Monday, 13 November 2017

An evening with Rome Tourism

The other night I was invited to a Rome tourism press event at the Crystal London by Comitel & Partners. Travelling is one of my favourite things to write about on this little space of mine, and having never been to Rome (or Italy in fact!), I was intrigued to learn more about what this beautiful city had to offer.

I arrived at the Crystal in London - a beautiful building that I never knew existed in London until the other night! - to warm welcomes and a journalist pass pressed into my hand. With my press pass around my neck, and my camera and notebook in hand, I made my way to the press room filled with a mix of journalists, travel writers and bloggers.

Speaking to us that evening was Leonardo Maria Costanzo, the head of Rome Tourism. He was a passionate speaker and clearly very proud of his city. He invited us to watch a couple of videos which combined panning shots of a city so palatial in its architecture and so full of history, with the now in the form of couples dancing the Charleston on Rome's streets. He said that seeing the videos always filled him with pride and emotion. And it was not difficult to see why. Seeing this video footage gave me a further urge to hop on a plane to this city that I have yearned to visit for the longest time.

Did you know that the average visitor to Rome only spends 2 days there? Leonardo said such a length of time was an insult to the city, as that was not nearly enough time to enjoy the very best of Rome. A lot of people associate Rome with the key tourist hot spots like the Trevi fountain and the Colosseum, but Leonardo stressed how Rome is so much more. I had never heard of Cinecitta Studios or Cinecitta world theme park before (located just outside of Rome), but I have since googled it and the attractions sound amazing!

What I found most fascinating was that I didn't realise that Rome was such a great hub for visiting other places in Italy. Did you know that Milan is only three hours away by train or one hour away by air from Rome? And that Naples is only one hour away by train, and from Naples, Capri is within reach by ferry? The possibilities are endless.

Interestingly enough, the previous mindset of the city was that Rome didn't need to be promoted, that reputation alone would be enough. Leonardo explained how tourism spend had gone from thousands of euros to millions of euros, as they want to drive a high quality, more luxe visitor experience going forward. Part of this being the rather exciting opening of new luxe hotels in Rome. For instance Rocco Forte Hotel in 2019 and  W by Marriott in 2021

One thing that struck me (and several others it seems!) was the lack of Italian cuisine in Leonardo's presentation. But fair enough, he simply didn't want to adhere to stereotypes and said he couldn't deny that food is still very much a key element to their city!

And with that, the press conference ended and we were invited for food. We were offered a selection of Italian salads, breads, cheeses and cured meats. Chefs wheeled out cauldrons of pasta amatraciana to applause. This was not something that I have had before, but I was told it was a local specialty consisting of a tomato based sauce containing some form of ham, be it sliced ham, pancetta or pork cheek. It was absolutely beautiful - especially when paired with a glass of Italian red wine - and to this day I am still so inspired, I will be recreating myself at home next week!


Seafood salad with smoked paprika and peppers



Lemon chicken with tomato and olive dressing




 Mozzarella and freshly made pesto



The whole meal was a blessed celebration of Italian cuisine, accompanied by wonderful music. Another first for me was the orzo and pesto salad. Fret not dear readers, I have OF COURSE had pesto before (life would be really sad without pesto!), but it was the orzo I had not tried before. And you know what? I would again. Orzo with pesto is a tasty, tasty thing.


I miraculously managed to avoid any penne amatraciana or pesto spillages on my white blouse. And I was secretly quite chuffed that my bag - a new purchase from Accessorize the other day -  matched the wine I was drinking. The bags I carry are usually linear with their straight lines and corners, so going from this to round with zero corners was quite the adjustment. I love the autumnal berry shade and the way it swings when you walk.



Dessert was delicate little pots of tiramisu. I would have smuggled some home if humanly possible #SmallBagProblems



And with that, the evening took an even sweeter turn when I was offered a stay in Italy, this country I have always yearned to visit. Excited is an understatement. I cannot wait to document my journey and share the hotel with you!

Thank you to Comitel & Partners and Rome Tourism for inviting me and I look forward to visiting your beautiful country soon!

#EnjoyRespectRome

Friday, 27 October 2017

Quinoa, lentils and hummus... but not as you know it!

