The month of May is national walking month. Walking is something we love to do as a family. It’s free and not only good for our bodies but our minds too. The children love to be outside in nature, and we are lucky where we live to be surrounded by many fabulous local countryside walks, across fields, forests and lakes.

As a family of six; Mummy, Daddy, the girls, Buddy the dog and Mabel the cat, we all have our unique personalities. Each one of us has a favourite type of walk to suit their characteristics. I personally like to walk on the beach, feeling in awe of the wide expanse of open space and sky before me, drawn to the power of the crashing waves. Always one to treasure hunt, I like to stop and pick up shells, wood and sea glass on my travels.

Daddy’s favourite walk is high up in the mountains. One for adventure he loves the challenges of different terrain and the feeling of accomplishment when he reaches the top.

The children’s favourite place to walk is the forest, preferably untouched woodland where there is plenty of adventure to be found. They like climbing up trees and over logs, finding bugs and insects to befriend and listening out for the call of the cuckoo. Racing eagerly ahead, each one wants to lead the search party for outdoor adventures.

As a much loved family member, we always like to take our dog on our family walks on the weekend. His favourite type of adventure is one where he can be let off the lead and run ahead with the girls excitedly chasing after him. Just like the children his happy place is the forest where he can take in all the sights and smells, feeling free to run in and out of the trees as he pleases. With that same appetite for adventure, walking on a lead is a no no and he bounds ahead with childlike enthusiasm in search of adventure. He competes with our youngest to be the leader of the pack, they are both free spirits absorbed in the magic of the forest and not listening when I shout them to come back!

Just as we are keen to make sure everyone gets out and about in the fresh air it’s also important that the family is eating healthy food and that includes the dog! We’ve always opted to feed him premium dog food so when James Wellbeloved asked if we would be interested to try their natural grain free dog food, we agreed. Although Buddy doesn’t have any food intolerances that we know of, we are very aware that processed food with artificial flavouring is no good for us and it’s no good for our pets either.

So we were pleased to see that James Wellbeloved believe in simple natural ingredients. Each recipe contains top quality natural ingredients (everyone is also listed on the pack so you know what goes into the food) and nothing else. Naturally hypoallergenic it minimises adverse reactions to the food and proves popular with dogs and cats with food sensitivities. It promises firmer poos (pet owners rejoice!) and numerous health benefits from glossy coats to boosted immune systems to keep them adventuring with you for years to come.

The taste test received a resounding yes as Buddy wolfed down his food to which we had added the lamb with vegetables in gravy as a topper (which James Wellbeloved recommend as an alternative option to a standalone meal). I think he’d be a very happy pup if we added these to his dry food more often. He gets extremely excited on Sundays when the family is having a roast and he knows he will be getting some leftovers and gravy. In fact it’s his favourite thing to come home to after a long walk in the woods!

This post is in conjunction with James Wellbeloved but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

I grew up in London and spent the nineties, my teenage years, mulling around different parts of the city soaking up each district’s unique vibe. On a Saturday you’d normally find me in Camden or Covent Garden rocking my favourite Stussy t-shirt checking out the cool boutiques and hitting up the skate shops for free stickers.

Fast forward 24 years and I live in a small town in rural England, which is a great place for family life and raising children, but sometimes lacking in design inspiration. As an Interior Designer it’s important to keep inspired and while there is a wealth of inspiration online, sometimes when I need to be immersed in amazing design, a trip to London is the only fix. The buzz of the city streets never tires for me and I love the energy and creative boost a trip to London gives me. Last week I took such a trip with my younger sister, a fellow design lover, to visit the best design shops, restaurants and hotels in Soho on behalf of Hotels.com

Found right in the heart of the West End in London, Soho is an eclectic mix of streets offering some great shops, vibrant restaurants, quirky food joints, nightlife and live entertainment. It’s home to the famous Carnaby Street, Liberty’s and Curzon cinema.

The area covers roughly one square mile (2.6 square kilometres), making it nice and easy to explore by foot. Whether it’s a brief day trip to London, or not, ‘I ain’t here for a long time, I’m here for a good time’ seems to suit the Soho vibe. It doesn’t matter if you’ve only got a day or a few hours to enjoy it and take it all in – there is plenty of things to do and see.

