it's such a joy to come home after work and relax. I wanted a room where I could display all my knick knacks I've collected over the years and one that really represented our personality. A room where people walked into and thought, 'yes this is very much Sophie and Connor's home'. So how did we transform it? Read on! I will put all the links at the bottom.

The owners before us loved colour and the walls were a very bold Quality Street purple shade. It didn't really fit into my minimalist wall theme. It also boasted a carpet that absolutely reeked of cat wee so didn't stay very long at all. I'm not much of a carpet fan at all if I'm honest so decided to splash out on a real wooden floor as we don't plan on replacing it. The dining room had been blocked off with a partition wall to make an extra bedroom. We took this down to help open up the space and it's been a revalation. It's made the house look so much bigger and although we're not using it as a dining room, it's really helped to have that extra space.






There was a white York Stone fireplace that had a very distinct 80s feel to it. This had to go straight away so my boyfriend and his dad very kindly got rid of it in the first week. We had been told by the previous owners that it was an open fire but when we looked into it further, it turned out it wasn't actually safe. The gap was too small and it would have cost too much money to make it bigger. Money that we didn't have. So we went to plan B. Thanks to the partition wall being taken down, the fireplace was no longer in the middle of the room. So my dad and Connor boxed out the fireplace with plasterboard to help make it central. I absolutely love how it looks and it's such a talking point of the room. I'm obsessed with grey as I think it makes a great neutral. It's a shade that so many other colours go with. Farrow & Ball's downpipes is that dark, charcoal grey that I craved and was the perfect choice. The patchwork tiles help to lighten it up and stop the area from being so dark. Yellow is my all time favourite colour and I was keen to incorporate this into my living room. Mustard and grey are one of the best combinations so I choose to use mustard as an accent colour.

One thing I desperately wanted was a gallery wall. For the past five years we've been trying to collect prints from all the different cities we've visited. We haven't managed to pick one up in every place but I'm so happy with the ones we've collected. I love that every time I glance at them I'm immediately transported back to happy memories. I opted for an array of difference coloured frames to help make the pictures stand out against the white wall.





I'm not a fan of blank walls and my boyfriend isn't a fan of things on the wall. So as a compromise I picked up the copper shelf to help display some trinkets and make it feel homely. By having a shelf, my trinkets feel much more contained and less like clutter. When we went to Copenhagen, our Airbnb had a billy bookcase in their living filled with little knick knacks they had collected all over the world. I've totally stolen that idea. At the minute it mostly just houses my travel books but I do have Matryoshka dolls from Budapest, a programme from Aladdin on Broadway and a traditional Dala wooden horse from Sweden. I'm very much looking forward to filling it up!

The next project? Saving for a boiler and moving it to the loft so we can decorate our bedroom!

White paint: Cotton White Dulux
Grey paint: Downpipe Farrow & Ball
Grey and white patterned tiles: Wickes
Glass vase: LSA International via Homesense*
Grey concrete planter: La Redoute
Yellow planter: Sainsbury's
Light grey chaise lounge sofa: DFS*
Mustard armchair and matching stall: IKEA
Grey metal floor lamp: IKEA
Grey side table: La Redoute
Black wooden bookcase: IKEA
Custard cream cushion: Nikki McWilliams
Gin cushion: Matalan
Abstract cushion: Sainsbury's
Mustard patterned cushion: Rooi*
Grey crochet stalls: Aldi*
Copper shelf: Maisons Du Monde
Mustard herringbone throw: H&M
Grey radiator: Soak.com
Black metal cage lampshades: IKEA
Gallery wall picture frames: Wilko and IKEA
Gallery wall prints: From travels
NYC print: Oliver Bonas
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Welcome to my new kitchen


It's official. We finally have one room completely finished in the house. The kitchen was the most important thing to me in the house. I love to cook and wanted a space I could really lose myself in and one that became the hub of the house. You can often find me on a Sunday with flour in my hair and every utensil filthy as I spend the day working through my never ending supply of cookbooks. Thanks to my dad who did a spectacular job fitting it, a family friend who look time out to do our work tops and thanks to Connor who planned every last detail, I got the kitchen I always dreamed of. Scroll down to the bottom to see where everything is from. So what did it look like before?