Maybe it's hibernation mode kicking in, but this time of the year I'm all about the snacking. When sat in-front of the TV of an evening, it's all too easy to grab a packet of something and work your way through it without a second thought (something I know all too well). There have been countless times I have opened a family size bag of crisps with the intention of a cheeky handful or two and then a few minutes later discover that said crisps have done a vanishing act. WHAT IS THIS SORCERY.

My favourite flavour has always been salt and vinegar, but more recently I have dabbled in the world of healthy crisps, trying vegetable crisps - a mix of beetroot, parsnip and sweet potato - and kale chips seasoned with sea salt and rosemary. All tasty. tasty things.When you snack as much as I do, healthy alternatives can make you feel a little less guilty. When Eat Real asked me if I would like to try their healthy range of chips  - including hummus and lentil chips - I was intrigued to find out what they would taste like.


Sun-dried tomato & roasted garlic quinoa chips



From first appearances, the best way of describing these would be little ridged crackers which smelt strongly of tomatoes. The quinoa chips had a nice Mediterranean taste to them and you could really taste the garlic and tomatoes. These were a lot like croutons and I would happily buy them again to sprinkle on salads and soups as they carried a good strong flavour.

Sour cream & chive hummus chips


Containing 48% less fat than other crisps, these felt pretty guilt free right from the offset. Again like the quinoa chips, these had a good strong flavour. I couldn't tell these were hummus as such, but the sour cream and chive aspect was crystal clear. Thankfully these didn't smell strongly so you wouldn't be offending your work colleagues if you opened a pack of these up at work! Appearance wise, these were dusted with herbs and were like little poppadoms.

 Lentil chips


These again looked like little poppadom bites, but these were even healthier with 40% less fat than your standard packet of crisps. Although sea salt flavour, these weren't particularly salty. They were a plainer chip compared to the others I tried, but I would happily buy again and use as accompanying mini poppadoms for homemade curries.

Vegetable straws


First impressions, these did what they said on the tin and were maizey, bubbly little straws in an array of colours. Each colour represented a different vegetable - kale, tomato and spinach - however if you don't like any of these vegetables the straws would suit you well as they didn't exactly taste of these things. The flavouring was plainer than some of the other ones I tried, but I still really liked them as they had a pleasant ready salted feel to them. And with no saturated fat and at just 109 calories a bag, I can't complain!

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All the chips I tried were vegan friendly and some were gluten free too. With so many dietary requirements and allergies floating around these days, these would be great poured into sharing bowls for social gatherings like Halloween, Christmas and other social events. It can be really frustrating to be singled out when you can't eat the same things as everyone else, so I really liked the idea of these being something that everyone could eat. Although low calorie and low in saturated fats, Eat Real's chips weren't tasteless like some healthy products out there, and from a blind taste test, I never would have guessed that these weren't standard potato chips!

There are lots more flavours in addition to the ones I tried. I will definitely be looking out for their tomato and basil hummus chips and their quinoa, kale & cheddar puffs which sound delicious! I hand on heart really liked all the packs I tried, making it a little tricky picking my favourite. But by a whisker I would have to say it was the sun-dried tomato & roasted garlic quinoa chips as they had the most incredible flavour and I could envisage using them as croutons for soups and salads too.

Have you hopped on the healthy crisp bandwagon yet?
* Eat Real very kindly sent me the chips for review purposes, however all opinions and love of snacking all my own!

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Quick and easy breakfast for people on-the-go // REVIEW // Pulsin porridge oat bars

Golden leaves. Chunky knitwear. Pumpkin spiced candles. Steaming bowls of porridge first thing in the morning. These are just a few of my favourite things about autumn. So when the wonderful people at Pulsin sent me some of their porridge oat bars for review purposes, I was excited to mix up my morning porridge routine and instead try a portable on-the-go version!


Super Seed & Maple

I thought that perhaps this one would smell sweet (it did not). I was pleasantly surprised by the sweetness levels as I sometimes find maple too sickly sweet. The Super Seed & Maple porridge oat bars contained a hint of sweetness, without being too much. It wasn't too dry, and was a good of mix of chewy and crumbly. It did indeed taste oaty and like porridge - which is great for a porridge oat bar product!