On a sunny day it would be rude not to do as the Londener’s do and head to Soho Square to soak up some rays. Or if you fancy something a little more up market – there is always the rooftop bars where you can grab yourself a cocktail with a view. Don’t be down hearted if your Soho trip ends up in a London shower, the rain won’t dampen your day. Head to one of my favourite rainy day spots in Soho, the Curzon on Shaftesbury Avenue where you can catch everything on the screen from the latest blockbusters, vintage classics and cult favourites.

The area is easily accessible by the London Underground, closest stations (of course depending on where it is you’re coming from) include Oxford Circus, Picadilly Circus an Tottenham Court Road, or alternatively the London Buses. Public transport is made super convenient now with the option to pay via Contactless Card on both the Tube and the Buses which I love as it means no faffing around queuing to buy tickets, hooray!

My favourite place to shop Interiors in Soho? Liberty’s, Anthropologie, H&M Home

Arriving late morning, we had time for a spot of shopping before lunch so headed to one of my all time favourite shops and an absolute must visit destination for design lovers and shopaholics in London – Liberty’s. Six floors of the finest designer clothes, jewellery, accessories, stationery and of course my favourite homewares. Always great for trend spotting, we loved the minimalist art, dried flowers, blue and white ceramics, mix and match patterns and colours and the eclectic seventies vibe.

The second stop had to be Anthropologie on Regent’s street. If my soul was a shop it would be Anthropologie. I adore their design aesthetic and use them as often as I can in my room designs with Lish Interior Design. I’m absolutely loving their range of accessories for styling.

A few doors up you’ll find a brand new H&M Home Concept store which has just opened this April. With over 7000 square foot of Interior goodies it’s an Interior Stylist heaven! I defy you to visit without leaving with something you didn’t know you needed. If you are a visitor from abroad, no worries, H&M are offering International delivery on all items bought in store. How cool is that?

My favourite places to eat in Soho? Sketch (okay just outside Soho but is a must for design lovers), ChottoMatte and Maitre Chou.

After a spot of shopping we needed to refuel. Luckily Soho is not short of fabulous places to eat whatever your mood. We were in the mood for a sophisticated lunch in a design atmosphere so we opted for Chotto Matte – a Nikkei (Japanese / Peruvian) restaurant with a cool Tokyo street style.  Day time diners included a mix of business people, tourists and ladies who lunch – us! Featuring a very cool graffiti wall and some super high tech black box toilets (it took me a while to figure out how to get in!). On a warm summers day the restaurant opens it’s window front so you can find the perfect spot for people watching. The lunchtime menu listed some amazing looking Bento boxes which seemed really popular. We decided to sample a few items from the menu; California rolls, Tempura prawns and vegetarian tacos with spicy miso and honey, ginger yoghurt. Yum!

The food was delicious and we were very tempted to order more sushi or to move on to sample the dessert menu but we’d heard there was an amazing patisserie close by so headed off in search of Maitre Choux to try their famous choux pastry. We were certainly not disappointed. Oh wow, stuff . of . dreams. I could eat their Vanilla and pecan eclairs every day for as long as I live. Truly, truly scrumptious and not to be missed. Launched by award winning pastry chef, Joakim Prat, it’s contemporary, fun and totally delicious with really interesting flavour combinations. You can also sit in and have a spot of tea – if you can find a table!

Although it’s situated on the border between Soho and Mayfair, we knew we couldn’t visit Soho without paying a visit to Sketch, one of London’s most famous art and design restaurants. It’s one of the most instagrammed restaurants in London and it’s not hard to see why.  While the outside of the building blends in with the London architecture, the interior is a creative masterpiece / art gallery! Sketch feels bold, fun and imaginative, a wonderful experience in both dining and design and I highly recommend a visit if you are in London.

Conceived by French master chef Pierre Gagnaire and restaurateur Mourad Mazouz, it has attracted huge media attention for its food, drink and entertainment styles since it opened in December 2002. Sketch were kind enough to give us a tour of the restaurant and private dining rooms – wow! Each room of the restaurant has been designed by it’s own designer and has a unique menu and vibe. You can choose where you would like to sit based on the kind of atmosphere and dining you are likely to be doing. The Gallery is for afternoon tea and dinner, The Glade for breakfast, lunch and cocktails, The Parlour for all day dining and music & bar into the evening, The East bar – an intimate bar with DJ and The Lecture rooms and Library is available for private dining.

