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Never too busy to bargain hunt!

19 Jun

Blogging has had to take a bit of a backseat these past couple of weeks. A stint on a photo shoot near London Bridge, plus the usual mummy duties and continuing stress with the house move has left me with little time left over. It hasn’t dimmed my enthusiasm for bargain hunting though. In fact, I’ve managed to fit in a few successful little trips to some previously undiscovered destinations. So good in fact I’m going to make them regular fixtures on my ‘collecting and resurrecting’ travels.

First up, a delightfully jam-packed vintage emporium in Northampton, justifiably called ‘A Most Marvellous Place to Shop’. Two levels of vintage, retro, handmade, crafts, art and antiques, it’s stacked to the rafters with interesting and reasonably priced bits and pieces. I picked up this elegant 1950s Swinnertons jug, and a hopelessly grand moulded picture frame that I’m dying to fill with something fabulous.

Swinnertons Royal Wessex Ironware jug

Ornate Victorian picture frame. Gorgeous!

Last Sunday morning I ventured to the famed Nut Hill Fruit Farm Car Boot Sale, just north of Guildford. It’s got legendary status among Surrey bargainistas, but I was a bit non-plussed last time I checked it out. Not this time around though. This was car-booting on a super-sized scale, and the mountains of throwaway junk I’d turned up my nose at before had been replaced with plenty of the dingy, dusty, unassuming gems I love to discover.

I picked up these few buys for little more than a pocket full of loose change. That’s what I call a good morning’s work.

Another pressed glass cake stand. Can a girl have too many…?

Wood’s Ware Iris milk jug

Pretty little pressed glass cream jug

Finally, a friend introduced me to a great little shop, come café, come gallery in Shoreditch.  Given its cool location it should be so try-hard and ‘trendy’ to be totally unlikeable. But, actually Pitfield has genuine warmth, and a friendly feel that made me fall in love with it. Here are a few snaps of some of its displays.

Some of the vintage buys on display

A casual stack of shabby ladders

Some Pitfield plates tied up with string, these are a few of my favourite things…

Brilliant branding – plenty to think about!

Gave me a good lesson in the power of effective branding too. I walked away with business cards, price tags and a handful of their postcards to ponder on… Behind the scenes, Create Vintage is due a revamp, and some exciting new developments are in the pipeline.

Can’t see my busy patch being over any time soon!


Right royal finds

1 Jun

Have you been swept up in Jubilee fever or are you sick of it already? Never before has the Union Jack been in such peril of flagging {due to over-exposure}, but it shows what an icon it is in the first place to still hold such ubiquitous favour. On my travels this past month I’ve seen it used, abused, celebrated and violated! Bunting has become the midsummer version of twinkly Christmas fairy lights, and it seems the Queen’s silhouette can be fashioned from just about anything, from buttons to rosebuds.

My own personal tribute comes by way of an aged and endearingly bashed chocolate tin from 1953 – marking the Queen’s Coronation. It’s not really my style, but for some reason when I spotted it a year or so ago in a charity shop it found its way home with me. I like to think it has its own understated charm – a bit like our own dear ER. Something about the Primrose yellow paint also reminds me of a biscuit tin that used to live at my grandparents house and is probably from the same era.

Original vintage tin celebrating the Coronation in 1953

This morning I came across something current, which I suspect may become a collectible of the future. Top marks to M&S for their subtly nostalgic interpretation of the Jubilee. I’m going to eat the biscuits and then tuck it away somewhere safe and hope that future generations might appreciate this piece of not-at-all-rare, but quite lovely modern history.

M&S Diamond Jubilee commemorative biscuit tin


Enjoy this weekend’s festivities. And Gawd bless the Queen!


Moving and improving

24 May

Creativity has had to make way for practicality these past couple of weeks. We’re moving house – or at least that’s the plan – and so my life has become a stifling spiral of paperwork and phone calls and decluttering and nervous nail chewing.

I did, however, manage to make it along to my first car boot sale of the season on Sunday morning. Yes, they run all year round {although only for the hardcore}, but this first trip marked a welcome return to some serious treasure hunting in the sunshine.

I had a particular eye out for picture frames, and although I always hope for the odd unexpectedly random discovery I also like to have a plan in mind. These three frames are perfect examples of what makes a great starting point for revamping. Texture or detail will always be brought to life by a lick of paint. It doesn’t matter what colour or material the frame is to start with, good paint {and you know I love Annie Sloan} will cover any surface and imperfection. Come back soon to see this trio’s transformation.

I also couldn’t resist this pretty pressed glass cake stand. Purchased for a tidy little sum, and destined for a life displaying delicious mountains of cupcakes!