Apple & Cinnamon

You can't get any more autumnal than the harmonious pairing of apple and cinnamon. Think smooth apple puree in a crumble or pie, with a little touch of cinnamon to make your taste-buds sing. Or chunky pieces of apple in a wonderfully flaky strudel with lashings of custard.

This was the bar I was most excited about! Admittedly I didn't taste a whole lot of apple, but the cinnamon really came through. This was drier than the other bars, and had more of crumbly texture than a chewy one. The Apple & Cinnamon porridge oat bar tasted wonderfully festive. Bring on Christmas!


Orange Choc Chip

I was a little nervous about trying this one because I don't normally like orange and chocolate as a flavour combination, however as this contained a subtle hint of orange which wasn't too strong, this converted me! The Orange Choc Chip porridge oat bar had a good texture and was a good mix of chewy and crunchy, without any dryness. The chocolate chips in it were lovely, and there was something in the smell and taste of the bar that felt quite festive. A nod to the Christmas clementine perhaps?

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I tried Pulsin's raw chocolate brownies before, however these porridge oat bars were even better and definitely something I'll be adding to my weekly grocery shop. Containing all the benefits of porridge, but as an easy grab-and-go sort of breakfast, these bars are great for those cold mornings where you can't be faffed with making actual porridge and opt for extra time in bed instead (we've all been there!). Oats provide slow releasing energy which is great for maintaining your energy levels throughout the morning and keeping you full for longer  - great for people like me who are serial snackers!

* Pulsin very kindly sent me the bars for review purposes, however all opinions and love of extra time spent in bed in the mornings all my own!

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Dining at the Gilbert Scott at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel

If you ever find yourself in King's Cross, no doubt you would have marveled at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. It's architecture is a thing of beauty and is subject to many a tourist photo. I handed my notice in back in February and my ex colleagues knowing full well that I am a massive foodie, gave me Marcus Wareing restaurant vouchers as my leaving gift. There are several of his restaurants here in London, however I was drawn to the Gilbert Scott, intrigued to see inside this beautiful building that I walk past so frequently.

FOOD

Goosnargh duck breast, girolles, broad beans and smoked pea

Perfectly pink in the middle with crispy skin, this was a beautifully juicy piece of meat. My only slight criticism was that it could have done with a little more seasoning - I always find salt really helps compliment duck skin. I wasn't sure what the little crispy things were ("are they mealworms?!"), but they added a nice crunch to the dish. One of the few foods I don't like are peas however these was beautifully smoky which helped detract away from the fact that I was eating peas!

Dorset crab. nectarine, cucumber and sesame

I used to be a dessert girl through and through, but nowadays I have more of a savory palette and prefer a starter over a dessert. I don't like a heavy starter as I find it ruins your enjoyment of the main course if you feel full early on! This crab salad was the perfect choice. I'd never dreamed of pairing crab with fruit, but it was a beautiful pairing.  The lightest, freshest starter - and pretty as a picture.

Confit duck raviolo, tamarind, cashew and radish

I love ravioli, but wasn't sure how I felt about a single piece of it. But to be fair. it was the best I'd ever had. Rich, melt-in-the-mouth goodness. I just wish there was more of it.

ATMOSPHERE

Inside the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, it is as awe inspiring as its exterior, with high ceilings, and majestic staircases. I could happily have got lost in there for hours. But I didn't because food.

Initial reactions were good. We were greeted at reception with a smile and led to a lovely L shaped sofa, meaning we could sit next to each for once. Sometimes in restaurants it can feel a little claustrophobic, as despite all the empty tables, you can still be packed up close to other diners. This wasn't the case at the Gilbert Scott. Our nearest diners were two tables away, so being tucked away in our own little corner it felt deliciously private.

Image credit: David Collins Studio (please contact me if image removal required)

I think my greatest disappointment was with the sommelier. My wine of choice is usually a Malbec or a Côte du Rhone. On this occasion I chose a Malbec (which for the record, wasn't the cheapest of wines on their wine list!), but the sommelier directed us away from it. He suggested a Côte du Rhone, I pointed out my second choice wine (a Côte du Rhone), and he turned that down too, suggesting another Côte du Rhone (and yes, it was more expensive). I don't mind receiving recommendations for wine, however this sommelier had no idea what we were eating, and couldn't have known what would pair well. The Côte du Rhone he suggested was ok, but it was nothing special. It had no depth of flavour like a Malbec, didn't match brilliantly with the food, and was disappointing considering it cost us more. For improved service, I'd suggest their sommelier takes a little more time to find out what the guests are eating, and then make suggestions for pairings to compliment that specific dish. But at the same time, not push too hard. If a guest like myself wants a particular wine, let me have the wine I actually want. I am the one paying for the meal after all!