The layout was the first thing that struck me. It's pretty small but it didn't seem like they were making the most of the space. I also didn't like the fact you had to go through the living in order to get into the kitchen. It was pretty bland and painted this awful yellow colour which gave me a headache. It looked like hadn't been updated quite a few years, the flimsy cupboards had seen better days and the cooker was disgusting. That was the first thing we threw out.




I've always wanted a red and grey kitchen. It's one of my favourite colour combinations. I'd been collected small red appliances for a few years and we decided to go for the full statement of investing in a matching fridge and dishwasher. Best decision ever! Once we had our colour scheme confirmed, we drew up some plans to decide the layout. Like I mentioned earlier, the space wasn't utilised very well so we decided to block up the existing door and reopen the door in the dining room (the kitchen is originally an extension.) After it was plastered and our spotlights were fitted, it was time to tile the floor.

I wanted a white tiled floor to help brighten it up as I was afraid to many dark colours could make it seem smaller than it was. We opted for grey grout as we didn't want to spend all our time scrubbing the floor. I'm a very messy cook so it really would be very time consuming. For the wall tiles, I wanted a lighter grey and fell in love with these flecked hexagon tiles from Topps Tiles*. After seeing a honeycomb pattern on Pinterest, I immediately knew I wanted to recreate this at home. We used white grout to help make the grey stand out. They create a great contrast with the charcoal grey units and I couldn't be happier with the end result.

Despite knowing they would be a nightmare too keep looking spick and span, I had my heart set on light oak worktops. We bought our from DIY Kitchens and oiled them three times before we used them. I feel they create a 'country' style kitchen but yet still help it feel modern. We live in a 1950's house and I didn't want to go too traditional. The Belfast sink has been my dream and is a great talking point. Every one always comments on it when they walk through the door. I was adamant I didn't want traditional kitchen door handles so spent a good few weeks scouring the internet. The octagonal handles caught my eye and I love them so much. I feel they really help jazz the kitchen up.




Thanks to the size, we are pretty limited on cupboard space. I have a lot of crockery and a lot of cookbooks. This is where shelves came in handy! I've always loved the idea of having crockery on display as I feel it helps to make a kitchen feel homely. I've got my favourite cookbooks on the top shelf and will rotate them. After all I do have 156 books to thumb through! We ordered some brackets from Ebay and my dad made us some shelves from an old scaffolding board - which will match our dining room table eventually.

I love an accessory but didn't want to make the worktops seem to cluttered. Believe it or not, this is me being a minimalist! I love anything Orla Kiely as you can tell by my cake tins and utensil pot*. I've tried to pick patterns with a hint of red or grey in them to help them tie into the kitchen.

Finally, I once again always knew I wanted to have a range cooker but we wasn't sure if it would look a bit too large for the space. In the end I managed to get my way and we went for black. I felt that stainless steel just looked to industrial and black was going to age a lot better than any other colour. I didn't anticipate how much of an effort it is to keep black cookers looking spotless!

Let me know if you have any questions - would be more than glad to answer it. Renovating a house is tough business!



Grey kitchen units:  DIY Kitchens
Belfast sink: DIY Kitchens
Solid oak work tops: DIY Kitchens
Silver octagonal door handles: Bombay Duck
Solid oak draining board: Amazon
Utensil pot: Orla Kiely via Hurn and Hurn*
Copper jars: H&M and Homesense
DIY shelves: Brackets from eBay/ shelf made from scaffolding boards
Silver taps: Victoria Plumbing
Grey hexagon wall tiles: Topps Tiles*
Grey wall radiator: Soak
Red fridge: Swan
Red dishwasher: Swan
Red microwave: Swan
Black range cooker: Leisure
Red kettle: Kitchenaid
Red stand mixer: Kitchenaid
Red blender: Kitchenaid
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A Essex based lifestyle blogger who lives a champagne life on a lemonade purse!

Get in touch at
sophie.warner89@yahoo.co.uk.

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