This weekend’s adventures will include a trip to Tweseldown Artisan Market {details here}.  It’s a brand new monthly event in my area showcasing local makers, bakers, creatives and crafters. With vintage stalls and retro sellers promised too it sounds right up my street. And perhaps yours too?

Shabby chic: You’re fired!

18 Apr

‘One man’s junk is another man’s treasure’: the ever-insightful words of Lord Sugar on last week’s episode of The Apprentice. And then the teams were let loose in south London to aggregate the overwhelming array of aforementioned trash on offer at a selection of heavenly-looking junk shops, auctions and car boot sales.

Lord Sugar, The Apprentice, BBC1

As with all tasks, what you saw was a snapshot of how a credible vintage shop would operate. The discerning judgment, skill and  taste that any decent bargain hunter would employ, however, was seriously lacking.

Buying under pressure is never a good idea. And it helps to have a clear vision before you begin to attempt to edit a mass of styles, designs and eras. Most of the candidates, by their own admission, could barely decide what to wear that morning, let alone what to sell to the unsuspecting Brick Lane buying public. What we ended up with was a mish-mash of badly reconstructed furniture, un-loveable objects and oddly assembled displays of retro rubbish. *Sigh*.

What was possibly the most mortifying aspect of the show was that the winning team turned in a decent profit, and even the ‘losers’ showed a respectable margin. Oh no, please don’t say everyone will now want to make a living out of Union Jack motifs badly slapped onto ‘off the back of a skip’ salvage! Overall, the trend for vintage was given a rather embarrassing bashing – exposed as a bit of a con in its worst form, and an easy ride at its best.

Apart from poor unsuspecting Jane though, the night’s biggest loser was the term ‘shabby chic’. From Lord Sugar’s admission that he didn’t know what it meant, to Gabrielle’s over-use and misinterpretation, by the closing credits there’s no doubt it had become a figure of fun.

Even Kelly Hoppen struggled to defend it on The Apprentice: You’re Fired. And I find myself agreeing. I’m not talking about the look, I’m talking about the language. The other day I picked up a flyer endearingly offering, ‘we can ‘shabby’ your furniture’. Seriously, is there any more awful prospect than that? Yes, we all know what it means, but let’s face it, the cliché of shabby chic desperately needs a new lexicon. It just makes me shudder. I’m starting the campaign right here – no more shabby chic from me, and in the meantime I’m consulting the dictionary to come up with my new definition.

And to finish today, here’s proof that truly glorious things are out there if you know what you’re looking for. I stumbled across these four lovely little Minton teacups and saucers on the way back from the butchers this morning. Not only are they exactly that adorable shade of aged green, but the scalloped detail and impeccably fine bone china are in first class condition. THIS is the kind of treasure I think you mean Lord Sugar.

Minton England shell green teacups and saucers c1940s

Toy story

12 Apr

I don’t seem to be doing much hard work in my hunt for loveliness at the moment – in fact, all the loveliness seems to be landing in my lap. Serendipity maybe, or perhaps everyone has spring fever and I’m just reaping the rewards of clear out season!

My latest acquisitions are rather more rediscoveries of treasured old friends. Mr CV will refer to any old thing as a ‘friend’ {“What, chuck this rotten, threadbare T-shirt? No, it’s an old friend. Put it in the pile for gardening clothes”!!} But in this instance, the term is justified.

Fresh from hibernation in my Dad’s attic where they had been mothballed for donkey’s years come these three delightfully tatty soft toys. Between them they must clock up a combined age of around 100. I love them.

Undecided about whether to let the little one loose on them, or whether to preserve them in the old, but nicely aged condition they are at the moment. Either way I’ll find a special place for them… it’s good to have my old friends back.

Jemima rag doll - complete with yellow dress, rick rack, lace and ribbon-edged pinny, felt features and thick woollen plaits.

'Mrs Cat' {uh, or is it a rabbit?}. Loving her sweet blue felt bonnet and gorgeous lace-edged bloomers. And how pretty is that vintage floral dress fabric.

This Basil Brush teddy used to TERRIFY me. Glad to say it doesn't have the same effect today. Just loving his smart tweed suit and jaunty swagger!


New beginnings

29 Mar

So, today I have barely left the house {oh, okay, except for a sneaky early evening G&T with a friend}, and yet I have acquired the following:

– Two little framed flower pictures. Not fussed about the prints, but frames and mounts show promise

– A midnight blue hatbox

– A medium sized rattan storage box

– A wicker laundry basket {now reinvented as a shoe ‘dump’ for the hallway}

– Six sheets of metallic card in gold and silver

– A Harris 7” sheepskin roller set

– Two badminton rackets {and shuttlecocks}

– 24 party poppers

Now, I admit that some of these items have more use than others, but this reinforces my opinion that sometimes stuff finds you rather than you having to hunt for it. As it happens, we have been the grateful beneficiaries of a neighbour’s ruthless clear out due to a house move next week. She’s downsizing, and so reluctantly rehoming some of her collected possessions from many years, and a handful of different houses.