Sommelier aside, it was a lovely meal. Awe inspiring surroundings, delicious food and beautiful presentation. My advice: go on a quieter day of the week like a Monday or a Tuesday. Seated in such a magnificent room, it was serene, and as it wasn't busy, we didn't feel rushed or pressured.


The Gilbert Scott
St Pancras Renaissance Hotel
Euston Road
London NW1 2AR
For reservations click here

Monday, 2 October 2017

The autumn soup and bread recipes you KNEAD to have in your life // bread making class at the Jamie Oliver Cookery school

The other weekend I headed to Westfield in London for a bread making class at the 
Jamie Oliver Cookery School. But did I rise to the occasion? Read on to find out!


Before we started we were shown the kitchens we would be working in and noticed that the Jamie Oliver Cookery School kitchens were all fitted with Hotpoint ovens. A rep from Hotpoint spoke to us before our session and said that through customer research they identified that the one thing people find most frustrating with their ovens is a non-even bake. I for one know how annoying it is when a bake is burnt on top but also has a soggy bottom! People tend to blame themselves for a bad bake, however it's more likely the oven. Did you know that ovens' temperatures can vary up to 15 degrees? And this alone makes it all too easy to produce uneven bakes. Hotpoint’s new ovens offer Multi-Flow technology to regulate the temperature and to ensure better heat distribution and a good even bake every time.


Our bread making class was led by chef Gabby who gave us a demonstration of what we kneaded (ha!) to be doing that day. She taught us the signs of a good prove and how to work the dough so you get those perfect spider web like strands.


Fun fact: if you over work your dough or don't get the prove you were after, all is not lost. Bread dough is always salvageable. For example it can make a great pizza base

We were told we would be making bread rolls in different shapes to have with fondue and soup at lunch and also two focaccias. I did wonder how on earth we were going to make all those in the space of a few hours. I make bread at home and I know how long it can take to prove the dough. Luckily for us, the hard work taken out of bread making as Gabby had proved lots of dough in advance. That being said, we also made one dough ourselves which were able to take home with us. Mine proved very well on the Central Line. When I got home, the dough had essentially eaten the box and was making a break for it. I baked mine at home using fresh rosemary from the garden (because you can't beat rosemary focaccia!)

After our bread making 101, we were led away to individual work stations with the ingredients all pre-measured for us, which made things nice and simple regardless of if you were a seasoned pro baker or completely new to it all. It felt very Bake Off. But without the cameras and the pressure.

To make a dough all you knead (sorry!) is flour, water and yeast. At home I use dried yeast, however at the class we used live yeast. I had never seen it before in this form. It came as large blocks and smelt fragrant.

With the initial demonstration, it was a lot to take in at once. I wasn't sure how I was going to remember it all, but Gabby and her lovely sous chef were on hand, advising us when our doughs were done or if they kneaded (ha!) more work. Baking alongside other bloggers, there was a great sense of solidarity as we were all in it together. There were plenty of doh! moments when your mixture stuck to the table top because you hadn't floured it enough, and when you get more flour down you than on the table...

Rollin' with it

For our bread rolls, the dough was well proved and elastic (a good sign!), which made them quite difficult to shape as no sooner had you rolled out a shape, would it retract back. We were advised to use a knife with a little olive oil on the blade while making cuts to the dough (such as the score marks on top of the baguette) to make the dough easier to work with. One of the shapes we were shown was an Epi, but my dough wasn't having it (huge respect to anyone else who managed it!), so instead I made a spiral snail sort of shape. Which for the record, didn't look anything like the Bake Off "snail".  I also made a simple round roll, a baguette and a plaited loaf. The latter of which lost its definition when baked. Mine were egg washed to give them a golden colour and a sheen once baked. But we were advised that you could also use milk instead if you wanted more of a matte effect. If you are lactose intolerant, milk can be switched out for soy milk or other alternatives.


