Trend alert: Felt letter board art

I’m not one to jump on the trend bandwagon, especially the quote and word art one that’s been everywhere for the past few years. But I’ve spotted a new take on this somewhat tired idea: the plain, old felt letter board. You know the one, it’s usually in an office or church lobby marking the way to a meeting. Lately I’ve come across tons of these featuring short, fun quotes (none of that inspirational BS here) and I think I could get on board. They evoke a subtle retro feel but can fit into lots of different styles as a graphic art. Plus they are super affordable, making them an easy and very customizable way to decorate.

Just look at how these simple black and white signs make a relaxed yet bold statement.

Felt letter board art

Felt letter board art

Felt letter board art

You can spell out anything – notes, messages, song lyrics, quotes, shopping list – the options are endless. A large-sized board allows you to leave some negative space for a more artistic look.

I love the idea of one in the kitchen. What a cool way to list the week’s menu or shopping list!

Or a way to leave a little note for someone.

The possibilities are endless.

You can pick up a basic one on Amazon or more custom styles with colored frames or white backgrounds from sellers like Letterfolk or Three Potato Four.

What would you write if you had one of these boards in your home?

Irish train journey – Grand Hibernian

Hello! I’m just back home after a month’s vacation in the US and am slowly settling back into life. (Why does jet lag seem to get worse the older we get??) We had an amazing trip enjoying time with family and friends and a total break from time in front of the laptop, but I’m ready to get back to blogging and design work. And of course start dreaming about our next holiday! I just read about the new Grand Hibernian train in Ireland and I’m in love with the idea of a journey around the emerald isle in this beautifully designed space.

Dubbed the Irish Orient Express, the Grand Hibernian is a luxury sleeper train due to launch in September and will offer three different routes of two, four and six nights. Looking at the itineraries and excursions, my (Irish) husband says it has been designed for American tourists, but I would happily suffer through a visit to the Blarney stone and a whiskey factory tour to spend a few nights aboard this gorgeous train (of course sans any Agatha Christie-style murder plot!).

The train is made up of 10 carriages and can accommodate up to 40 guests in private cabins. This is the Observation Car where one supposedly sips a drink while watching the green countryside go by. How handsome is all the wood paneling and wool upholstery?

The train has two dining cars that offer a lovely setting for breakfast, afternoon tea…

and dinner! Both will use Irish-made glassware, cutlery and crockery.

The interiors were created by Alex Duncan, Design Director at James Park Associates, who aimed to capture the feeling of an Irish country house by combining elements of Dublin’s classical architecture and traditional villages. The colour scheme in each carriage is based on an Irish county tartan, which has been “deconstructed” and updated for a more modern twist.

I can’t help but remember that Sex & The City episode when Carrie and Samantha take an Amtrak sleeper train from NYC to San Francisco (you know the one where she got the huge pimple and they were reduced to eating endless club sandwiches and getting drunk in their room?). Somehow I think these cabins would be a lot more comfortable! Plus they all include a full ensuite bathroom with traditionally inspired details.

The train offers 16 twin and four double cabins, all with large windows to take in the views. I’m amazed by how spacious they look, and all the attention to detail and storage. Look at those high ceilings, moldings and lighting. A great lesson in how to do luxury in a tiny space!

Now all this doesn’t come cheap – prices per person for the journeys start from €3,160 ($3,574) for two nights which includes meals and private tours at each destination. I think I’ll wait for a sale once they’re up and running! 

Would you go on a train journey like this?

Indoor herb garden ideas

I love the idea of having fresh herbs for cooking (and let’s be honest, for making cocktails too). With no outdoor space, and very limited counter space in our kitchen, I had to find a creative way to keep a few herb plants on hand. I also wanted to add a little interest to a big blank wall in our kitchen, so I came up with the idea of adding a few shelves for pots. This also gives me a little extra storage above our coffee machine where I can store capsules and sugar, along with a speaker and a souvenir photo from Brussels.

Indoor herb garden

Now I have some of the essentials like basil, rosemary and thyme available when I need them – and they don’t take up any extra room in our small kitchen. If you’re looking for a way to add herbs to your kitchen, especially if you live in a small space or an apartment with no garden, here are 5 more ideas for how to create an indoor herb garden.

1. Hanging pots 

I love this look and it would be easy to create with a few small pots and a rod fixed to the wall.

