Taking a bit of Hackney to Cornwall

I always look forward to my time in Cornwall at Tresithick, especially as they’ve now introduced ‘Pasty Friday’ which sets us up wonderfully for our final push on the last afternoon.

At the end of this month I’ll be heaving my latest project into the boot of the car and heading for Truro for not one, but two consecutive weeks of expert tuition with Richard Hooper and his talented second-in-command, Nadine.

Looking smart before the strip-down, although what lay beneath was less impressive!

This time around I’ll be working on a frame-up rebuild of a beautiful Victorian nursing chair that I’ve stripped over the last few weeks ready for it’s rebuild. Following a few repairs to the frame, this chair will receive new webbing, springs, stuffings and traditional hand-stitched pads before being given a fresh new look courtesy of London-based luxury lifestyle brand, House of Hackney. I should clarify, when I say “courtesy of” I don’t mean they’ve donated the fabric, although I wish they had – its luxury price tag means that my scissors will be shaking when I make that first cut!!

I want to produce something that has a really premium feel, and when so much work goes into the traditional construction of a chair like this, it seems a shame to shroud all that work in something rather ordinary. This chair rebuild will take the whole 2 weeks, she deserves a posh frock.

Stripped bare. A few frame repairs will be needed for this chair to see the next 100 years

The fabric I’ve chosen comes from House of Hackney’s recent collaboration with the William Morris Gallery who invited HOH to rework some of the well known prints for a new generation. I really fell for ‘Peacock and Dragon’ which in its new brighter and bolder green palette will stay faithful to the Victorian frame while giving it a modern lift.

House of Hackney x William Morris

I’m really excited about this one, it’s the biggest traditional piece I’ve tackled so far and I can’t wait to plug in to this world again for two whole weeks. As I’ve done before, I’ll be writing daily blog posts to show you what I’m doing and how the chair is progressing. I should also mention that this little beauty will be for sale once it’s completed…… Christmas is coming!

An adventure on 6 wheels

You’re probably thinking that I’ve dropped off a cliff – you’d certainly be right in thinking that, after all, I’ve been more than a little remiss with my blog of late. The good news is that I’ve not been idle all of this time, in fact it’s quite the opposite, so I thought I’d share with you my biggest project of 2015 so far.

Now, I’m just going to say this…… I’ve always wanted a caravan. There, I’ve said it, it’s out in the open. I know that caravans are a bit like Marmite in the UK and quite possibly you’re already struggling with whether or not you should continue to read this blog post, but there is a link to upholstery here, promise.

What an amazing trip!
What an amazing trip!

Last December, Darren and I took the most amazing trip to Australia to see some wonderful friends who have settled in Sydney. The trip really did ignite our imagination and while we explored the delights of the big cities or the sheer awesomeness of the red centre and the Great Ocean Road, we couldn’t help wonder whether there was something we could do to sustain that feeling of adventure when we returned home. I am now acutely aware (as I type this) that I’m somehow about to tell you that the purchase of a caravan was as far as our desire for adventure managed to take us, but what can I say? We’re rock ‘n’ roll. deal with it.

Thing is, this wasn’t going to be just any caravan. You may recall that I have something of a passion for old cars, so when we made the decision to buy a little caravan, classic was the order of the day. Darren and I aren’t too worried about mod-cons, after all, this was meant to be about adventure so we were happy for our purchase to be closer to ‘tent’ than ’boutique hotel’.

A little search ensued and quite quickly we found the one. Meet our new (old!) caravan, affectionately called ‘Peggy’. She’s a 1968 Sprite Alpine S. I don’t know what the S stands for, but when I’m towing it’s likely that it stands for slow.

Let's just say she had potential.....
Let’s just say she had potential…..
Check out that interior!
Check out that interior!

Peggy had been owned by the same family since 1970 until 2014 and needless to say she needed a little work, but the important thing was that she was solid and original. We loved the idea that this little caravan had served as a cosy home from home for almost 47 years and that we were going to ensure that she continued to do that for many years to come.

If you came to visit, you were given a roller.
If you came to visit, you were given a roller.

Have you ever painted a caravan? No? You surprise me. Truth be told, neither had we. “It’ll be fun” we told ourselves, “it’ll be easy!”, believe me when I say it was neither of these things, but when the final layers of paint started to dry she looked as good as new and we couldn’t have been more excited to show her off. With newly painted wheels and a few mechanical bits addressed, she was as close to original as we could get and we would no longer look like the Beverley Hillbillies when we turned up at a site.

But what of the interior? Naturally, this is where I got really stuck in.

The original curtains were sun-bleached and ripped, and the seating faded and stained, so there really wasn’t too much guilt in starting from scratch. The words ‘Shabby Chic’ make my eye twitch, and while lots of people love it, it’s really not my bag; my aim was to find a scheme that was sympathetic to the original but with a modern update.

'Puzzle' by Kirkby Design
‘Puzzle’ by Kirkby Design

The original dark blue seat covers were replaced with a practical, neutral and (important for a little caravan) flame retardant grey wool from Abbotsford. I kept the original design with a plain seam on the top edge and light grey piping on the bottom edge. Thankfully the original foam was still ok so I used all of the same pads. The long bench seat has a fixed backrest which folds out on hinges to reveal a rolled up hammock-style bunk stored inside. Ingenious huh?

The curtains allowed me to have a bit of fun, and as I was replacing lurid orange florals, I didn’t worry too much about making a bold choice! I turned to Kirkby Design for inspiration and settled on their fantastic geometric print ‘Puzzle’ in green to compliment the newly painted exterior. With spring already upon us I will confess that I enlisted the help of my Mother who is rather skilled when it comes to making curtains. With a few scatter cushions in the same fabric, the interior was done and we were ready for our first adventure!

With no real experience of towing, our first trip was to the picturesque and relatively local town of Ludlow in Shropshire. Nestled amongst the enormous, expensive, luxury caravans, we had so much fun with Peggy. Did the near constant rain dampen our spirits? Did the leak from the sky-light make us want to go home? Did the fact that the gas hob didn’t totally switch off make us fear for our safety? No! (apart from that last one) it was everything we hoped it would be and more.

The all important 'after' photo!
The all important ‘after’ photo!
The refreshed interior - love the original salmon pink accents
The refreshed interior – love the original salmon pink accents
The soft Abbotsford wool is a great plain backdrop for the Kirkby print
The soft Abbotsford wool is a great plain backdrop for the Kirkby print
Caravans can be stylish!
Caravans can be stylish!
It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t have just a little bit of orange….
Happy camping everyone!
Happy camping everyone!