If you want to give these a go yourself, you can find the recipe below:

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Basic bread dough

Ingredients 
  • 1kg strong flour, or wholemeal strong flour
  • 30g fresh yeast
  • Water!

Method
  1. Making a well - Put the flour in a bowl and make a large well in the centre. Pour around 310ml of tepid water into the well, then add the yeast, 1 level teaspoon of salt and stir with a fork.
  2. Getting it together - Slowly bring in the flour from the inside of the well, being careful not to break the walls of the well. Continue to bring the flour into the centre until you get a stodgy consistency - then add another 310ml of tepid water. Continue to mix until it's stodgy again, then bring in all the flour, making the mix less sticky. With floured hands bring it together into a ball of dough.
  3. Kneading - Knead on a flour dusted surface for 4-5 minutes until you have a silky and elastic dough.
  4. First prove - Flour the top of the dough and place in a bowl, cover with clingfilm and allow it to prove for about half an hour until doubled in size in a warm, moist, draught-free place.
  5. Second prove, flavouring and shaping - Once the dough has doubled in size, knock the air out for 30 seconds by bashing it and squashing it. Shape it or flavour it as required - folded, filled, tray baked - and leave it to prove a second time for 30 minutes to an hour until it has doubled in size once more.
  6. Cooking your bread - Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius / 410 degrees Fahrenheit / gas 6. Gently place your dough onto a flour-dusted baking tray and into the pre-heated oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cooked and golden brown. You can tell if it's cooked by tapping the base - if it sounds hollow, it's done. If it doesn't then pop it back in for a little longer. Once cooked, place on a rack and allow it to cool for at least 30 minutes. 

Makes a loaf - or in our case 4 rolls!

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We used an assortment of poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds for extra crunch. And what better topping to have with autumnal soup than pumpkin seeds?!

Focaccia gonna do?

The focaccia dough was a good work out. It was great to work out the week's stress and it felt very therapeutic.

We crushed the salt with rosemary to create rosemary salt, but also left some sprigs of the rosemary large. I love crunchy rosemary on my bakes. The kitchen smelt amazing during this time. There is no better smell that the smell of freshly baked bread and rosemary.


Focaccia is one of my favorite types of bread - especially when dipped in balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.  For years my go to starter at Jamie's Italian has always been their selection of breads and oils. If you would like to try making your own focaccia, you can find the recipe for this below:

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Rosemary focaccia

Ingredients

  • 240g Italian tipo "OO" flour
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 10g fresh yeast
  • 1 sprig of rosemary

Method

  1. Combine the flour. yeast, 145ml of tepid water, 30ml of extra virgin olive oil, yeast and a good pinch of sea salt in a mixing bowl and knead gently for for 5-10 minutes until smooth.
  2. Cover the mixing bowl and leave to rest in a warm place for 45 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  3. While the dough is rising, prepare a baking tray by lightly oiling the base and sides with vegetable oil.
  4. Transfer the dough to the baking tray. Spread out evenly using the palm of your hands and gently expel the air from the dough, then rub 15ml of extra virgin olive oil over the surface of the dough using your finger tips.
  5. 'Dimple' the dough ensuring that you don't press all the way through to the base. Rip up your rosemary and poke them gently into the bread.
  6. Cover the dough again and leave to rest for a further 20-40 minutes, or until it has doubled in size.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius / 410 degrees Fahrenheit / gas 6.
  8. Place the baking tray in the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Once cooked, carefully remove from the oven and drizzle with a little more extra virgin olive oil. Serve warm or cold.

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Whilst the focaccia was baking, we settled down for lunch with our bread roll creations. Naturally, the bread had baked perfectly - thanks Hotpoint! Our bread rolls were still warm and paired with fondue, a comforting bowl of soup each and red wine, we felt very toasty and autumnal (and sleepy!).