We chatted yesterday over afternoon tea in the garden about how people collect things to fit the house they live in at the time. You fill the space with features that somehow suit their destination – in terms of size and style and circumstances too. And also, on your way up the property ladder you invest in pieces that may – one day – find a place in your dream house. This is so true… Most of my discoveries belong in the sprawling, picturesque Georgian country pile of my {imagined} future. Not in a big crate in our leaky garage, which is where most of it currently resides.

One thing I can’t resist is glass. Decorative, cut glass, chunky, slender… if it has some kind of character it’s sure to catch my eye. Today I washed out and cleaned some really simple, ordinary old glass coffee canisters which will make perfect kitchen storage. I’ve already decanted rice, dried fruit, flour etc into them and feel a smug sense of ordered satisfaction about it. I picked them up for a few pence at a car boot sale, but they’ve instantly revamped my kitchen cupboards.

Random assortment of glass storage jars

Random assortment of glass storage jars

As the sink was full of soapy water I decided to make some of my other glassware sparkle too. Here’s just a small selection…

A snapshot of my hotchpotch glass collection

Love these French crystal ships decanters - so elegant

Lovely little vintage pressed glass pot

Chunky vintage pressed glass pot

Little pair of cut glass Champagne coupes {these were a freebie at a car boot clearout}

Cut glass crystal decanter - I've got designs on this as a stylish bookend at some point!

These simple little crystal bowls and trifle dish belonged to my grandparents. I didn't go far to rediscover these - the attic in fact!

My little star

26 Jan

Exciting day in the CV house today. We have just received a long-awaited and very important parcel from overseas. Can’t reveal any more at the moment, but it could be the start of something BIG {and beautiful}.

In other news, I am continuing to feed my irrational addiction to lovely jugs! I can’t really avoid the innuendo on that one {sorry}, see the pic below of the gorgeous Wood’s Ware find and you’ll get my drift. I’m always fascinated by stories of serial hoarders found buried beneath towers of gathered paraphernalia. There’s something morbidly eccentric about tinned cat food and old copies of Take a Break piling up precariously over the years. I’m definitely more of a thrower than a keeper, but even so there’s a chance I will be found in later life floating neck-deep in a sea of green and blue vintage ceramics.

Vintage Wood's Ware jug


I’ve finally framed the picture I’ve been working on for little CV’s new room. She can often be heard booming out a wonky version of  ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’ at random times of day {and night}, so it seems the perfect wording for her wall. I have also produced a replica version, which will be parcelled up and sent to another special girl celebrating her birthday soon.

Original vintage artwork

twinkle, twinkle little star picture

I can create your own originals by commission if you have a little star in your life. Hand crafted using  glitter finish card and a screen printed star, mounted on coarse weave hessian and presented in an authentic repainted vintage frame, for the sparkly sum of £65. Do get in touch for more details.

Bounty hunting

20 Jan

Just as there are many moments of triumphant discovery in the life of a bargain bounty hunter, there are also crushing disappointments.

This week I set my heart on an adorable little carved cabinet. Curvy and decorative and perfect in all the right places, it caught my eye at the local auction house. Totally impractical you understand – no need for it, no space to put it, and no real purpose either, it just captivated me like a pair of cut-price Loboutins would have my fashion-loving friends quivering in their heels.

Unable to get it out of my head, I sent Mr CV to auction to bid on my behalf. After a cool, competitive outing he arrived home empty-handed to deliver the bad news that the little beauty had climbed way beyond our budget. {He didn’t even get to demonstrate his well-practiced head nod}.

Sadly, that’s how it goes at auction: sometimes the things you love you lose. I guess I wasn’t the only one who spotted the potential in this lovely piece. The dilemma is knowing how much something is actually worth to you, and how much you’re willing to pay. And then having the conviction to stick to your guns in the split-second it takes to achieve a winning bid.

For anyone who hasn’t been to auction before, I highly recommend it. Even if you’re not searching for anything in particular, the buzz of a busy auction room full of eager bidders is an experience not to miss.

Why not visit:

Here are three of my other favourite, and most fertile suggestions for bargain vintage buys…

Not always easy to spot the difference between trash and treasure; so many people use car boot sales as an excuse to offload all manner of useless and ugly junk. Perseverance and a sharp eye will get you the most fantastic, eclectic, and affordable items though. The best car boot sales are the ones where proper traders –  antiques dealers, house clearance firms – use their stalls to sell off the less valuable, but often still lovely items that are pretty much worthless in antique terms.