We couldn’t leave without soaking up the atmosphere a little bit longer so opted for tea and a cocktail in The Glade. What an experience! The room is described as an enchanted forest and honestly you do feel just like you are sitting in a magical glade. The lush decoupage forest walls soothe you with shades of teal and turquoise. Pops of purple and jewel tones in the furniture create a rich and inviting setting and the lighting brings the magic and sets the scene for the wonder to begin!

My favourite place to stay? Ham Yard Hotel

After our tour of Sketch it was time to catch our train and head back home, buzzing with the infectious energy a day in London gives. But if unlike us you’re lucky enough to be staying in Soho overnight, you’re in for a treat as Soho is home to some really amazing places to stay.

The height of luxury and exquisite design can be found at Ham Yard Hotel and the equally as fab Soho House, both part of the Firmdale Hotels group. The Ham Yard Hotel Interiors are designed by the award winning Interior Designer Kit Kemp. It’s an absolute feast for the eyes, the public spaces are beautiful, interesting and thronging with people enjoying the atmosphere and the food. It’s also home to a very cool rooftop terrace it’s a great place to experience Soho from another viewpoint.

Image credit: Firmdale Hotels

For more offer on hotels in Soho, check out Hotels.com

Disclaimer: The spending money for my trip to Soho was gifted by Hotels.com, but all opinions and observations are, as always, my own.

We’ve been renovating our house for over a year now and it feels like we may be hitting a bit of a proverbial brick wall. We’ve just got so much going on. We are organising our wedding this summer and I am busy with my new venture as an Interior Designer. It seems our house has slipped down the rankings in priority.

Luckily we did make quite a bit of progress in our first year and most of the rooms upstairs are renovated. I wouldn’t say finished as we still need light fittings and the hallway isn’t painted which makes it all feel not quite there yet.

One room that is finished is our Master Bedroom and I am so thankful for this. It’s our little retreat at the end of the day, or the middle of the day if I just need to take a minute! With a serene palette of greys and whites it feels like a lovely, light and bright space. A real slice of heaven it does feel very relaxing and calming room which is just what we need with the chaos of the rest of the house.

We have a large bay window so we needed to carefully consider if we wanted curtains or blinds for the bedroom. After much deliberation we opted for plantation shutters at the windows instead of curtains or blinds. There were several reasons that this made sense to us. Firstly we loved the…

Look and feel

Shutters give a lovely feel to a window. Clean and simple, they effuse a coastal / foreign holiday vibe to me. The light looks really beautiful as it is diffused into the room. Working with both classic and modern interiors alike.

Bay window

We have a 5 panel bay window in our bedroom. It’s tall and a large expanse of window to cover. Roman blinds would have been an option. Curtains would have meant we needed a tricky construction for the curtain to run on as well as really, really long curtains as our rooms are over 3m high. We felt shutters offered us so many other positive points that it was a bit of a no brainer.

Privacy

What is great about shutters is with a flick of the slats, you’ve closed off the outside world. They also don’t need to be entirely closed and blocking the light to offer privacy as you can slant them upwards or downwards to hinder the view but not block the light totally. Our shutters are also split between the top and bottom window frame so we can close the bottom for privacy and keep the top open for light.

Timeless

Not only do they work with modern and traditional interiors, they don’t really fall victim to passing trends. This was one of my main reasons for opting for shutters. I know myself and I like to change the decor often in the house but don’t want to be forking out a lot of money each time to change the window treatment. Whether your room is white, red or aquamarine shutters will always work.

Hardwearing

Following on from timeless, shutters are constructed from wood and precision fitted by experts. This makes them a really hardwearing, durable option. Guaranteed for 5   years (the reality is they will probably last a lot longer though!), they may seem an expensive investment at first but if you work out how long they last for and how many pairs of curtains you would go through in that amount of time, it is very much worth it.

Sunlight

With a South facing bedroom we have a lot of sunlight streaming in during the day. This means that we now have the option to filter it out without closing curtains or making the room dark. It’s also super handy in my office (where I also have shutters) if you need to work and have an annoying stream of light coming through the window to pierce your eyeballs! At night time they totally block out the light so our room is perfectly pitch black.

Flexibility

The flexibility that shutters offer you means you can adjust any section of the shutters how you please. This can be for privacy or sunlight or sleeping. No other window treatment offer this flexibility. If you need one panel slanted downwards for the light, another closed for privacy but all the top sections open to still have the light in the room, it’s all possible!

Thank you to Thomas Sanderson window blinds for working with Lish Concepts – we appreciate your support!

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