No doubt about it, I will be re-creating this soup at home. Hand on heart, it was one of the best soups I have ever had. If like me, you would like to try making this soup yourself, please find the recipe to this below:

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Roasted pumpkin soup

Ingredients

  • 2kg pumpkin or squash
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 2 red onions
  • 2 chicken or vegetable stock cubes
  • 2 tablespoons crème fraîche
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius / 325 degrees Farenheit / gas 3.
  2. De-seed the pumpkin or squash, then chop into wedges.
  3. Place the wedges on a large baking tray and lightly drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Gently squash the garlic cloves in their skins and scatter across the baking tray with the thyme leaves. Season with sea salt and black pepper.
  5. Roast for 1 hour, or until caramelised at the edges.
  6. Meanwhile, peel and roughly slice the carrots, chop the celery, and peel and roughly chop the onions.
  7. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large pan over a medium heat, add all the prepared ingredients, then cook with the lid ajar for 30 minutes, or until softened.
  8. Crumble the stock cubes into a jug, cover with 1.5 litres of boiling water, and stir until dissolved.
  9. Once cooked, add the pumpkin or squash to the pan and pour over the stock. Squeeze the garlic out of its skin and add to the pan.
  10. Bring to a simmer for a couple of minutes until hot through, then remove from the heat.
  11. Using a handheld blender, carefully blend the soup until smooth. Season to taste.
  12. Divide between bowls, add a dollop of crème fraîche and extra virgin olive oil to each. You can top with thinly chopped red chilli if you like.  

Serves 4

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We each left with a Currys PC World goody bag filled with items to continue that autumn feeling. You can't get more autumnal than candles and tea. This candle for the record smells out of this world!


In summary, I really enjoyed my first Jamie Oliver Cookery class. The main thing I took away from my experience is that it can be really easy (and satisfying!) to make your own bread and it really doesn’t take that long. The chefs there were so energetic and passionate, and were a pleasure to work with. The Bread Baking: Knead to Know class is priced at £65 per person and they do plenty of other classes too where you can learn to prepare sushi, fish, pasta, curries and so on. You can view their full range of classes here where it details times and the number of slots available on a given date.

Thank you so much to Currys PC World, Hotpoint and The Jamie Oliver Cookery School for putting on a wonderful #AutumnalBakes event. I feel really inspired to get back into baking bread. Because crust me, I'm on a roll.


#AutumnalBakes

This post is not sponsored but the cookery class was complimentary

Monday, 18 September 2017

Serious interiors goals at Grand Designs Live and the Ideal Home Show

One year since becoming a home owner, I still haven't fully decorated and put my own stamp on the property. And in today's Instagram culture where you are inundated with picture after picture of interiors perfection, that alone has been hard. But I stick by my beliefs. I'm a firm believer of living in dwellings as they are for a bit, rather than making any structural or aesthetic changes right from the offset. It gives you the best chance to learn what works for you and what doesn't. And which rooms get the best light, compared to those that perhaps don't.

This house doesn't have the biggest of rooms and for this reason, I have shied away from bolder colours. I always thought that pale colours would suit these rooms better and make them seem less small. And it's for this reason I have always eyed up a palette of soft greys, looking to emphasise clean lines with white ceilings and white skirting boards.

That was until I got my house and home fix at the Ideal Home Show and Grand Designs Live earlier this year.

Lots of the show rooms at both events featured rooms the same sort of size - if not smaller - with dark, bold colours. And they worked well. Contrary to popular belief, they didn't make the space seem smaller. These darker shades actually gave the walls a warmth that I never thought possible from a darker colour. I suddenly started liking colours I'd never considered before. Take this Blackadder inspired room for example.


I love the opulence of the dark blue walls against the
dark brown flooring and the metallic details.
And oh to have a bathroom like this...


That gold sink though
(M. told me right off the bat that I can't have one... boo!)


And how about this room for a celebration of colour? Not exactly the dark walls 
we have been nattering about, but an inspiring use of colour all the same. 


But now you see what I mean. I never once considered having dark or colorful walls (read: walls that aren't white!) but they inject so much soul and personality into a property. I have always been so scared to make that leap but what I've come to realise is that paint is just paint. It's not the be all and end all. What's the worst that could happen? That you don't like it and that you have to re-paint? That is part of the fun of decorating. Your sense of style will evolve over time, so it's not unreasonable to try something now and re-decorate again later. Be bold. Take a leap of faith.

*To Homebase for dark sample pots of paint!*

Grand Designs is in Birmingham from 11th - 15th October
Ideal Home Show will be back in November for Ideal Home Christmas