Best buys: Empty picture frames; mismatched crockery and cutlery; vintage fabrics; dusty, unloved furniture; old books

Top tip: Arrive either first thing or just as everyone is packing up. Stallholders sometimes clear the decks by offering everything for under £1, or – even better – completely free.

My favourites:

I’ve become a bit cynical about the way that charity shops seem to be inflating their prices. I accept that I’ve been the beneficiary of some fantastic bargains, but their main, invaluable service, of course, is to all those people living on a budget who are dependent on affordable second hand clothes and homewares.

I’m just sorry that soaring rents, or overheads, or staff costs – or whatever is behind it – has the effect of pushing up prices. I overheard a charity shop manager chatting the other day about monthly takings in her rather smart branch. It all sounded more like sales targets than selfless social benefit to me.

Rant over! Give to charity and get yourself a potential quality piece at one of the huge furniture and homeware warehouses. I’ve stumbled across sweet dining chairs, pretty vintage tea sets and even a beautifully proportioned solid oak writing desk in the past. Never underestimate the power of a good rummage!

Best buys: Larger pieces of furniture {dining tables and chairs}, mid-Century ceramics, decanters and cut glass

Read more here

Teeming with avid collectors and interesting characters from the antiques world, this kind of destination is a vintage-lover’s dream. Prices may not be rock bottom, but most traders love a good haggle – fantastic fun if you have the courage to strike a deal. Stallholders come from across Europe, so you can pick up really fascinating things from France, Belgium and some of the more far-flung east European countries.

Best buys: French furniture, ironmongery and outdoor items, vintage fabrics, collectables

Why not visit:

Have a great weekend {especially if you’re bargain hunting!} and see you again soon…

Happy New Year

4 Jan

I’m not really one for hardcore detoxing and January blues. For me it’s such an optimistic month – the promise of a new year and exciting challenges ahead, the gentle creeping of a daily extending dawn and the anticipation of spring on the horizon. Nah, you can keep your carrot juice, I’m still on the Christmas Lindors and reveling in a supercharged energy for all that beckons this year.

On the home front we’re due a revamp upstairs. Little CV is going to be ‘upgraded’ to a bigger bedroom, so we’re having a switch around. I’ll finally have a proper place for all of my increasingly random acquisitions… my very own {tiny} office. Yippee.

I’m already planning what lovely things I can find to give each room its own new identity. Most exciting is transforming a bare room into a pretty space for our little girl. It’s fair to say I will be in my element and almost certainly channeling my inner princess. Watch this space for purchases, revamps and quite possibly a fair amount of pink stuff!

In the meantime I’ve been ‘stocktaking’ a few of my treasures in readiness for an imminent clear out. One of the things that always appeals to me and stands out a mile in a sea of other people’s junk is something with that unmistakably subtle, pure colour that somehow never seems to be recreated convincingly in modern processes. I’m a sucker for anything – from a teapot to a biscuit tin – that has that gorgeous, authentic wash of colour that can only be vintage. Here are a few of my favourites – a pastel-infused assortment to cheer up anyone who’s feeling a bit jaded this January.

Poole pottery teapot in classic vintage green

J&G Meakin Sol Glamour Celeste milk jug

Grindley 6-piece coffee set in the most delicious shade of strawberry ice cream pink

Spode Flemish Green gravy jug

Glade Green Bone China tea cup, saucer & sugar bowl

Tea and talent

15 Dec

China tea sets have become the unofficial symbol for everything ‘vintage’. Go to any antiques fair or fleamarket and you’ll see them in abundance. I’m still undecided about whether they have a whole lot of relevance in modern life and modern homes. Find a great one and it sure can be gorgeous, but when it comes to a good old cuppa, most people shun the ritual of tea making that a proper bone china set demands. And how much point is there really in having something that, in the end, will just gather dust.

There is, however, the odd exception, and I still can’t believe my luck that I came across this exceptionally pretty Royal Stafford bone china Bluebird set in my well-heeled local charity shop. It almost takes my breath away when I consider its delicacy and intricate detail. I do bring it out on special occasions {just like our grandmothers’ generation would have done} and there’s no denying that a humble cup of tea {barely a mouthful, but never mind} is elevated to a superior status. I’m not sure of the life it came from, but it has found a very treasured place in my home.

Royal Stafford bone china Blue Bird tea cup


Royal Stafford bone china Blue Bird tea set

And onto other things… There’s nothing vintage about this painting – well, apart from the chap in the funny hat I suppose, but I promised delightful discoveries and this fits the bill. As well as sheer beauty I also admire sheer brilliance, and Mr CV’s Great Aunt Penny Manners, Vice President of the Richmond Art Society and latecomer to portrait painting, has just emailed me this, her latest piece. Fabulous, don’t you think?

Penny Manners 2011