2. Tiered stand

If you have the counter space, this is a super easy way to add some green to your kitchen and create a pretty centerpiece on an island.

3. Wall boxes

If you’re looking for something a bit more substantial (and you’re allowed to drill into the walls), why not try a hanging box. You could create an entire wall feature. Just make sure it is near a window so your herbs get lots of natural light.

4. Window shelf

One of the best places to grow herbs is in front of a window. You can either install shelves across a window (great to do if the view isn’t that great) or simply place a small shelving unit in front of the window.

5. Window box

If you don’t have enough light inside, try placing a box on an outside window ledge to help your herbs grow. And even if you don’t have a ledge, there are some great creative ways to hang a box outside!

Happy herb growing everyone!!

Summer party space

Summer is here! School is finished for the year, the sun is out and all I want to do is lie by the pool with a drink and a book. I’m in total countdown mode waiting for our holiday to the US in a couple of weeks – which was not made easier by all the amazing 4th of July pictures in my Instagram feed this past weekend! So of course I couldn’t resist putting together a scheme for a perfect outdoor space to relax, unwind and enjoy a party. Did someone say margarita??

Outdoor party

1. Outdoor light / 2. Retro outdoor sofa / 3. Palm tree / 4. Bright cushions / 5. Striped outdoor rug / 6. Glass pitcher / 7. Parasol / 8. Margarita glass / 9. Fun straws / 10. Turquoise metal chair / 11. Beach towel / 12. Patio table / 13. Lantern

Inspiration for renters

I’m always on the look out for how to decorate a rental property. So many people these days, especially those of us living abroad, are renting our homes for long periods of time and want to make them our own. So I was thrilled to find two rental properties featured in the June issue of House Beautiful. Both homes – one a historic Charleston house and the other a San Francisco apartment – are full of inspiration and ideas for renters.

Up first stylist Jill Sharp Weeks‘s house in Charleston, South Carolina. As I wrote recently, Southern designers are killing it at the moment, and this home is no different. If the exterior is this adorable you know the inside has to be good!

Jill started by painting the entire interior, including the trim and cabinetry, the same color – a soft gray – which unified the space and gave her a beautiful backdrop for her neutral furnishings and dramatic art. This is a great trick for creating a cohesive backdrop in a rental, especially small spaces or homes with busy architecture.

Jill chose solid, neutral upholstery and furniture, sticking with a tight palette of gray, white, black and light wood tones. As a stylist, she of course did an amazing job in accessorizing the house. This is the best way as a renter to add personality and make the space your own. The large scale art – a triptych of her jewelry collection – fills the whole wall. Hey, go big or go home! And how cool is that chandelier?!

The house is full of different textures and materials, which adds so much interest, even if the colors are minimal. Here Jill created a vanity/desk area in the master bedroom with a mix of pieces in rustic wood, metal, woven cane and ceramic. I need her to style my house!

She also added light fixtures where needed. Here in the guest bedroom, Jill hung wall sconces with the cords covered in natural rope – a perfect solution for renters who need more lighting but when there isn’t built-in wiring.

And Jill didn’t neglect the outdoor space, bringing in additional plants and furniture to create an additional living area. A simple touch – she strung up lights to make the patio useable at night and to create atmosphere.

Now on to John Mayberry’s apartment in San Fransisco. The retired designer brought in friend and fellow decorator Antonio Martins to help him transition from a large house to a high-rise building. There was lots about the apartment that John couldn’t change, including the plain white wall color, a lack of architectural interest and the bland wall-to-wall carpet, so he got creative.

In the living room, he hung his massive art collection from floor to ceiling, covering the white walls and creating the effect of wallpaper without anything permanent. If you’re renting, trying something like this is a great alternative to painting a wall. Just be sure to fill all the holes when you move out!

The neural scheme works well in this small space, and also highlights the unique mix of antique pieces and impressive art. To help tie everything together, and cover the boring carpet, John laid down sisal rugs with black binding to cover most of the floor. Layering inexpensive rugs over existing flooring works well to hide ugly tile, wood or carpet and achieves a more bespoke look.

One touch I really like is how John established a working space in the bedroom, using filing cabinets as a base for a desk for storage. But he was careful to keep the space from looking like an office, but pairing it with an open shelving unit to display sculptural pieces (no papers in sight!).

Who said you can’t make a place your own just because you rent!